Spanish Grand Prix: Qualifying success for Hamilton

In today’s Spanish Grand Prix qualifying session it was once again Lewis Hamilton setting the fastest lap time to take yet another pole position, putting himself in prime position to win tomorrow’s grand prix, which would be his first victory at the Spanish Grand Prix. Alongside Hamilton on the front row will be his team-mate Nico Rosberg as the Mercedes drivers complete another front row lock out. But did qualifying go completely to plan for the British driver or was the battle taken to the Brit?

Q1 had a steady start as you would expect from the opening qualifying session but just 4 minuets in to the session Maldonado crashed out. He began to lose control of his Lotus on exit of turn 1, but fought to regain control and kept it on the track. Him running wide on the exit of turn one forced him to compromise his line through turn 2 and eventually ran wide on the exit of turn 3. Keeping the car on the track despite getting out of shape through the opening corners in his Lotus was almost amazing as it was almost uncontrollable for either Lotus driver. But for Maldonado, running wide at turn 3 resulted in him spinning into the inside wall. Completely wrecking the front right tyre, front wing and nose after the car suffered an heavy, diagonal impact via front right corner.

After the crash we saw the red flag brought out and the session temporarily stopped so the Lotus could be safely removed from the track. But once the session was back under way Rosberg, setting his first timed lap, was able to make up a second during the middle second, compared to Hulkenberg’s first timed lap time. By the end of the Lap, Nico Rosberg was able to push his Mercedes so much he ended his lap 2 seconds faster than the Force India. For Hamilton his practice 1 and 2 pace was still yet to return as his first flying lap was only good enough to go 0.474 behind Rosberg. During the Q1 session, Hamilton later went on the radio to say “we’ve made the car worse”. Possibly referring to changes that saw his car slower in FP3 than his team-mate or changes the team made between FP3 and qualifying began.

Progressing through the session we saw Hulkenberg going out on medium, option tyres with 7 minuets to go. Hoping to avoid an early retirement from qualifying but later Hulkenberg & Sutil used their team-radios to complain about their cars being uncontrollable. And he was not the only one suffering control issues as the Red Bull of Ricciardo was out of control as the Aussie pushed the car around the final corner. It appeared that the cars were suffering from tyres that would not give them enough grip whilst at high-speed, as well as the cars for the entire field having low levels of downforce.

When the chequered flag came out, Sutil nudged himself into 16th position hoping not to see his name in the drop zone by the end of the session. But Button was also fighting for the same reason and put his McLaren through to Q2 at the expense of Sutil, who fell back into the drop zone.

At the end of Q1, the running order was: Rosberg, followed by Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo, Massa, Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Vergne, Bottas, Raikkonen, Alonso, Gutierrez, Magnussen, Perez, Grosjean. – Out: Sutil, Chilton, Bianchi, Ericsson, Kobayashi, Maldonado

Q2

As the first cars to cross the line, the Force India’s set the early fast lap times with Hulkenberg leading his team-mate Perez by just 0.14 seconds. But they were soon followed by the two Williams drivers, Bottas and Massa. Originally, Bottas topped the Force India’s times but Massa was able to better his team mate’s.

Following the theme of the opening times of Q2, it was over to Raikkonen to be the next time topper as the next driver across the line. But as you would expect, once the Mercedes set there times they went above the rest with Rosberg flying to the top spot with an advantage of 1.4seconds before Hamilton crossed the line to go 0.1s behind his team-mate. Closest challengers to the Mercedes at this stage were the Red Bull’s with Ricciardo 0.6s behind Nico and Vettel a further 0.4s back

Later on in the session, with just 4 mins remaining, and without setting a time Magnussen got out of his McLaren. This was not a tactical choice, it was as a result of his power unit failing, forcing him to miss the end of the lesson and not set a lap time in Q2.

With the chequered flag flying, and the drivers fighting to stay in the top 10 it was Nico Hulkenberg forced into being the closest driver to go through but knocked out with the home driver, Alonso escaping by mere margins.

The order at the end of Q2 was: Rosberg, once again leading from Hamilton, Ricciardo, Massa, Vettel, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Bottas, Button, Alonso. With Hulkenberg, Perez, Kvyat, Gutierrez, Magnussen and Vergne all dropping out. This meant that, providing there were no penalties to be later dealt out, Vergne would start the race at the back of the field thanks to his 10 place grid penalty, dealt to him back in FP3.

Q3

Before we had any lap times on the board we had Vettel struggling to get out of the pit lane and was overtaken by his team-mate. After eventually getting his car going, he then was forced into an early retirement after loosing all drive. Soon after his retirement, and Rosberg pushing on a fast lap we had the second red flag of the day flying and another qualifying session brought to a temporary halt. It was then revealed that Vettel’s 2nd gear was broken and he was unable to get his Red Bull into 3rd gear.

When the cars went back out, it was the Mercedes setting the first fast times with Rosberg, but for the first time in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, it was Lewis Hamilton distancing himself from his team-mate, but by just under 0.3seconds on fresh tyres.

Fighting to be the best of the race it was Ricciardo putting his car into third, but by just 0.04seconds from the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.

Now with the chequered flag waving, Lewis Hamilton extended his lead to Rosberg but with Rosberg still pushing was pole position his? For the time being it was as Rosberg was unable to beat his team-mate and slotted into 2nd, by 0.168seconds. Ricciardo was best of the rest 1.053seconds behind the pole sitter and home favourite, Fernando Alonso only able to qualify.

Full Q3 order was: Pole for Lewis Hamilton, his fourth from five races in 2014. Followed by his team-mate Nico Rosberg for second place before the best of the rest crossed the line for 3rd with Ricciardo, Bottas, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Massa and then Vettel (who did not set a time due to his early retirement).

Below is a complete time sheet for qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix:

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.238 1:26.210 1:25.232 16
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.764 1:26.088 1:25.400 19
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:28.053 1:26.613 1:26.285 16
4 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:28.198 1:27.563 1:26.632 17
5 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:28.472 1:27.258 1:26.960 18
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:28.308 1:27.335 1:27.104 18
7 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:28.329 1:27.602 1:27.140 16
8 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.279 1:27.570 1:27.335 18
9 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:28.061 1:27.016 1:27.402 16
10 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:27.958 1:27.052 11
11 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:28.155 1:27.685 13
12 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:28.469 1:28.002 16
13 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:28.074 1:28.039 12
14 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.374 1:28.280 12
15 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.389 10
16 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:28.194 6
17 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.563 9
18 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:29.586 6
19 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:30.177 6
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:30.312 8
21 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:30.375 6
22 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault No time 2
Q1 107% Time 1:32.837

Now you have seen who has qualified where, vote below for who you believe will take the chequered flag first and win at the Circuit de Catalunya.