Chinese GP: Qualifying report from a soggy Shanghai

On a rain-swept Saturday afternoon in downtown Shanghai it was Lewis Hamilton who stormed to pole position.

Taking his third pole position of the season, following poles in Australia and Malaysia, the Brit secured another pole for Mercedes, who themselves have now had pole in each race of the 2014 season.

At the end of each of the three qualifying sessions, it was Lewis Hamilton who sat in the top spot with his silver arrow shooting around the Shanghai International Circuit.

After a thunderstorm over the night, leaving the track wet in free practice three Ricciardo set the pace, then as the teams prepared to send their cars out for Q1 the rain fell, heavy. In addition, during the practice session teams opted for minimal running in order to keep their tyres fresh ahead of qualifying so it was still unclear who was fastest in the rain in China.

But following on from practice Daniel Ricciardo was able to be the lead Red Bull at the end of qualifying as he once again beat Vettel on the time sheets. Making their qualifying head-to-head record 3-1 in favour of the Aussie.

Keeping with FP3 for one last time, Pastor Maldonado was forced into an early retirement as his Lotus appeared to have a sensor failure but approaching Q1 it was revealed that it was actually due to an oil leak coming from the engine. Resulting in Maldonado missing out on qualifying all together.

But now, back to the qualifying action.

As the green light went out to mark the start of Q1, it was Marussia who opted to head straight out and wait at the end of the pit lane, hoping for the best of the conditions to be early. Potentially resulting in them edging into Q2.

But the poor conditions were clear to see as within the first few minuets a couple of cars had already ran off the track, a theme that stuck with qualifying. But this was not the only indication to the poor conditions. As the cameras focused on one of the McLaren’s charging down the pit-straight, visibility was so poor from the spray that you physically could not see the car until it had already committed to turn one.

Now we move on to the final stages of Q1 with Bianchi pushing hard to get his Marussia out of the drop zone but unfortunately for him & the team, he pushed too hard at the final corner, resulting in him running wide and unable to improve on his best time. On the other hand we had Adrian Sutil who was on the borderline of the drop zone but after a change for the intermediate tyres he was able to push up the time sheet and go 11th fastest.

Joining Bianchi out in Q1 were, Gutierrez, Kobayashi, Ericsson, Chilton and Maldonado. With Lewis Hamilton fastest with a lap time of 1:55:516, set on the full wet tyres compared to Nico Hulkenberg on the inters who stole second place after a late charge up the time sheet.

Now, like the rain, we continue into Q2 were it was the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg setting the early pace on a lap time of 1:55:613, right before his team-mate stormed past on a lap, 1.094s faster. But qualifying was not going to be another Mercedes master class as Red Bull were up for the fight, with Vettel slotting himself between the Mercs, 0.688s behind Lewis.

After the early stages, Q2 became stagnant and marked the end of the qualifying road for Raikkonen, Button, Kvyat, Sutil, Magnussen and Perez. Proving not to be the best session for the McLaren’s after neither car making it into Q3.

But someone who did was the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. Who achieved Lotus’ first Q3 spot of the 2014 F1 season. Joining Grosjean in Q3 was, Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Alonso, Bottas, Vergne, Massa and Hulkenberg.

Now we move on to the top-10 shoot out where Sebastien Vettel was the first out of the pits, using the intermediate tyres despite the worsening conditions.

Being first out of the pits, he was also the first to set a lap time (1:54:981), followed by fellow German, Nico Rosberg. Who was 0.162 behind. Despite his team-mate failing to beat the Bull, Lewis Hamilton stormed in and stole provisional pole by 0.633s. Showing his intent to secure his 3rd pole of the season.

After the first flying laps, teams pitted their drivers to take on fresh tyres in a hope to challenge for pole position and it seemed Nico Rosberg was going to be able to challenge his team-mate after setting fastest sectors in the first and middle sectors but his lap ended poorly as he locked up going in to the turn 14 hairpin. Luckily for him, the chequered flag was yet to drop and he had enough time to go one last time.

Again, this was just one side of the two-sided coin as his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, pushed his Mercedes over the line to extend his lead at the top by another 0.4s. Before Rosberg, on his final attempt, made another mistake, running wide on the exit of the final corner and spinning his Mercedes, bringing an end to his pole challenge and almost blocking the racing line as the Ferrari of Alonso came round the final corner.

Unfortunately for Rosberg, his mistakes meant he ended qualifying in fourth place, behind Lewis Hamilton who took pole position, and the two Red Bulls.

Full provisional grid for the Chinese Grand Prix:

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:55.516 1:54.029 1:53.860 21
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:56.641 1:55.302 1:54.455 23
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:55.926 1:54.499 1:54.960 23
4 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:56.058 1:55.294 1:55.143 22
5 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:56.961 1:55.765 1:55.637 21
6 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:56.850 1:56.757 1:56.147 24
7 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:56.501 1:56.253 1:56.282 24
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:55.913 1:56.847 1:56.366 23
9 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:57.477 1:56.584 1:56.773 23
10 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:58.411 1:56.407 1:57.079 22
11 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:58.279 1:56.860 17
12 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.783 1:56.963 17
13 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:57.261 1:57.289 18
14 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:58.138 1:57.393 17
15 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.369 1:57.675 17
16 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:58.362 1:58.264 17
17 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:58.988 10
18 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:59.260 10
19 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:59.326 10
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2:00.646 10
21 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2:00.865 10
DNQ 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault No time 0
Q1 107% Time 2:03.602

That second place for Ricciardo means he has now out-qualified his team-mate, the 4-time drivers World Champion, three times to Vettel’s one.

Now you have heard what happened in the soggy Shanghai qualifying, vote below on who you think will win tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix.