Saturday, 11 April 2015

Hamilton leads Mercedes 1-2 in qualifying

(Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team)

Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton took pole position to lead a team front row lock out for the Silver Arrows for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Hamilton’s fastest time was a 1m 35.782s to finish 0.042s ahead of Rosberg in the second Mercedes.
Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel will start the race from third place ending the Q3 0.905s behind Hamilton.

Speaking following qualifying Hamilton stated:

'China continues to be a good place for me; I guess the circuit fits my style more than others and I enjoy driving it. Also, you just have to look at the stands with all the banners to see how amazing the support we have here is every year. The car felt really good today and the guys back at the factories have done a great job since Malaysia to analyse where we could improve and make a step forward. The last race wasn't the tidiest but this weekend we've put it all together with no problems so far, so thank you to everyone for that. Let's hope it continues tomorrow. There's a long race ahead and the Ferraris are very quick once again here, so the job is far from done.'

A disappointed Nico Rosberg commented on his his performance in qualifying saying:

'I'm frustrated with today's result because four hundredths of a second is nothing. I had a good lap at the end but, in hindsight, it's always possible to see where you could have found that little bit extra. But that's the situation for me now and I'm still confident for tomorrow. I've focused on race pace with my set up and I know that tyres will be the decisive factor tomorrow. So I will be aiming to put a lot of pressure on Lewis ahead of me.'

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's Executive Director (Business) Toto Wolff commented on today's overall qualifying performance saying:

'That was a brilliantly close qualifying session between our two boys. Nico pulled out a fantastic lap on the final run but Lewis had just done enough with his first set of tyres to take pole by four hundredths of a second. It’s a good situation to be in and confirms what we saw yesterday – namely that we have an advantage over Ferrari on one lap. But we also know that the gaps shrink in race conditions and we saw in Malaysia that they could extend their tyre life beyond what we could achieve, so we need to be careful of that tomorrow. We have some new factors to consider in our pre-race thinking compared to two weeks ago, so a successful race will be all about finding the right balance between speed and tyre management.'

Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team's Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe commented by saying:

'That was a very dramatic qualifying session, with both of our drivers on the front row and split by just four hundredths of a second. It’s a great result for the team, especially as we brought a number of upgrades this weekend which helped us today, so thank you to everybody back at our bases for all the effort they put into delivering that. It was great to see Lewis and Nico performing at their best and interesting to note that, behind us, the Williams managed to split the Ferraris today. The other noteworthy fact was that we managed to negotiate Q1 using just one set of prime tyres, which was not an easy prospect given a performance difference of up to two seconds between the compounds. But two very good laps on the prime tyre mean we have saved new options for the race. We start tomorrow in a great position but we will need to manage our race well and find the best tyre strategy. Our competitors have strong pace and we will have our work cut out tomorrow.'

For the first time this season the Williams Martini Racing Team will have both their cars starting a Grand Prix inside the top five as Felipe Massa will start the race from fourth place just ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Speaking following the session, Felipe Massa stated:

'I am really happy with my lap. I managed to get the best out of the car and showed we are still in the fight with Ferrari. The car has improved throughout the weekend and we had the set-up correct for qualifying. Tomorrow is when it really counts so I hope we can have a strong race and get the most points on offer from the car. '

Valtteri Bottas commented on his performance saying:

'It was quite a close qualifying, although I suffered with the rear of the car throughout the final session, which made it a bit harder. We know we need to work on our race pace, but we should be closer than we were in the first two races. The cars in front look strong so we have to concentrate on tyre degradation. '

Williams Martini Racing Team's Head of Performance Engineering Rob Smedley stated:

'It was a good job by the whole team. We managed to get the best out of the car from both drivers and qualifying in fourth and fifth is a pleasing result. We had a lot to do this morning after FP3 and we have delivered on the hard work, so I am happy. We have got ourselves into a good position for the race and are hoping for a strong result tomorrow.'

It was a frustrating session for Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari SF15-T as the Finn struggled with the handling of the car. The Iceman ended the session 1.450s behind Hamilton.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo will start the race from seventh place, 1.758s behind Hamilton’s car. The Lotus F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean will start the race from 8th place in the E23 Hybrid albeit 2.123s behind the pole sitter.

Speaking following the session Ricciardo stated:

'P7 is what we expected for today. I think we are always trying to find a compromise, us and drivers and the engineers, and they have done the best job they can with the settings we are running. With quali we seem to find more pace as the session goes on and that’s important. Driveability has improved and our long-run pace is better, I think we should be closer to Williams tomorrow and I am optimistic we can have a good fight for top five.”  

Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner stated:

'We got everything out of the car there was today, and unfortunately P7 over a single lap is where we currently are. Daniil, after a few issues at the beginning of Q2, which we managed to rectify before his last run, just missed out by less than a tenth of a second for Q3 to line up P12. We saw yesterday our long-run pace was respectable, so hopefully we can use that to good effect tomorrow.'

The Lotus F1 Team Romain Grosjean will start the race from eighth place on grid and speaking afterwards the Frenchman stated:

'It was a very tight qualifying session which made it very exciting in the car and I’m sure exciting to watch too. We made some good changes from yesterday which gave me a nice balance and I think that was about the best possible from the car at the moment. It’s going to be a long race and I think the key will be to take care of your front left tyres. I’m enjoying driving the E23 and I think we’ve found a strong baseline set-up which is important for me.'

The Sauber F1 Team did a fantastic job as both Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson made it into Q3 and will start the race from ninth and tenth place respectively. Speaking following the session, Marcus Ericsson stated:

'It is a great achievement for the whole team to get both cars into Q3 - for the race team as well as everyone back at the factory in Hinwil. This weekend has been extremely tight as the lap times are quite close. Felipe and I put in good performances today and placed the cars in a promising position for tomorrow. It will be an exciting race, and I think, we have good chances for another positive day.'

Felipe Nasr commented by saying:

'It is a great day for the team being able to have both cars in Q3. We seem to have the cars back on the pace we expected to have here. Therefore, I am confident for the race tomorrow. Hopefully we can get back into the points, and I will do my best to finish the race in the top ten.'stated:

Sauber F1 Team Principal Monisha Keltenborn stated:

'This is a strong qualifying result, which came as a little bit of a surprise considering the lap times in FP3. Looking at our strong long-runs yesterday, it was important to also be fast in qualifying on a sinlge lap, in order to have good grid positions. We managed to achieve this, which is great. Both drivers used the full potential of the car and were rewarded by making it into Q3. Now we will concentrate fully on the race.'

The Swiss Team's Head of Track Engineering Giampaolo Dall'Ara commented by saying:

'In the morning we concentrated on refining the set-up of our cars, and building on what we learned yesterday. It was particularly about maximising the peak performance of the tyres, which yesterday was a bit of a problem for one of the cars. By qualifying we had managed to put everything together, so everybody did a good job with the two drivers extracting the full performance from the cars. We can build on a strong qualifying position with both cars in the top ten. Now we will work hard in order to convert that into a positive result in the race.'

Pastor Maldonado will start the race from eleventh place on the grid with a qualifying time of 1m 38.134s. Speaking following the session he said:

'I expect to fight in Q3 but it’s been harder for me so far this weekend than it has in the previous two races. For whatever reason we’ve struggled through the weekend to find the right balance from the car which means I can’t be fully confident to push on this type of track. That said, I’m looking forward to tomorrow as we’re stronger on race pace so will be much more competitive hunting down those points we want.”

The Lotus F1 Team's Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane stated:

'We qualified where we should have done with the current pace of the E23, meaning both drivers did good jobs. Romain made cleaner progress through the sessions and was able to get a strong final lap for his P8 position. Pastor didn’t have the cleanest of laps at the end of Q2 so was unlucky to just miss out on being in the top ten.'

The Venezuelan finished the day just ahead of Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat who set a time of 1m 38.209s to end the session ahead of the Scuderia Toro Rosso duo of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. Speaking following the session Kvyat stated:

'I was losing some power today and the team is investigating the reason for this. I am disappointed but we have to keep our heads up. We are working hard to keep moving forward, at this track we have a straight-line speed disadvantage and we are trying to find a solution for that.'

The Sahara Force India Formula One Team duo of Sergio ‘Checco’ Perez and Nico Hulkenberg will start the race from 15th and 16th place respectively. Speaking following the session Perez stated:

'I had a couple of pretty good, clean laps in Q1 and that was enough to take me through to Q2. I think we got the maximum from the first session and that’s why we approached Q2 with the race in mind because having enough sets of new tyres will make an important difference on Sunday. I’m looking forward to the race and seeing what we can do. We need to look at the strategy options tonight to make sure we pick the right one. If we can make a good start and find a nice rhythm tomorrow, we can certainly look at challenging for points.'

Nico Hulkenberg commented on his day saying:

'It was disappointing to go out in Q1 but unfortunately the final lap just was not quick enough. I lost a bit of lap time with a small mistake as I was pushing hard, trying to get everything out of the car and that caused us to miss out. We know there is a lot of work ahead of us to develop this car and get its performance to the level we expect from it, but we know this is a process that takes time: it is just a matter of pushing hard to get better week after week. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we are aiming to be fighting for some points. It is not going to be an easy task but we will give it our best shot.'

Sahara Force India Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley stated:

'There were no major surprises in today’s qualifying session. Sergio did a great job in Q1 and was able to deliver a good lap when he was called to do it. He didn't have much of a chance to improve his position in Q2 as we opted to shift our focus to the strategy for tomorrow's race. Nico was unlucky to get knocked out in Q1: he was improving his final lap but unfortunately all the sectors didn't come together. We still line up in P15 and P16 and this should give us a chance to be in the fight for points, which was our objective coming into this weekend.'

McLaren-Honda’s Jenson Button will start the race from 17th place on the grid out-qualifying team mate Fernando Alonso following another tough session for the Woking based outfit.

The Manor F1 Team duo of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi ended the session in 19th and 20th place to round out the grid for the 2015 UBS Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit.

© Ben Johnston 2015

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