Rosberg on pole in Mercedes lock-out, no-one mentions Bahrain
Nico Rosberg will lead a Mercedes front row lockout after an imperious one-lap effort for pole during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Rosberg set the benchmark early in Q3, with his time 1minute 35.121seconds proving unreachable by any of his rivals.
So confident was Rosberg and Mercedes with that time that Nico Rosberg left his car to prepare for the post-session scrutineering with five minutes still remaining on the clock.
‘It’s a very special feeling. I just got a perfect lap and it worked out really, really well,’ said a cheery Rosberg.
‘I had a perfect lap, it went really really well. The first two races havent gone too well, so this is fantastic.
‘It’s difficult to know where we’re goign to be tomorrow. We’re goign to try our best and make the most of it. I think we’re making good progress, that’s important.’
Lewis Hamilton posted the second fastest time of the afternoon, but the Briton will start from P6 after taking a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
‘Congratulations to Nico. I’m really proud of him.,’ started Hamilton.
‘We’re in a good position, the car feels good. It’s going to be tough, for sure, but I’m going to be pushing as hard as I can.’
Michael Schumacher will be bumped up from thrid to P2, qualifying in the top three for the second consecutive round.
‘I said well done [to Rosberg], because it’s a phenomenal lap time,’ said the seven-time World Champion.
‘To see the gap is that big is a bit of a surprise, but he’s a good qualifier, and there’s no reason to be unhappy.
‘[And] it’s a first row of Silver Arrows.’
Kamui Kobayashi will start from P3 for tomorrow’s race after an imperssive effort in his Sauber C31, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus E20.
P7 was the best Mark Webber and Red Bull could manage, with the Chinese Grand Prix now representing the team’s least competitive qualifying showing of the season thus far. He’ll line up alongside Sergio Perez in P8.
Fernando Alonso qualified in P9, though was helped by Romain Grosjean. Lotus opted not to put the Frenchman out for a timed lap, stranding him in P10.
Q1 in China went some way to demonstrate just how close the field is in 2012, with the top 17 drivers spearated by less than a second.
So unpredictable is the order, Sauber, Williams, Force India, Lotus, and Toro Rosso all opted to run the softer tyre in the first qualifying session in an attempt to guarantee Q2 berths.
The strategy didn’t pay off for STR, however, with Jean-Eric Vergne again missing the cut. He qualified over a second off the pace of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, and will start from P18 as a result.
Both Ferraris opted to use a set of the soft compound tyre in Q1, so worried is the team about the pace of F2012.
Felipe Massa highlighted just how far off the pace he’d fallen, his timed lap on the option rubber just one tenth of a second than Mark Webber’s fastest on the hard. Estimates place the option tyre up to eight tenths faster than the prime at Shanghai.
The rest of the Q1 drop zone featured the usual suspects, with Kovalinen and Petrov for Caterham in P19 and P20, Timo Glock and Charles Pic for Marussia in P21 and P22, and Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan in P23 and P24 for HRT.
Q2 gave evidence that Sebastian Vettel’s unhappiness with his RBR8 had spread from practice into qualifying, with the driver unable to extract the car’s maximum performance.
The German failed to break past the 1m 35s barrier, and was eliminated in Q2 as a result. It was the first time since Brazil 2009 that Vettel has failed to make it through to Q3.
The World Champion will start from P11 for tomorrow’s race.
Meanwhile, Red Bull teammate Mark Webber capitalised on the team’s new exhaust solution on his car to go fastest in the session – though it only equated to three-tenths of a second.
Joining Vettel in the knock out zone was fellow frontrunner Felipe Massa, who again failed to match Fernando’s Alonso pace. His best time was onyl good enough for P12.
Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna will start from P13 and P14 for Williams, while Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg will line up one row further back in P15 and P16. Daniel Ricciardo could only manage P17 in his Toro Rosso.