By Berthold Bouman
Nico Rosberg took pole position for round six of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Monaco Grand Prix. The German set the fastest time on a rainy Monte Carlo circuit on the super soft Pirelli tyres, his team colleague Lewis Hamilton was second fastest, and triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel was third for Red Bull.
It was the third consecutive pole for the German and he said in a BBC interview, “The conditions were [changing] all over the place. Then it started drizzling again so the lap times got a lot slower. It was changing so much — you have to be on the right tyres at the right time. Everything when to plan and the last lap went OK.” Also Hamilton was pleased with his second place and said, “I’ve been struggling all weekend. The first time I have had that in Monaco. Very happy to be here and lock out the front row.”
Nico Rosberg on pole again – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Vettel made a mistake on his last lap and said, “I was a bit annoyed with my flying lap in Q3; I think I maybe pushed a bit too hard here and there. The start of the lap wasn’t bad, but also it wasn’t great; with hindsight I should have gone for two flying laps at the start of Q3 and not one, but I decided for that.” About his third place he said, “We have a good race car and should be able to do well from there tomorrow.”
The first qualifying session was struck by rain, all drivers went out on the intermediates, except Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean, who were still waiting in the garage until their cars were fixed. First casualty was Jules Bianchi, he went out in his Marussia but stopped at the top of Beau Rivage with smoke emerging from the back of his car.
It soon became a lottery on the wet streets of the gambling capital of Europe, Pastor Maldonado was quickest in the Williams after the chequered flag was waved to signal the end of the first session. Romain Grosjean went out with three minutes remaining, he performed a true miracle, stayed away from the barriers, and scored second place.
Giedo van der Garde – Photo: Caterham F1
Another miracle, as Giedo van der Garde qualified for Q2 in the underpowered Caterham, the Dutchman felt at home on the wet circuit and he was of course elated about his performance today. He finally finished in 15th place and van der Garde said, “I’m obviously very pleased to put my name into the Q2 timesheets for the first time this year and I want to thank Tony [Fernandez], Cyril [Abiteboul] and the whole team for the jobs everyone did today. Honestly, it’s a great feeling.”
And he added, “Sunday could be very interesting. I start between the two Williams cars of Bottas and Maldonado and I’ve had good starts all year, so hopefully I can have another good launch, avoid anything like the GP2 mess on Friday, and from there anything’s possible. I finished on the podium here last year in GP2 and, while that’s not going to happen this year, we will definitely be racing quite a few cars all afternoon!”
Paul di Resta, Charles Pic, Esteban Gutierrez, Max Chilton, Bianchi and Massa were not so lucky, and didn’t make it into Q2. Massa’s Ferrari still wasn’t fixed and the Brazilian will start from 22nd and last position on the grid tomorrow.
During the second session the circuit started to dry out, but most drivers initially went out on the intermediates, but later switched to the super soft Pirellis. Again van der Garde showed how quick he was in the rain, halfway Q2 he was even in third place, but unfortunately for him, in the last minutes Q2 everyone tried the super soft tyres and the Dutchman tumbled down the order quickly.
Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Grosjean, Valtteri Bottas, van der Garde and Maldonado did not make it into the third and final qualifying session.
All drivers went out on the super softs for Q3, and lap times were dropping quickly. With three minutes to go, Vettel was the fastest man on track, but again Mercedes did what they have done the whole weekend, and Rosberg landed his third pole of the season.
Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren
Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso completed the top six. Webber was optimistic about the race tomorrow and said, “The conditions are changing and the tyres are tricky, so starting on the second row here is not bad. It’s a long race and a lot of strategy can unfold, so we’ll see what we can do from there.”
The McLaren team did benefit from the rainy circumstances, Sergio Perez was seventh while Jenson Button was ninth. “It’s not great to cross the finish line, feel like you’ve just done a mega lap, and find that you’re only seventh. Still, I put in a really strong performance here today, and I felt like I’d really maximised the full potential of the car,” Perez said.
Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, however, remained optimistic, “Looking forward tomorrow’s race will be long and hard — and, although overtaking will be as difficult as ever, mistakes will inevitably play a part in the race’s unfolding drama, and both Jenson and Checo will be trying their hardest to drive faultlessly again in an effort to score as many world championship points as they possibly can.”
The qualifying results can be found here.
By Berthold Bouman
Mercedes dominated the second free practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix this afternoon, as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton took first and second place. Rosberg lapped the Monte Carlo street circuit in 1m14.759s on the super soft tyres, he was 1.436s faster than this morning.
Again a strong showing by Ferrari, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa took third and fourth place respectively. Mark Webber was the fastest Red Bull driver this afternoon, the Australian took fifth place, while Sebastian Vettel was ninth in the second Toro Rosso.
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean landed sixth and seventh spot, but Grosjean crashed his Lotus into the wall at Saint Devote after he had run wide, the red flag came out as track marshals used the opportunity to inspect a loose kerb at the swimming pool before the session was restarted.
Second place for Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Jenson Button was again faster than his team colleague Sergio Perez, he was eighth while Perez was 12th. Paul di Resta completed the top ten, but he was closely followed by Adrian Sutil in the second Force India, the German was 11th fastest this afternoon.
Nico Hulkenberg was again quick in the Sauber, he took 13th place, while Esteban Gutierrez was 15th, just 0,112s slower than Hulkenberg. Pastor Maldonado was not as quick as he had been this morning, he took 14th spot for Williams while Valtteri Bottas was 18th.
Paul di Resta – Photo: Sahara Force India
Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were 16th and 17th respectively, and at the bottom of the list are the usual suspects, as usual Marussia driver Jules Bianchi was faster than Max Chilton, while tis time Charles Pic outpaced his Dutch team colleague, he was 19th while Giedo van der Garde was 22nd and last.
Results of the second free practice session can be found here.
By Berthold Bouman
After a disastrous weekend in Spain, where Nico Rosberg scored pole position for Mercedes, but finished the race in sixth position, while Lewis Hamilton, who started the race in second place, finished the weekend in 12th spot, Mercedes is looking forward to the race in Monaco. The Silver Arrows have a problem, during qualifying the car is very competitive, but their race pace is not what it should be.
Ross Brawn: The priority is always to get the drivers comfortable
Team Principal Ross Brawn said about the poor performance during the Spanish Grand Prix, “Our work continues back at Brackley and Brixworth to fully understand the reasons for our below-par race performance in Barcelona, in order to develop the right solutions for the upcoming circuits where high tyre usage could once again be a limitation for us.”
Brawn’s main concern is to make the drivers feel comfortable and confident in the cockpit, and he commented, “Monaco is a not usually a race to which teams bring many updates because the track conditions change so much across the weekend. The priority is always to get the drivers comfortable with the unique challenge the circuit presents and to give them a set-up they feel confident pushing to the limit.”
Nico Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Nico Rosberg: It’s great to race in the city where I live
For many Formula One drivers, Monaco will be their home Grand Prix, Rosberg also lives in Monte Carlo and remarked, “Monaco is always a fantastic weekend and it’s great to race in the city where I live. Knowing that all my family and friends are watching makes it very special and I love being able to drive from home into the paddock on a scooter!”
On a street circuit where overtaking is difficult and sometimes even impossible, qualifying is very important and the German said, “At the moment we have a good car for qualifying which helps in Monaco as it’s the most important qualifying session of the year as track position is so important. So that might be helpful for us but there are so many unknowns, especially with the tyres, so we will just have to wait and see.”
Lewis Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Lewis Hamilton: You have to perform every single lap
Hamilton has put his disappointing performance in Spain behind him and is looking forward to the challenge of racing on a street circuit. “Monaco is one of my favourite races of the year and I love driving the streets there. As a driver, you know that you have to perform on every single lap and it’s a challenge that I really enjoy,” he said.
About qualifying the 2008 World Champion said, “Perhaps more than at many other tracks, qualifying and getting the best possible track position is crucial in Monaco, but we have to keep our focus on Sunday as well and keep working to improve our race pace. Everyone is working really hard and I know we can get there. We just need to keep motivated and work it out together.”
Mercedes are currently fourth in the Constructor’s Championship with 72 points, while rival McLaren are sixth with only 29 points, Hamilton is fourth, and Rosberg is ninth in the Drivers’ Championship.
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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
By Berthold Bouman
Mercedes is also ready for round five of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya. The performance of the Silver Arrows team has been a concern as the car did not perform well during the Bahrain Grand Prix, but a new upgrade package should improve the race pace of the car.
Ross Brawn: We’re not there yet but we are making progress
Team Principal Ross Brawn is aware of the lack of pace of the Silver Arrows team, and has pinned his hopes on a new upgrade package that will be introduced in Spain this weekend. “We have focused our efforts in two key areas; finalising our upgrade package for Spain and understanding our comparative lack of race pace in Bahrain. We have made progress in the latter area and will evaluate some developments over the upcoming race weekends to help improve the situation,” Brawn said.
There is still a lot of work to do, and Brawn further commented, “We’re not there yet but we are making progress and of course, performing in the race is what really counts.” About the Barcelona circuit the Briton said, “Overtaking is more difficult there than at some of the early season tracks and, of course, every team will be bringing new developments so the weekend should provide an interesting challenge.”
Lewis Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Lewis Hamilton: We know the areas that we need to improve
Lewis Hamilton, who switched from McLaren to Mercedes, commented ahead of this weekend’s race, “We’ve been boosted by the results that we’ve had at the start of the season and to come away from the first four races with two third and two fifth places feels like a real achievement.”
He too, knows there is still a lot of work to do, “I’m feeling very comfortable in the car now and we know the areas that we need to improve — so a lot of effort is being put in to close that gap to the front-runners.” And he added, “Barcelona should be a good test as we know the circuit so well having completed most of the pre-season test programme there. The weekend should be a good benchmark of the progress we have made since then.”
Nico Rosberg took pole in Bahrain – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Nico Rosberg: I am hopeful that we can have a strong weekend
Nico Rosberg is looking forward to the race and commented, “We know that the car went very well at the Circuit de Catalunya in pre-season testing so I am hopeful that we can have a strong weekend. We will have to wait and see how our pace compares however.”
The race-pace of the Mercedes is the main concern according to Rosberg, “Everyone has been working hard to make progress on our race day performance. It will be an interesting weekend and once we see how everyone performs in Barcelona, it should give a good idea of how the rest of the season will look.”
Mercedes is fourth is in the Constructors’ Championship with 64 points, while Hamilton and Rosberg are third and ninth in the Drivers’ Championship.
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By Berthold Bouman
Mixed feelings for Mercedes after three races; last weekend another podium finish for Lewis Hamilton, but yet another retirement for Nico Rosberg at Shanghai. Retiring is not an option for Mercedes, and the Silver Arrows team is aiming to improve the reliability of their 2013 contender, the W04.
Ross Brawn: We must improve the reliability
Team Principal Ross Brawn is aware of the reliability problems, and said, “We have two main areas to focus on; we must improve the reliability and we have to lift our performance to find that extra couple of tenths to our fastest competitors. And of course, that’s a moving target to make the challenge even tougher.”
But, overall, he’s happy with the new car, “With three race weekends under our belts, Bahrain will be the final race of the season-opening quartet. With very different track conditions at each venue, this should give us a good understanding of the car that we have to work with for the rest of the season. The performances so far have been pleasing and perhaps even beyond our pre-season expectations.”
Asked about the team’s target for this weekend he replied, “A strong two car finish will be our target this weekend, and we want to see both Nico and Lewis in a position to score not only points but podiums regularly.”
Two retirements for Rosberg this season – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Nico Rosberg: The first three races haven’t quite worked out as we had hoped
“I’ll be really happy to get back in the car again on Friday after a tough weekend in Shanghai. The first three races haven’t quite worked out as we had hoped on my side but the positive is that we have a car that we can really work with,” Rosberg said ahead of the weekend.
The German is confident Mercedes is well-prepared, and said about the desert circuit, “It’s going to be very tough on the rear tyres and our biggest challenge will be to make the most out of the situation. We’re better prepared than we were last year and we have shown that the car is much stronger so I really hope that we can achieve a great result in Bahrain.”
Lewis Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Lewis Hamilton: The Bahrain circuit is a real challenge
Hamilton was pleased with last weekend’s result and commented, “With each race, I am becoming more settled in the team and more comfortable in my car, and we were very happy with the pole and podium finish.”
He is also eager to close the gap on his rivals and said, “There are some areas where we need to improve to close that gap to the fastest cars and we’re working hard to identify and develop those.”
He’s already looking forward to the race, and remarked about the circuit, “The Bahrain circuit is a real challenge, particularly for the tyres with overheating and also the sand on the track, but this helps to make it unique. The layout has a great combination of fast, slow and medium corners which make it tough for the drivers and the car, so it will be a true test for us.”
Mercedes is currently fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, eight points behind Lotus, and 38 points ahead of McLaren. Hamilton is fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with 40 points, while Rosberg, due to two retirements, is seventh with 12 points.
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By Berthold Bouman
Fernando Alonso was in total control this afternoon as he convincingly won round three of the FIA Formula One World Championship at the Shanghai International Circuit. Thanks to a spot on strategy, the Spaniard was able to beat Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who were not fast enough to catch the Ferrari.
“It was a fantastic race for us from the start to the end without any big problems from the car,” said the winner. “The tyre degradation was better than expected so we managed the pace. It feels great after the retirement in Malaysia because we had some pressure to finish the race.”
It was a somewhat chaotic race in Shanghai, as drivers were on different strategies, but it was Alonso who ultimately cruised to victory. At the start of the race it was this time Raikkonen who had a bad start, and both Ferraris went right past the Lotus, while Hamilton in the Mercedes stayed in the lead.
Ferrari celebrating victory at Shanghai – Photo: Ferrari
But after the DRS was enabled, Hamilton didn’t stand a chance and the 2008 World Champion had to watch how both Ferraris passed him. Hamilton immediately made his first pit stop and changed to the medium Pirellis, but he tumbled down the order.
At the same time Esteban Gutierrez misjudged his braking point at the end of the straight and hit the Force India of Adrian Sutil. The Mexican retired on the spot, Sutil made it back to the pits with heavy damage, but had to end his race.
Gutierrez admitted it had been his fault and said, “Right before going into the long straight I had Checo [Sergio Perez] fighting behind me, and I approached the corner too fast. I was braking at the same place where I usually brake, however, didn’t anticipate the loss of downforce and the amount of speed I had. I tried my best to stop, but didn’t succeed.”
Gutierrez crashed into Sutil’s Force India – Photo: Sauber Motorsport
Sutil was obviously very disappointed and commented, “My rear wing was broken and there was no option but to stop. It’s always a shame not to finish a race and I had a good chance of scoring more points today. I was on the soft tyre and the strategy looked to be shaping up well.”
At that point Nico Hulkenberg was leading the race, but when he pitted he lost the lead. Not much later there was a second incident, Mark Webber, who had started the race from the back of the grid, was a bit too eager and tangled with Jean-Eric Vergne, the Australian damaged his front wing and had to pit for repairs.
Unfortunately for him, his right rear wheel wasn’t secured properly when he left the pits, and while he was cruising to get back to the pit lane, the wheel came loose and that was the end of Webber’s race. Webber said about the incident, “It was a couple of laps before our pit stop window, so I had to come in early. The guys thought the tyre was fixed when we left the stop, but it came off on the out lap.”
More chaos as Raikkonen ran into the back of Sergio Perez, the Finn damaged his front wing but elected to not change it, and despite the damage he was still fast enough to record the fastest lap at that stage of the race.
Jenson Button in the McLaren was leading the race as he was on a different strategy, but he was passed by Alonso who was much quicker on his new tyres. But more importantly, Raikkonen and Hamilton were still behind the Ferrari, and they still had to pit.
Due to the different strategies, Hamilton was now closing in on Button, and Button was advised over the radio to engage the battle with the Mercedes driver, while at the same time Vettel was told not to fight Alonso who had showed up in his rear-view mirrors, and not much later Alonso passed the triple World Champion without a problem.
Second place for the Iceman today – Photo: Lotus F1
Button was still on his second set of tyres, but his tyres went deterioated very quickly, and both Hamilton and Vettel passed the 2009 World Champion, who then dashed into the pit lane for his last tyre change.
On lap 39 Alonso was still leading, and was followed by Vettel and Button, the Spaniard made his last pit stop on lap 41, Vettel was now right behind him but still had to make a stop to change to the soft tyres, which he hadn’t used yet.
When Vettel pitted and rejoined the race on the soft tyres, he was almost three seconds per lap faster, but it was too little, too late, and Alonso was able to cruise to the finish line. Vettel made a last-minute attempt to overtake Hamilton in third place, but he made two mistakes and ultimately finished in fourth place.
Raikkonen apparently had aimed to win the race, as he later said, “Second wasn’t quite what we wanted, but in the circumstances it was the best that we could manage today. I’m not 100% happy because we didn’t win, but it is what it is and second place is a good result after a bad start and the incident with Sergio [Perez].”
About the loss of downforce due to the damaged front wing he commented, “It was quite difficult out there; obviously the car is not designed like that otherwise we would use it all the time, but I was surprised how good it was still!”
Second podium place for Mercedes and Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Hamilton, who had started from pole and finished in third place, was nevertheless happy with the result, “It was a good race for me today and whilst I would have loved the win, I’m really happy with third place and being on the podium for the second race in a row.”
And he added, “Fernando and Kimi were just a little bit too fast for us during the race and my tyres were shot at the end trying to keep ahead of Sebastian. I could see his car getting bigger and bigger in my mirrors so it was nice to be able to hang on for the third place.”
Vettel earned 12 points today, and he commented, “Our strategy seemed to work today. We knew it would be difficult and that it was crucial to get clean laps, but we didn’t in the first stint.”
The last few laps were very exciting, and the German said, “When I came on to the long straight and saw Lewis at the other end turning into the hair pin I thought ‘well, that’s a bit too far’, but obviously we had much more speed on the fresher tyres. It was a little bit disappointing to lose out by such a tiny bit; a few corners more and we could have tried something.”
Vettel wasn’t fast enough today in China – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Also Button was happy with his fifth place, the best result of the season so far for McLaren. ” The race was always going to be tricky: we weren’t quick enough to adopt the same strategy as the others, so we had to run longer than the rest and make two pit stops, rather than three.” And he added, “We know we still have a lot of work to do to challenge at the front, but we can take a lot of positives away from this weekend.”
Vettel is currently leading the Drivers’ Championship with 52 points, he is followed by Raikkonen (49), Alonso (43), Hamilton (40) Felipe Massa (30), and Webber is sixth with 26 points. Next race is the Bahrain Grand Prix on the Bahrain International Circuit on April 21.
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.”
By Berthold Bouman
Ferrari dominated the final free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit this morning; Fernando Alonso topped the time sheets with a lap of 1m35.391, just 0.056s off the fastest time set this weekend by Felipe Massa on Friday afternoon.
Alonso was followed by his Brazilian team colleague who took second spot, while Lewis Hamilton showed what the Mercedes is capable of as he took third place. The 2008 World Champion was followed by both Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, who took fourth and fifth place respectively, but Webber was a little over one second off the fastest time set by Alonso.
Again a welcome surprise from Force India, as returnee Adrian Sutil took sixth spot, just ahead Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus E21, the Finn set a time of 1m36.605, and thus was 1.158s off the pace.
Fourth place for Vettel in FP3 – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Next were the two McLaren drivers, Jenson Button took eighth place, while his Mexican team colleague Sergio Perez was ninth, he was just 0.084s slower than 2009 World Champion Button. Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten, while his team colleague rookie Esteban Gutierrez was 17th after completing 20 laps on the Shanghai circuit.
Just outside the top ten were both Toro Rosso drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo who took possession of 11th and 12th place. Further down the list was Williams, Pastor Maldonado was 13th, and Valtteri Bottas was 15th, almost two seconds off the pace set by Alonso.
Technical problems for Nico Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Nico Rosberg’s morning was ruined by a hydraulic issue, the German had to be satisfied with 14th place. Also problems for Paul di Resta, his attempts were hampered by set-up issues, the Scott took 16th spot this morning.
Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus complained about lack of grip, and was 18th. The last four places were again for Marussia and Caterham, Jules Bianchi was 19th in the Marussia, again outperforming his British team colleague Max Chilton, who was 21st.
Charles Pic was 20th for Caterham, while Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was 22nd and last this morning.
By Berthold Bouman
Nico Rosberg was fastest this morning after the first free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix, the German lapped the Shanghai International Circuit in 1m36.717s, and was followed by his Mercedes team colleague Lewis Hamilton, who took second place almost half-a-second slower than Rosberg,
Both Mercedes drivers were followed by the two Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, who were third and fourth respectively, but they we considerably off the pace set by Rosberg, Webber was 0.941s, and Vettel 1.225s slower than Rosberg.
Fernando Alonso was the fastest Ferrari driver this morning and took fifth place, while Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari was seventh. Jenson Button took the honours for McLaren and scored sixth place, but Sergio Perez in the other McLaren was 16th after he ended up in the gravel trap at the pit lane entry, just like Hamilton did during the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix.
Second place for Hamilton this morning – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Adrian Sutil was once again faster than his Force India team colleague Paul di Resta, Sutil was eighth this morning, while di Resta was tenth.
Romain Grosjean took ninth place for Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen was 11th, but just over two seconds off the pace, and two seconds is a lot in Formula One. Jean-Eric Vergne was 12th for Scuderia Toro Rosso and beat his team colleague Daniel Ricciardo who was 15th after completing 20 laps.
Williams still has a lot of work to do on the FW35, Pastor Maldonado was 13th, while Valtteri Bottas was 17th. Also the new Sauber needs more speed, experienced driver Nico Hulkenberg was 14th, the German was faster than Esteban Gutierrez who was 18th after completing 22 laps.
Raikkonen has plenty of Chinese fans – Photo: Lotus F1
Jules Bianchi took 19th spot this morning for Marussia, Max Chilton was 20th. Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was 21st for Caterham, followed by Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua, who took over the steering wheel from regular Caterham driver Charles Pic.
By Berthold Bouman
Mercedes won their first Formula One race at the Shanghai International Circuit last year, this year the German team hopes to close the gap on their rivals, and more important, the Silver Arrows team must keep developing the car in order to battle at the front.
Toto Wolff: Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games
Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff thinks it is difficult to repeat last year’s success at the Shanghai track. “One year on from Nico’s win, a lot of people will be asking whether this is something our team can repeat in 2013. But like they say, yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games, and that’s definitely true for us. We start again from zero this year and need to work hard to adapt the car to suit the circuit and the tyre compounds we have available, in the conditions that we find on track next weekend,” said the Austrian.
Mercedes has planned more new parts for China and Wolff said, “We have made a solid start to the season in the first two races with Nico and Lewis both performing at a very high and equal level. The development race will be critical this season so we have more new parts planned for China. Our aim has to be to improve on our good start to the season and continue scoring good points in both championships.”
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes Benz
Lewis Hamilton: We’ve had a better start than we expected
Lewis Hamilton is looking forward to race again after the three-week break. “My first two races with my new team have been a great experience and everyone has made me feel so welcome. We’ve had a better start than we expected and to have finished in fifth and third places so far is really positive,” Said the 2008 World Champion.
He’s confident his team can keep up the pace of development, “I know there is much more to come so we will keep working hard and pushing the development of the car. I’ll be at the factory this weekend and look forward to hearing about the work that’s gone on in the last couple of weeks and the upgrades that we will take to China.”
Rosberg won the Chinese GP last year – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Nico Rosberg: I enjoy the Shanghai track a great deal
Of course Nico Rosberg has good memories of the Shanghai circuit, as he scored his maiden win during last year’s Chinese Grand Prix. “I travel to China this week with very good memories from winning my first Formula One race in Shanghai last year, and having led the race there for the past three years. I enjoy the Shanghai track a great deal and I have a positive feeling going there with the car that we have at the moment.”
And he added, “We’ve had a strong start to the season and I’m confident that we can keep pushing and hopefully score some good results in China and Bahrain.”
Ross Brawn: We’re fully aware that there is still a gap to close
Team Principal Ross Brawn also thinks that his team has made a good start this season, but there is still work to do. “Our season has started well, perhaps better than we expected, however we’re fully aware that there is still a gap to close and that we must keep up the pace of development,” said Brawn
He’s also looking forward to test the new parts the team has developed for Shanghai, “A lot of hard work has taken place at our factories over the last two weeks to do just that and I look forward to seeing how that translates to track performance.”
• Red Bull Chinese GP Preview
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• Marussia Chinese GP Preview
By Berthold Bouman
After a sensational race at Sepang International Circuit for round two of the FIA Formula One World Championship, Sebastian Vettel is leading the Drivers’ Championship — after he ignored team orders. Mark Webber was livid after Vettel passed him, as the Red Bull team had told both drivers to hold position to save the tyres, Vettel decided to ignore the requests from his team and after a bitter, but sensational battle on track, Vettel emerged as the winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Vettel later apologized, but gave no explanation, and said, “I messed up today. I would love to come up with a nice excuse as to why I did it, but I can’t. I can understand Mark’s frustration and the team not being happy with what I did today; I owe an explanation to him and the whole team.”
And he added, “Mark and I are used to fighting each other when we’re close, but with the tyres how they are now, and not knowing how long they will last, it was an extremely big risk to ignore the call to stay second.”
Webber was livid after Vettel denied him victory – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Webber was very disappointed after Vettel overtook him, but he nevertheless remained calm and said, “I think Sebastian has respect for me and I have respect for him, but the situation today was not handled well. It’s hard to put your finger on it all now after the race; when we’re racing on the limit and pushing as hard as we can, then it’s the worst situation for a team.”
Just seconds after the start a sensational race unfolded, all drivers started on the intermediates as it had rained just ahead of the start of the race. It was a great start for Vettel, he remained in the lead, but Fernando Alonso, who was a bit too eager, hit Vettel’s Red Bull and the Spaniard damaged his front wing and at Turn 1 the wing got wedged under the front wheels of the Ferrari and Alonso ended up in the gravel trap, his race was over.
But the wet track very quickly dried out and Vettel was the first to switch to the slicks, he soon started to make progress and others followed and also pitted for slicks. A number of drivers encountered problems during their first stop, Force India driver Adrian Sutil lost a lot of time when there was a problem changing the left rear wheel and the German lost a lot of time.
More pandemonium in the pit lane as Charles Pic in the Caterham hit the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, who had to be pushed back to his slot for a new front wing. Webber meanwhile, had taken over the lead from Vettel, Hamilton was third, Nico Rosberg fourth and Jenson Button was fifth for McLaren. Hamilton had an embarrassing problem in the pit lane, he stopped at his old McLaren team, his old mechanics waved him off in the right direction.
Button had done the same during the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix, when he stopped at the Red Bull box, and Hamilton said, “I just did a Jenson! He did that a couple of years ago. For so many years I’ve been used to driving in to the McLaren pit stop and I don’t know how I got it wrong but a big apology to my team!”
A race to forget for Force India – Photo: Sahara Force India
Webber remained in the lead after his second stop, but disaster struck again for Force India when Paul di Resta’s car fell off the jacks and the Scot lost a lot of time before he finally could leave the pit lane. When Sutil pitted, there was again a problem, this time there was a problem changing the left front wheel, poor Sutil lost almost a minute before he left the pit lane and rejoined the race in 20th place.
But the misery wasn’t over for the Indian team, not much later di Resta came in and parked his car in the garage, a few laps later also Sutil returned to the pit lane and his race was also over. It was later established the wheel nuts had caused the problems.
Also Button had a problem in the pit lane, his left front wheel hadn’t been secured properly, he stopped after a few metres and he was pushed back to fix the problem and lost a lot of time as well. It also was a miserable day for McLaren, Button later retired and Sergio Perez finished in ninth place, scoring two points. Strangely enough, Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh later stated his team had made significant progress.
While Vettel chose to ignore his team’s orders, Nico Rosberg decided to stay behind Lewis Hamilton after he had requested to overtake the 2008 World Champion, both drivers were low on fuel and Team Principal Ross Brawn had told them to take it easy to save fuel. Rosberg was obviously disappointed but nevertheless stayed behind Hamilton.
Also team orders for Hamilton and Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Meanwhile, Vettel had built up a seven second lead after his fight with Webber, the Australian was perhaps too angry and disappointed and he didn’t even bother to close in on Vettel, and thus he finished in second place, followed by Hamilton and Rosberg.
Felipe Massa had no problems at all and had some fun overtaking both Lotus cars, the Brazilian finished in fifth place, followed by Grosjean and Raikkonen who were sixth and seventh.
During the podium interview Hamilton said his third place, his first podium for Mercedes, actually belonged to Rosberg, he wasn’t happy with the team orders either as he knew Rosberg had been faster.
“If I’m honest I really feel that Nico should be standing here, he generally had better pace than me throughout the race but he’s a great team mate and he did a fantastic job today,” he said, adding, “On our side I was fuel saving for a long, long time so unable to keep the pace of the guys at the front but nonetheless we brought it home, the guys did a great job and I’m proud to be up here for them.”
Massa had problems with his tyres during the early stages of the race and said, “The biggest problem at the beginning of the race was the graining I was having on the tyres. I lost a lot of positions because of that and a lot of time compared to the guys in front, maybe 0.3s per lap. In the dry it was fine and the pace was good so if it was not for this problem at the start of the race maybe I would have had a chance to fight for the podium.”
Raikkonen puzzled by loss of pace – Photo: Lotus F1
Raikkonen wasn’t really pleased with his seventh place, and he was puzzled by the loss of pace today. He said about the car, “Since Saturday morning it has not been behaving as we expected for some reason, especially in the wet where we really struggled for grip. It was a tough race and I lost part of my front wing at the start which didn’t help, but at least we scored a few points which is better than coming away with nothing.”
And thus it was a race that was won or lost in the pit lane. Today was really the Pirelli show and, as some drivers have already said, the tyres now rule Formula One. Sometimes the show Pirelli puts on is entertaining, sometimes it’s not.
Today spectators saw a great race, but using five sets of tyres during one race is somewhat silly, certainly when the hardest compounds are used like this weekend in Malaysia; it is also a pity two team mates are not allowed to battle for position because they are afraid to ruin the tyres; and on top of that, qualifying also becomes more and more a tyre-saving exercise, which does not contribute to the show.
Next race is the Chinese Grand Prix on April 14 at the Shanghai International Circuit.
By Berthold Bouman
Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel was quickest during the third and final practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International circuit this morning. The German set a time of 1m36.435s, and was followed by Lewis Hamilton who took second place for Mercedes, while Nico Rosberg was ninth in the second Mercedes.
Adrian Sutil again demonstrated the raw speed of the Force India VJM06, the German was only 0.153s slower than pace-setter Vettel, while Mark Webber in the second Red Bull was fourth.
Kimi Raikkonen was fifth in the Lotus, after completing 19 laps on the Sepang circuit. Romain Grosjean was struggling with his Lotus E21, and didn’t get any further than 14th place this morning.
Sutil again very fast for Force India – Photo: Sahara Force India
Paul di Resta has problems keeping up with team colleague Sutil, he was sixth fastest, but it seems Sutil feels much more comfortable in the Force India than de Scotsman.
Some improvement for McLaren this morning, Jenson Button was seventh, but almost four-tenths of a second off the pace, while Sergio Perez was 12th, almost a second slower than Vettel. McLaren are still working hard to improve the MP4-28, but due to the changing weather conditions the engineers are struggling to understand the car and its dynamics.
Felipe Massa was the fastest Ferrari driver and took eighth place, beating Fernando Alonso who was tenth this morning. Williams are also still struggling to come to grips with the FW35, a little improvement today as Pastor Maldonado was 11th, while Valtteri Bottas was 15th with a lap of 1m39.736s, almost 1.5s slower than the leading Red Bull.
Nico Hulkenberg – Photo: Sauber Motorsport
Sauber are not as fast as they were at the start of 2012, and Nico Hulkenberg was 13th, and his Mexican team colleague Esteban Gutierrez was 16th.
The Toro Rosso duo Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Riccardo took possession of 17th and 18th places this morning. Charles Pic, Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde and Max Chilton completed the list of 22 drivers this morning.
By Berthold Bouman
The Australian Grand Prix was certainly not a complete success for Mercedes, as Nico Rosberg had to give up his race with technical problems, while Lewis Hamilton finished in fifth place at Melbourne, the Mercedes team is therefore looking forward to round two of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Ross Brawn: We all hope to put on a good show
Team Principal Ross Brawn thinks there is still much work to be done, he especially wants to be able to get better start positions for his drivers. “Our car performed well and seemed to be competitive in all of the conditions that the Melbourne weather gave us. However, we didn’t quite find the correct balance for the race which compromised our ability to maximise the starting positions of Lewis [Hamilton] and Nico [Rosberg]. With the second race in Malaysia following this weekend, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to put that right.”
Ross Brawn, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Lewis Hamilton: Hoping for positive weekend
Hamilton is looking forward to the race at Sepang, a race he has never won before. “Malaysia is a beautiful country with great weather and great fans who are always so supportive, I’m really looking forward to seeing them,” said the 2008 World Champion.
And he added, “Sepang is a fantastic circuit and one where I haven’t managed to win before. My favourite part of the track is probably turns five and six but it’s always an exciting challenge here with the heat and humidity.”
Asked about the progress Mercedes had made since winter testing, he commented, “I’m very proud of the work that the team have done so far and I know that the guys are pushing hard back in the UK to bring more performance to the car. I hope we can have a positive weekend here and build on the progress that we made in Melbourne and on what we learned from that race.”
Nico Rosberg: Conditions will be much hotter, rain would be welcome
“Sepang is one of my favourite tracks on the Formula One calendar. The layout has a little bit of everything with the slow and fast corners making a nice mix,” Rosberg said about the circuit.
He has fond memories of Malaysian circuit, “Sepang holds some great memories for me as I achieved my first podium for Mercedes here at the start of the 2010 season. The conditions this weekend will be much hotter than in Australia so it will be a good test to see how the cars perform in such a different environment and how we can adapt to that.”
The Mercedes is fast in the rain, and he would welcome a few rain showers this weekend, “It often rains heavily and from my experience with the performance of the car in the rain in Melbourne, wet conditions would certainly be welcomed by me!”
• Red Bull Malaysian GP Preview
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By Berthold Bouman
After qualifying on Saturday was postponed until Sunday morning due to the rain storms in Melbourne, triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel did what he usually does and grabbed the first pole of the season with a lap of 1m27.407s on an almost dry Albert Park Circuit.
The last qualifying session Q3 turned into a shoot-out for pole, but it was Vettel who was the smartest and he made good use of the conditions of the drying track. “Obviously I was very happy with the result, but with the adjusted schedule we can’t be too euphoric right now — in a few hours the race is coming up, so it’s head down again to get on with that,” said the pole-sitter.
Polesitter Vettel with the press – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Mark Webber put the second Red Bull on second place of the grid, thus Red Bull will start from the front row this afternoon. “It was slippery yesterday and we came back again today for a very short explosive session; it’s all over in a flash. We needed to get things right, I would have liked two laps but we finished up the grid at the right end. The weather can change very quickly here, so it’s always hard to make a call,” said the Australian driver ahead of his home Grand Prix.
Yesterday, during Q1, Pastor Maldonado, Esteban Gutierrez, Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic were already eliminated from the rest of qualifying, thus 16 drivers battled for pole this morning.
Lewis Hamilton surprised friend and foe by taking third place for Mercedes, he was 0.680s slower than Vettel, while Nico Rosberg was sixth. Both Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso took fourth and fifth place respectively, albeit over a second off the pace.
Third place for Hamilton and Mercedes – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Seventh and eighth place were for Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. It was a difficult to set a decent time in just one lap, Raikkonen later said, “It was an okay qualifying session. We had just one lap on the dry tyres and I got a bit sideways at the end on a damp patch which meant I lost some time so that was a bit disappointing.”
Paul di Resta was ninth in the Force India, and the Scotsman commented, “We came here with intentions of reaching Q3 so it’s a good way to start the year. I think we got most things right today, especially the timing of the switch to a fresh set of intermediates towards the end of Q2. Ninth position is a good place to be starting and it’s on the cleaner side of the track too.”
Jenson Button was lucky to get in Q3, but finished the day on tenth spot, while Sergio Perez in the second McLaren didn’t make the cut and the Mexican will be starting from 15th place on the grid this afternoon.
Nico Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil, Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniel Ricciardo, Perez and Valtteri Bottas also didn’t make it into Q3. It wasn’t an easy day for rookie Bottas, “It wasn’t the easiest qualifying session to start my Formula One career. It was good to get through Q1 yesterday but the conditions were tricky again today as it was getting drier all the time. We tried the super soft tyre, but unfortunately it didn’t allow us to improve our lap time.”
Difficult qualifying for McLaren – Photo: McLaren
Sutil reckoned he switched to the slicks too early and commented, “The track conditions were much better this morning, but it was still tricky and I didn’t feel that comfortable on the damp track. The key to Q2 was the timing of your lap and we probably changed a bit too early to the new intermediates because there was only one quick lap in those tyres. I had time for another lap, but my tyres were going off and I could not improve.”