Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chinese GP: Qualifying

Qualifying for the Chinese GP was an interesting affair with lots of 'surprises' - not least the McLaren race suits*. Q1 casualties were the likely bunch of Hispanias, Virgins, Team-Lotus and .....a Red Bull? Mark Webber's car had been plagued with technical problems with KERS and just didn't have the pace on the day to get out of Q3. This meant both Williams' and Saubers (and 3 F1 rookies) made it past Q1.

Q2 also threw up some anomalies with Heidfeld, Sutil and Schumacher being outshined by their 'less experienced' team-mates. Renault's Petrov developed problems with his gear-box in Q2 and the session was red-flagged (stopped) with 2mins 2sec remaining.
This could have inadvertently ruined his team-mate's (Heidfeld's) Qualifying session as he hadn't set a time by then. The session resumed with Perez first out of the pits and several other drivers raring to get a good lap in before the end of Q2. However Heidfeld needn't have bothered because his best time was only enough to move him from 17th to 16th. Drivers who failed to progress into Q3 were SUT(11), PER(12), KOB(13), SCH(14), BARR(15), HEI(16) and MAL(17).

With Petrov's car out of action, it was left to 9 drivers in Q3 to populate the top 9 positions on the starting grid for tomorrow's race.
McLaren borrowed a leaf out of RedBull's Malaysia Q3 tactic and kept Hamilton in the pits till 3minutes left of Q3; partly to avoid over-using (and potentially damaging) his tyres and to minimise running the car. McLaren's Button and RedBull's Vettel set times early in the session, with Vettel setting an impressive 1min33.704. Force India's rookie driver Paul di Resta got himself into a Toro Rosso sandwich between Buemi (9) and Alguersuari (7) to claim 8th place on the grid.

Alonso and Massa paint the 3rd row red qualifying 5th and 6th. Mercedes' Rosberg bagged 4th place, leaving the 2 McLaren drivers and Vettel to battle it out for top 3. Hamilton's solo lap in Q3 could only get him 3rd position but he seemed happy with that performance and his options in terms of tyre-use and preservation for tomorrow.

Happiest man on the grid is probably Paul Di Resta who on his 3rd outing in a F1 car and on his birthday, secured an 8th place start on the grid AND ahead of his more-experienced team-mate.

*McLaren were sporting red race suits designed by fans as part of the HugoBoss competition - perfect colour to incense a Red Bull.

Image from (c)