By Berthold Bouman
Another surprise from Mercedes this afternoon at the Circuit de Catalunya, during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix Nico Rosberg convincingly took pole position, while his team colleague Lewis Hamilton will start from second spot on tomorrow’s start grid. Rosberg took pole with a lap of 1m20.718s, the fastest time recorded so far this weekend.
Rosberg, who scored his second consecutive pole, and the team’s third pole in a row, commented, ”It’s a great feeling to be on pole again. So far this weekend has been very positive and it’s a pleasure to see that the team is improving and fighting through the problems together.”
“However,” Rosberg said, “We know that this is only half of the job completed and have the painful memory of what happened in Bahrain to prove that. So it will be a big challenge tomorrow and our goal is to make the most of the opportunity we have from starting at the front and get a strong result for the team.”
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Sebastian Vettel took third place for Red Bull, while his Australian team colleague was eighth. Vettel was 0,336s off the pace set by Rosberg, and remarked, “We had a pretty smooth qualifying session, we took a slightly different approach to some others using option tyres only — whether that helps us tomorrow we‘ll have to wait and see, but it will be an interesting race and a lot will be about tyre degradation.”
Fourth place was for Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, the gap to Vettel was just 0,123s, while Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari, who was fifth this afternoon, was just 0,041s behind the Finn. Felipe Massa, in his turn, was just 0,001s slower than Alonso, and it indeed seems, compared to last year, that the Brazilian feels at home in the Ferrari F318.
Romain Grosjean was also on the right pace and the Frenchman took seventh place, he was just 0,131s behind his Finnish team colleague, again showing how competitive Formula One is this season.
Sergio Perez and Paul di Resta completed the top ten, Perez was the only McLaren driver to finish in the top ten, as Jenson Button was only 14th in the second McLaren. Thus it was another very disappointing result for McLaren and Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said, “Jenson had a difficult qualifying — and, although we haven’t yet had a chance to examine his data thoroughly, it would appear that perhaps his tyre pressures may have been set a little too high.”
Fernando Alonso – Photo: Ferrari
Not a very good excuse Whitmarsh admitted, “Having said that, McLaren Mercedes’ ambitions extend to a great deal more than merely going through to Q3, and it’s clear that our MP4-28 still requires a lot of development before it becomes as competitive as we need it to be.”
A great afternoon for Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne finished in 11th and 12th place, but there was some disappointment for the Force India team as Adrian Sutil could not match the pace of his Scottish team colleague and finished the day in 13th place.
Sutil said, “Q2 was a bit disappointing because my position on the track for the final run was not ideal. Vergne pulled out of the pits just as I was leaving and I had Nico [Hulkenberg] pushing from behind. Also Webber was on a flying lap and it was difficult to find a gap. I think that’s the main reason why I missed out on Q3 because we had the pace to be in the top ten.”
Further down the list are the two Saubers of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, who were 15th and 16th respectively. Hulkenberg commented, “Qualifying went according to plan today. It is disappointing, as we are simply too slow. The updates this weekend were a step in the right direction, and the set up of the car during qualifying was good, but not good enough as the other teams might have improved even more. I am very satisfied with my lap in Q2. It was the perfect lap.”
Not much luck for Williams during qualifying – Photo: Williams F1
They were followed by Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado, they were 17th and 18th for Williams, and it seems the Williams team is heading for another disastrous result, last year Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix, and the Venezuelan admitted things are not going well at Williams, “We’re having a difficult time with the car at the moment, but we have been working very hard to improve things. We were missing a lot of grip which made it difficult to get a good time today. In terms of performance, we’re not there but we will keep focussing on the work needed to move us up the grid.”
Giedo van der Grade outpaced not only his team colleague Charles Pic, but also Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton in the Marussia. Of course van der Garde was pleased with his best qualifying result of the season and said, “We made a few changes to the car overnight to try and find a balance with the new parts and it’s worked out really well. I’m not running the same package as my team mate here — I have most of the new package except the front wing so we went a slightly different way than Charles.
And he added, “This is the sort of performance I’d targeted for when we had new parts on the car so I’m really pleased for me, the whole team and everyone who’s backed me that we can deliver like we did today.”
The qualifying result can be found here