It seems, at the moment, Vettel is unstoppable. Having been fastest all weekend throughout the three practice sessions, he went on to fly to pole with a time of 1.33.706, completing his hat-trick of pole positions for the season. Can he make it a third win?
The Shanghai Circuit is rumored for teams to put a one-stop strategy in place for the race according to a tweak in the option tires and their durability. The third race of the season has Vettel as a favorite for the race win as usual. The Redbull drivers will be looking to have their KERS ready, but no word yet from the team. Ferrari’s need improved qualifying pace in order to translate that into decent race finishes. Mercedes GP need to find something from somewhere they might not even be familiar with. At this point they are not where they want to be. A redesign of their chassis perhaps? Constant Grand Prix upgrades?
As you might have noticed, the trend for qualifying this season (for top teams) is to conserve the option tires for as long as possible before using them. Ideally, they hope clocking competitive times in Q1 and Q2 are possible with prime tires, giving them two untouched sets of option tires for Q3 and several for the race. But, that is not always the case. With the majority of the field on soft tires to start with, getting through Q2 on hard tires is almost impossible.
Today, Redbull, McLaren and Ferrari ran hard tires through Q1, with Ferrari only able to manage one run on hard tires. Another run on them would have eliminated them from Q1 – they opted for softs for their second and last run, clocking top 5 times.
Mark Webber had problems with his engine this morning in free practice. An electrical problem only saw him complete one practice lap. Both his runs were on hard tires and that is where he went wrong. Once his first run proved he was not at all quick enough to make it through Q1, he should have switched to soft tires, which he didn’t. He went out a second time on hard tires and placed 18th, eliminating him from the session. Not a smart move. This is his first Q1 elimination since Bahrain 2009.
Q2 saw all teams run soft tires (including Redbull, McLaren and Ferrari). Nico Rosberg tried his luck on hards for his first run, which obviously did not pay off, switching to softs immediately after that. Vitaly Petrov stopped on track after clocking a P4 time. His car seemed to just cut off. Because his car was on track, the session was red-flagged. As the car was being cleared, Barrichello radioed in complaining about Petrov saying ‘I hope he gets a penalty.’ Most drivers were on flying laps and the sudden red flag forced them to abandon it and miss out on the performance of the soft tire during that run. Petrov could have easily parked it away from the track which would only require yellow flags. We shall see if anything develops.
For Q3, Hamilton, Rosberg, Di Resta, Massa and Alonso chose to go for one lap. The pressure was definitely on – having to place a quick run without any errors with two minutes left is not an easy task. On top of that, Vettel had comfortably clocked a 1.33.706 on his first run. Seeing that nobody was to beat his time on his second run, he abandoned it and came in.
Vettel, Button, Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso, Massa, Alguersuari, Di Resta, Buemi, and Petrov complete the top ten.
Sutil, Perez, Kobayashi, Schumacher, Barrichello, Heidfeld, and Maldonado were knocked out of Q2.
Webber, Kovalainen, Trulli, D’Ambrosio, Glock, Liuzzi, and Karthikeyan were knocked out of Q3.
Tune in tomorrow at 10am Lebanon time.
Can Vettel make it three?