Lewis Hamilton secures pole position for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix, ahead of Nico Rosberg in a close fought qualifying battle.
Hamilton took pole by just four hundredths of a second to Rosberg, as the two Mercedes men battled it out for the first slot on the grid. Across the weekend Ferrari have been best of the rest and their man, Vettel, rounded out the top three on the qualifying timesheet.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have claimed the most pole positions for the Chinese Grand Prix since its arrival in 2004. The pair had taken pole at seven of the previous eight Chinese Grand Prix’s, with four claimed by Hamilton in 2007, 2008, 2013 and 2014. Three of the other four races between those were claimed by Vettel and the one solitary pole in 2012 went to the hands of Nico Rosberg. His pole in 2012 was also Nico’s first in Formula One, and he went on to win the Grand Prix the following day.
For this year’s race, Lewis Hamilton had completed a clean sweep of practice. Mopping up the fastest lap in FP1, FP2 and FP3 while Rosberg looked to close the gap to his team mate. Ferrari also have provided Mercedes with a challenge in practice as the Scuderia team look to continue their form after winning in Malaysia.
When the track went green and Q1 was underway, it was the ex-Ferrari man Alonso leaving his garage first. But it was Roberto Merhi in the Marussia who hit the track first. Merhi was also running the soft tyres straight from the off as the Spaniard looks to beat the 107% rule, which he has been outside of for most of the weekend.
Alonso opted to run the medium compound tyres at the start of the session after missing out all of FP3 with an engine issue. Luckily for him, McLaren were not forced into another engine change. Instead they changed the ignition system and the car was fixed in time.
On the soft tyres, Merhi posted the first timed lap of the session with a 1:44.911. But as expected, his lap time was swiftly eclipsed by the field as they posted their initial lap times. Vettel and Raikkonen were the first to make a challenge for P1, but Raikkonen’s time fell right down the early order after being beaten by Seb. Vettel also found his lap time pushed down after Mercedes thundered home fastest laps with both drivers.
Thankfully for Marussia, Hamilton’s table topping 1:38.285 meant the 107% mark sat at 1:45.164 when Lewis returned to his garage. At that stage of Q1, both Stevens and Merhi sat within that time.
As more drivers hit the track, the choice of which tyres to run became split with teams towards the back deciding to head straight out on the softs. This left the Ferrari’s falling down the order at the hands of Hulkenberg, Nasr, Ericsson & Perez and caused the Italian team to play safe and send their men back out on the option tyres.
When the final minutes of the session ticked into action, Williams’ duo carried out their first flying laps. First across the line came Bottas who moved into P1 by a few tenths on Hamilton while Massa crossed the line a few tenths down on Lewis’ lap. Ferrari were also flying on the softs and locked out the top two slots come the flag.
At the bottom of the time sheet, the drivers were tightly fighting it out to beat the drop. Maldonado managed to move into the top 10 once the flag fell and push Alonso into the drop zone. But the Spaniard was still out on track and attacking hard. But like his team mate, Alonso was unable to beat the drop and McLaren dropped out of qualifying with both cars.
Verstappen also moved out of the drop zone late on, but Hulkenberg narrowly missed out on Q2 and joined the McLaren’s and Marussia’s out of qualifying.
After a few minutes break, the track became active once more for Q2 with Ericsson the first man back out. Once on track, Ericsson posted an early lap time to set the pace but was soon pushed down the order.
No aid for Ericsson came in the form of the Mercedes duo who once again set the early pace with blistering laps. Hamilton attacked the line on his first lap and stormed to the front with a 1:36.423, over 2 seconds clear of Bottas who had been top.
Rosberg soon came across the line to post his time but he had to settle for second with a 1:36.747. Even that time from Nico was over one and a half seconds faster than Grosjean in second when the drivers returned to the pits.
With an empty track, Ferrari eventually sent their drivers out for their flying Q2 laps. Raikkonen hit the line first with a 1:37.109, good enough for third at 6 tenths down to Lewis. But Vettel snuck ahead to take third, 5 tenths down. Both men then joined Mercedes and returned to the pits as the rest of the field returned to track
As the men on track took to their final flying lap of Q2, the chequered flag fell. Ericsson and Nasr both improved, but Marcus remained on the cusp of being knocked out. After his team mate pushed him down and Williams moved into the top six with both cars when they set their Q2 times.
Luckily for Ericsson, Maldonado buffered him from being knocked out and Ericsson snuck into Q3 by a few hundredths of a second. Kvyat, Verstappen, Sainz and Perez all failed to beat the drop and joined Maldonado out of qualifying. Perez’s 1:39.290 in Q2 would have actually left him behind 17th placed Button had his time been in Q1.
But for the 10 men still competing in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, Q3 went green without anyone hitting the track early on. Soon enough however, Grosjean took to the track before being followed by the Williams’ and the Silver Arrows.
Bottas swiftly moved into P1 as Grosjean’s opening time sat over 2 seconds slower than the Finn. Yet Bottas would soon find himself over 2 seconds down on the leader when Hamilton took provisional pole. Rosberg slotted into second, almost three tenths down on his team mate, while Massa sat in third.
As for the Ferrari’s, they sat in the garage a little while longer than the field so as the track fell quiet, they would be on their flyers. However, the Italian outfit were unable to challenge the Mercedes’ provisional times or even challenge Massa in third.
After Raikkonen’s first lap, he found himself in sixth place with just Ricciardo, Grosjean and the early non-running Sauber’s behind. Vettel on the other hand, found himself four tenths down on Massa for third but all soon enough returned for one final run.
When Raikkonen crossed the line for his final run, he moved up to third place but was soon pushed down the order by both Williams cars. Ricciardo was only able to slot in one tenth back on Raikkonen while Seb and the Mercedes look to take pole.
Like in Malaysia Hamilton hit the line to take the flag but was unable to improve on his provisional pole time, leaving pole for the taking. Seb then attacked the line however when he crossed the line to take the flag, he could only move into third.
Seb sat nine tenths down on Hamilton’s best time but Rosberg was still out on track and within a shout of snatching pole. But when he crossed the line, all the German could do was improve to within four hundredths of a second and take second place on the grid.
This left Hamilton with another Chinese Grand Prix pole position. In fact it is his third pole in China in a row and his fifth overall as he moves two clear of Vettel in the all time pole standings for China. Today’s pole is also Hamilton’s 41st in Formula One and sits in the best position to take the win tomorrow.