Saturday, 10 May 2014

Hamilton takes pole, leading a Mercedes 1-2 while Vettel is hampered by a gearbox issue

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow's Spanish GrandPrix at the Circuit de Catalunya from pole position. The Englishman narrowly beat his team Nico Rosberg to take his fourth pole of the year.

The result is the reverse of last season when Rosberg started from pole.

Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo was third fastest for the Milton Keynes based outfit. The Australian said after qualifying:

Without putting too much attention on Mercedes, I'm happy with what I'm doing, so I think today was pretty good and I wasn't too disappointed with the lap. I don't really see how I could have improved much more today, so I think we're doing the best we can, but now that we're around third or fourth I want to close the gap to the silver cars! Sorry for Seb, he’s had a pretty rough weekend. I prefer it when we are both able to compete. Looking to tomorrow, then I think third is the best we can do. If Mercedes continue at the pace they had today then realistically we won't catch them, so then third, although it wouldn't be a victory, it would be really satisfying.”

While Ricciardo had an extremely strong performance in qualifying his team mate Sebastian Vettel endured another difficult day. Following limited running yesterday following a loop failure the German was forced to cut short his Q3 with a gearbox failure and as a result he will start the race from 15th place as the team had to change his gearbox so as a result he will start alongside McLaren's Kevin Magnussen. Speaking after qualifying Vettel said:

“I left the garage for Q3 and lost drive in second gear; I still had third gear and above so we thought we could do the lap with that, but by Turn 1 I had lost all the other gears, so we couldn’t continue. I was getting more in to the rhythm with each lap after missing yesterday’s sessions. It was quite close between the cars after the Mercedes and I think I could have had a go for P3 today, but we didn’t get that far. I’m of course quite disappointed.”

It was a great session for the Williams Martini Racing Team as Valtteri Bottas will start the race from 4th place just ahead of Lotus of Romain Grosjean, who secured the Enstone squad's best qualifying of the season. Pastor Maldonado didn't fair so well in the second Lotus as he did not set a time after damaging his E22. As a result the Venezuelan will start the race from 21st place just ahead of Toro Rosso's Jean Eric Vergne who has been handed a ten place grid penalty after losing a wheel in practice yesterday.

Kimi Raikkonen had his best qualifying since returning to Ferrari as the Finn will start the race from 6th place just ahead of team mate Fernando Alonso in 7th. Jenson Button will start from 8th place while Felipe Massa will start the race from 9th.

As a result of Vettel's grid penalty, Force India's Nico Hulkeberg will start the race from 10th place. Speaking after qualifying the German said:

"My lap was very good and I am pleased with the effort we put in during qualifying. We made some steps forward with handling and set-up compared to FP3 this morning, but we still ended up a little bit short of Q3. Considering that we haven't been totally comfortable with the car for most of the weekend, P11 is a very good place to start the race and gives us an extra set of medium tyres compared to the rest of the top ten. I expect a very strategic race tomorrow, especially as most of the teams around us seem to be on a similar level when it comes to race pace. It's going to be a challenge for everyone and tyre management will be a key point, but points are within our reach."

His Force India team mate Sergio Perez will start the race from eleven. The Mexican commented:

'I think we finished qualifying more or less where we expected. Maybe a place in Q3 was possible, but I did not manage to complete my final run in Q2 because my preparation lap was not ideal. There was too much traffic and my tyres were not optimised, which is why I chose to abort my final quick lap and save the tyres. Coming here we knew this track would be quite a difficult one for us, but we still believe we can be competitive tomorrow. I think the race will be all about getting the strategy choice right because it’s so difficult to overtake on this track. Our race pace is looking promising so we have a chance to get back some positions tomorrow.”

Following Sebastian Vettel's five place grid penalty, Force India team boss and managing director Dr Vijay Mallya commented:

"Starting the Spanish Grand Prix in P10 and P11 is a good effort on a track that has always been one of the most challenging for us. Both drivers have been chasing the car balance during practice and struggling to optimise the car. A place in Q3 was not too far away and starting from the sixth row of the grid means we can race for points. We expect to have a similar level of race pace to a lot of the cars around us and making the right strategy calls tomorrow will be critical to making progress in the race."
Daniel Kvyat will start the race in 13th place just ahead of Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez. As mentioned Vettel is 15th with Adrian Sutil in the second Sauber 16th.

Max Chilton is aiming to make it five finishes in a row for 2014 starting 17th while team mate Jules Bianchi will start the race from 18th.

Marcus Ericsson out-qualified his team mate Kamui Kobayashi and will start the race from 19th with Kobayashi in 20th ahead of Jean Eric Vergne and Pastor Maldonado.

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