F Features

Chinese GP: Hamilton hoping first pole translates to first Mercedes win

 N7T4670

In just his third outing with Mercedes AMG Petronas, Lewis Hamilton is proving his worth, claiming pole position ahead of Sundays Formula One Chinese Grand Prix.

It is Hamilton’s first pole with the German manufacturer and marks only the second time a British driver has topped qualifying for the team since Stirling Moss in 1955. Last year, it was Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg who claimed the top time and scored the eventual victory. This time, Rosberg starts in fourth.

The main storyline of the qualifying sessions was tire wear and tire strategy going into tomorrow’s race, and starting on the soft compound, Hamilton is aware of the challenges ahead.

SNE22923 copy“None of us expected this level of performance at this stage of the season and it's a real bonus,” Hamilton said. “It would be great to convert the position in the race tomorrow but it's going to be a challenge and we're realistic about how tough the race will be. The soft tires don't last for very long, and with a couple of quick guys starting on the mediums, it'll be interesting to see how the race plays out. I'm looking forward to it and will give it my all.”

Going into the qualifying session it appeared Ferrari was the team to beat. Both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa traded top spots in practice and finished the final session first and second, but weren’t able to translate that into qualifying. Instead, Alonso will start third (+0.304) behind the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, and Massa will start fifth (+0.449).

Still, the team feels a top five for both drivers puts them in good position for Sunday.

 L0U8793“To end qualifying with both cars in the top five is a result that fills me with hope for the race. The F138 has been competitive all weekend and that means we have made a step forward, which is down to the work of the team. Some of the updates we had here worked as we had expected, but others need further work. In terms of establishing what will be the best strategy, we will be in for a long night and that will be the case for everyone, given that almost all our main competitors will start on the Softs.”

Racing under the microscope after last rounds contentious “multi-21” finish, Red Bull was disappointed with struggles in both cars. Mark Webber’s car experienced a fuel pressure malfunction in Q2, causing him to retire. Because he was unable to provide a fuel sample following the session he will start at the back to the grid.

Vettel failed to record a Q3 time after going on track twice but returning to the pits both times. He starts ninth as a result, but will have the choice between the soft-compound or more durable medium-compound tires, which he sees as an advantage over his competition.

“We’re obviously on a different strategy to the cars in front, whether that works or not we will see tomorrow, but I’m confident we did the right thing based on the facts we have. We have the advantage of choosing the tires for tomorrow, so we’ll see,” Vettel said.

Following qualifying, Red Bull’s Team Principal Christian Horner explained Webber’s fuel malfunction.

 L0U8683“Unfortunately in Q2 the amount of fuel that was required to be put into the car from the fuel rig was not fully delivered,” Horner said. “This was due to an error with the fuel bowser that meant it under delivered 3kg of fuel. Therefore on Mark’s in-lap we saw large dropouts in the fuel tank collector and the car unfortunately ran dry of fuel, which is obviously frustrating. It’s a shame as he would obviously have made Q3 today and the tactic with both drivers was to adopt the same strategy.”

The Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen appears a strong contender again, after the round one winner piloted his E21 to a personal-best second spot with the squad, 0.277 seconds behind Hamilton. It was even more impressive after the Finnish driver underwent complete suspension changes on the front and rear of his car going into qualifying.

 L0U8807It’s been quite a tricky weekend so far and we’ve had a few small issues with setup, but it’s always difficult to get things exactly how you want them and the car seems to be working well now,” he said. “The tires will of course be the question mark tomorrow; some people are starting on the primes but we chose the strategy we think will work best. Hopefully we can keep managing the degradation well like we have so far this season and have a good race tomorrow.”

His teammate Romain Grosjean will start in sixth position.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Jenson Button (eighth) is the only driver in the top ten to start on the Pirelli medium tires. His teammate Sergio Perez is still struggling to find pace in the MP4-28 car, after failing to make the top 10 for the second time this season. He starts back in 12th.

The Williams squad will also be searching for much-needed race positions, after rookie Valtteri Bottas qualified in 16th. Starting two positions ahead, Pastor Maldonado will be looking for his first points of the year, after disappointing qualifying positions and retirements in both races.

The current point standings sees Vettel with 40 points. Raikkonen is in second with 31, while Mark Webber has 26 and Hamilton has 25. Ferrari’s Massa sits four points ahead of Alonso with 22 points. Red Bull leads the team standings with 66 points, with Lotus and Ferrari tied with 40 apiece.

 

No

Driver

Team

Grid

10

Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes

1

7

Kimi Räikkönen

Lotus-Renault

2

3

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

3

9

Nico Rosberg

Mercedes

4

4

Felipe Massa

Ferrari

5

8

Romain Grosjean

Lotus-Renault

6

19

Daniel Ricciardo

STR-Ferrari

7

5

Jenson Button

McLaren-Mercedes

8

1

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull Racing-Renault

9

11

Nico Hulkenberg

Sauber-Ferrari

10

14

Paul di Resta

Force India-Mercedes

11

6

Sergio Perez

McLaren-Mercedes

12

15

Adrian Sutil

Force India-Mercedes

13

16

Pastor Maldonado

Williams-Renault

14

18

Jean-Eric Vergne

STR-Ferrari

15

17

Valtteri Bottas

Williams-Renault

16

12

Esteban Gutierrez

Sauber-Ferrari

17

22

Jules Bianchi

Marussia-Cosworth

18

23

Max Chilton

Marussia-Cosworth

19

20

Charles Pic

Caterham-Renault

20

21

Giedo van der Garde

Caterham-Renault

21

2

Mark Webber

Red Bull Racing-Renault

22

Note - Webber originally qualified 14th but moved to the back of the grid for failing to provide a one-litre fuel sample after qualifying

Photos: Charles Coates/LAT, Steve Etherington/LAT, Steven Tee/LAT

 

 

 

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