Chinese GP: Hamilton takes his first pole position for Mercedes at Shanghai
By Berthold Bouman
Lewis Hamilton secured his first pole position with Mercedes today during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, round three of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship. The 2008 World Champion took pole as others like Red Bull, Lotus and McLaren were struggling to come to terms with the tyres on the Shanghai International Circuit.
Hamilton, who set his time on the soft Pirellis, was elated with his first pole with the Mercedes team. “Pole position is a great result for us today and to achieve it in my third race for the team is such a good feeling. I had to make sure the radio was off after my engineer told me I had pole because I was so excited,” Hamilton said.
Lewis Hamilton and Niki Lauda – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
About tomorrow’s race the Briton 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 tyres 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.”
Kimi Raikkonen was this time fast during qualifying, he landed second spot on the grid and Fernando Alonso completed the top three for Ferrari.
Again, the focus was on preserving tyres for the race, therefore most teams stayed in the garage in Q1, aiming to qualify for Q2 in just one run. One of the early victims was Valtteri Bottas, who made a mistake in Turn 1 and did not make it into the next session. Also Esteban Gutierrez, Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde did not make it into Q2.
Webber has to start from the back of the grid – Photo: Red Bull Racing
In Q2, things went completely wrong for Mark Webber, he had a fuel pressure problem and had to park his car. Webber commented, “In Q2 we lost fuel pressure so I had to turn the car off and couldn’t get it back to the pits. I had to stop on the circuit, so qualifying was over before it started really.” Unfortunately for the Australian, the FIA stewards decided to exclude Webber from qualifying as Red Bull failed to provide enough fuel for the mandatory one litre fuel sample. The Australian will have to start the race from the back of the grid tomorrow.
A FIA statement read, “It was checked whether car number two had enough fuel on board in order to be driven back to the pits under its own power and in addition to this that a one litre fuel sample could be taken. The car had 150ml fuel on board which is not enough for the required one litre fuel sample and to drive the car back to the pits under its own power.”
Paul di Resta was quicker than his team colleague Adrian Sutil in Q2, but both failed to make it into the third and final qualifying session, as did Sergio Perez, Webber (14th before disqualification), Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Then the heat was one for the final run for pole position. Nico Hulkenberg in the second Sauber didn’t even bother to go out in Q3, he finished the day in 10th place, but will have an extra set of fresh Pirellis for tomorrow’s race.
Vettel also stayed in the garage and he was ultimately ranked ninth fastest, but said he was on a different strategy. “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,” said the triple World Champion. And he added, “We have the advantage of choosing the tyres for tomorrow, so we’ll see.”
Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren F1
Jenson Button was the sole McLaren driver to make it into the top ten, he will start from eighth place on the grid. He had the same excuse as Vettel, Button also set his time on the primes (medium rubber compound), and he said, “Our aim was to be the first prime-tyre runner on the grid — even if it meant qualifying 10th — and we did that. This was the best we could do with what we have.”
Daniel Ricciardo must have been the happiest man at the Toro Rosso team, after a great run in Q3 he ended the day in seventh place. Also fast, but not as fast as his team colleague, was Romain Grosjean, he finished in sixth place.
Next on the list are Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg, who took fifth and fourth position respectively, Rosberg reckoned he lost a few places when he made a small mistake. “I made a small mistake at the last corner on my lap in Q3 which cost maybe a tenth and a couple of places. But I’m in a good position for the race and we’ve worked a lot on the race performance this weekend so I hope we can gain some places tomorrow,” said the German.
Alonso was third for Ferrari and he was happy with the result, “The weekend has been very good for us. The car felt competitive from Friday. The car is responding well and I think we have a good set-up for the race and if everything goes well we should be able to fight for the podium with both cars which is good for the team.”
Second place for Kimi Raikkoen – Photo: Lotus F1
Lotus indeed improved their qualifying pace, which was the Achilles heel of the Lotus E21, the gap to pole was just three-tenths of a second today, but the Iceman was not completely satisfied. “I think the gap is quite big still and we don’t have that speed right now. We were second, it’s not too bad,” he said about his best qualifying result ever for Lotus.
And he added, “Of course you’d rather be in first place. But like I said we don’t have the speed; I think we’re missing the downforce in the middle sector a bit, so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
And last, but not least, the opinion of Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn, and Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff. Brawn commented, “It’s a nice reward for all the hard work both here at the track and back at our factories in Brackley and Brixworth. However, there are no points gained on a Saturday as they say and there is a tough job ahead of us tomorrow to convert our qualifying positions. It’s going to be a fascinating race from a strategy and tyre perspective so we will wait and see how it plays out.”
Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Also Wolff warned the race is tomorrow, and not today, and he remarked, “We will not get ahead of ourselves with this result as we expect an interesting race which will be decided by the different tyre strategies. A few competitors have chosen to qualify on prime tyres to run a longer first stint instead of the options which we and most of the runners used in Q3.”