Nico Rosberg kept his Silver Arrow flying on top in Brazil to secure pole position for tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton by three hundredths of a second.
Nico went into qualifying on the back of a practice clean sweep, topping each of the sessions ahead of Lewis. But the margin between the two was always minimal as Rosberg looked for ways to reclaim lost ground in the championship battle.
But come 2pm in Sao Paulo, the green light flicked on and qualifying began with Sutil taking to the track. As more drivers began to venture out, the Sauber man prepared to start his flying lap which saw the benchmark be set at 1:13:401.
A lot of drivers opted to head out onto the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace with the soft tyres for their first runs, which in turn saw Sutil’s benchmark come crumbling down. Some drivers had taken the medium tyres out at first, but soon returned to the pits to change for the option tyres and set faster laps.
For the drivers pounding in the laps on the soft tyres, Massa moved into P1 as the Williams continued to show their contention. However Hamilton was knocking Massa off almost immediately before Rosberg stormed ahead by over half a second.
The two Mercedes men began to exchange the top spot, with Hamilton going purple in each of the sectors. But Rosberg was not going to give up his top spot easily and moved ahead once more.
After the first ten minutes came to an end, Vettel exited his garage and set about posting his first timed lap. Unfortunately for him it was un-competitive and outside the 107% rule but when he next crossed the line, he moved into P12.
When the chequered flag began to wave, Vettel remained on the borderline of safety. Luckily for him, despite being unable to improve, he made his way into Q2 after Grosjean, Vergne, Perez and Maldonado failed to push the German into the drop zone.
As Q2 got going, Hulkenberg and Gutierrez rolled out of their garages and onto the track.
Hulkenberg had become the sole Force India driver in qualifying following Perez’s elimination, but his early banker time was half a second slower than his fastest in Q1.
Once again as the times began to drop, it was the Mercedes drivers locking out the top spots. The duo traded purple sectors across their laps but come the finish line, Nico was ahead by four tenths of a second.
When the drivers returned to their garages mid-session Sutil, Kvyat and Ricciardo were yet to post a time in Q2. And as the final stages kicked in Sutil and Ricciardo headed back out, unlike Kvyat who carries over a grid penalty from Austin.
Button also stayed in his garage as McLaren chose not to run again in Q2. At the time Jenson sat in fifth place, eight tenths down on Rosberg and 1.2 seconds away from the drop zone. But the risk of staying in paid off as the Brit saw no threat in the final stages.
For the drivers still competing to beat the drop, Hulkenberg found some time on his previous lap but failed to move out of P10 as Alonso moved up to P7. Raikkonen also improved to move ahead of his Ferrari team-mate and would later end the session in P7.
As the chequered flag began to wave once more, Ricciardo found himself knocking Gutierrez into the drop zone with the Aussie moving into P7. Gutierrez was joined out of qualifying by Hulkenberg, Sutil and Kvyat with Alonso surviving by three tenths of a second.
After one minute of Q3 had ticked by no cars had exited their garages, but Hamilton broke the silence and took to the track ahead of Rosberg.
With a clear track at hand, Lewis posted the first Q3 time of the day and his personal best of the day. But Rosberg was able to shy Lewis’ 1:10:195 by three hundredths of a second to move back ahead.
Valtteri Bottas was the next man to come across the line and despite a scruffy lap, he moved into third. Third has been Valtteri’s position on the grid for three races in a row going into Brazil, but Massa moved ahead with his banker Q3 time. Surprisingly Massa was just six hundredths of a second behind Hamilton, with the top three separated by just eight hundredths.
Going into the final five minutes the order stood with Rosberg leading from Hamilton, Massa, Bottas, Button, Magnussen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Alonso. Although neither Ferrari had posted a time in Q3.
When Kimi eventually exited the pits for his sole run, he was able to go P7 ahead of the Red Bulls but almost a second behind Rosberg.
As the other drives began their final flyers, Ricciardo moved back ahead of Raikkonen, with time remaining for another flyer. In that time Massa flew around the first sector, quicker than the Mercedes but scuppered the lap later on.
Meanwhile Hamilton was looking to snatch pole from Rosberg but a lock up at turn 10 saw the Brit lose time and the chance to really challenge his team-mate.
Hamilton was able to finish the lap quicker than his previous best, but Rosberg was still pounding out another fastest lap and snuck ahead by just three hundredths of a second.
Meaning Rosberg will start tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix from pole position ahead of Hamilton. Massa ended the session ‘best of the rest’ in front of his home fans, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas in fourth.
Like Massa, Button had the better of his team-mate but also the Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s around the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, securing P5.
Despite finishing Q2 yesterday in the top three, Raikkonen ended qualifying in tenth place at the circuit he secured his World Championship at in 2007.
But in the race tomorrow will Hamilton be able to leap ahead of Rosberg like at the United States Grand Prix one week ago? Or will Nico claw back some vital points in this years drivers World Championship?
|6||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:11.880||1:11.129||1:10.938||19|
|9||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:11.593||1:11.208||1:11.075||20|
|12||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:11.848||1:11.976||14|
|17||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:12.076||9|
|Q1 107% Time||1:15.271|