Saturday, 9 May 2015

Rosberg takes his first pole of the year for Mercedes as McLaren Honda get both cars into Q2 for the first time this season in Spain

(© Ben Johnston 2015)

Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Nico Rosberg took his first pole position of the season at the Circuit Barcelona de Catalunya edging out team mate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton by less than 3 tenths of a second with a pole position time of 1m 24.681s, with Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel best of the rest in third place.

Speaking following the session, Rosberg stated:

Today was a good day in the office for me. The conditions were really difficult out there but, thanks to the team, we nailed the setup and got it all together. I really feel great in the car this weekend and was able to improve from session to session. So now I hope to have a good start and to control it from there. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and can’t wait for the race. It’s been a positive start but Sunday is where it really counts… 

Hamilton goes into Sunday’s race with a 27 point advantage over Rosberg at the top of the standings so whatever happens he will leave Spain with his championship lead intact. Speaking following the session the double world champion stated:

It was quite tricky out there today. I did the best I could – but it wasn’t quite fast enough and Nico did a really good job. I think he’s been a bit more comfortable with the balance than I have so far this weekend. The rear was under-rotating quite a bit today, which means you have oversteer and poor traction, so I lost a lot of time in the middle sector. In the end, P2 isn’t so bad. Of course, being on pole makes life a bit easier but it doesn’t mean you can’t win from elsewhere on the grid. Generally speaking, the outside of the grid is cleaner here so you can usually get a good start from there. The main opportunities to gain places will be the start and the pit stops as it’s hard to overtake but I’ll give my best shot like always. Every race you do, you’re thinking about racing for the Championship and I’ll keep driving the same way I always do. It may not have been the greatest weekend so far but it’s not over yet – tomorrow is where it counts.

Head of Mercedes Motorsport Toto Wolff hailed Rosberg’s lap saying:

That was a brilliant lap from Nico in Q3 to take his first pole of the season. It just goes to show that things turn quickly in Formula 1. There have been lots of people asking questions about whether he could bounce back or had lost his momentum. But they have to remember that these guys are tough, they’re resilient and they’re not so much affected by these ups and downs in results as people think. Nico stayed focused this weekend, did his job so far and took a great pole position. Lewis suffered from an oversteer balance on his laps and it’s very hard to find the limit at this circuit when that’s the case. But he still took P2 and can target a strong race tomorrow. We have a solid half-second gap today but I am sure things will be closer in the race. The conditions are very hot and we will have to manage the tyres carefully tomorrow in order to find the right balance between durability and speed. I’m expecting a pretty interesting afternoon.

Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe stated:

That was a great qualifying session and we’re really pleased to get the front row at Barcelona. It’s a very important result because overtaking is more difficult than usual at this track. Likewise, it was pleasing to be able to save two new sets of option tyres for the race – one with each car – and that will be an advantage tomorrow. Congratulations to Nico on his first pole position of 2015 – in fact, he set two laps capable of securing pole, so it was a fantastic job and I’m really very pleased for him. Conditions out there were pretty tricky, too, with a lot of gusting wind. Looking at the relative performances, we seem to have maintained a good differential at this first European circuit where everybody brought a lot of upgrades; which is a really important achievement. We’re looking forward to tomorrow and to seeing if we can convert our front row positions into a lot of championship points.’

Williams Martini Racing Team’s Valtteri Bottas did a fantastic job for the Grove based outfit as he the Finn will start the race from fourth place on the grid just ahead of the stars of qualifying, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen who will start the race from 5th and 6th place respectively.

Speaking following the session, Bottas commented by saying:

It's always a good feeling to split the Ferraris. We knew that if we got everything right we could be close and that's what happened. It was pretty much the maximum we could do today. If we can get a good start and get the strategy right, then maybe we can have a repeat of Bahrain and keep one of the Ferraris behind us. We have improved the race pace in the past few weeks but we know Ferrari are still strong on long runs, so it's up to us to do what we can to stay in front.

It was another difficult Saturday for Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen as although his team mate Sebastian Vettel will start the race from third place, the Iceman will start down in seventh place. The 2007 world champion was told that the setup of his car was wrong in Free Practice three this morning so maybe that carried over to qualifying. However Raikkonen has shown fantastic race pace this season and tomorrow is what counts.

Raikkonen will start the race just ahead of Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat who set a time of 1m 26.629s. Speaking following the session, the Russian stated:

I did my best and so I can’t be happy with P8. Maybe we have not got the most out of our upgrades just yet, but I’m sure the team can turn things around. At least this weekend, we have had a clean free practice and qualifying and, step by step we will get there. Nevertheless, tomorrow is the day that matters, the thing we are all fighting for and there is still everything to play for, so I can definitely aim to score some points starting from where I am on the grid.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner commented on the day’s action saying:

A tricky qualifying for the team and we can’t help but feel we have underperformed, lining up eight and tenth on the grid after a difficult build up from Friday and FP3. I think Dany got the most car of the car today, and Daniel struggled a little on the last run. We have plenty of work to do in the race tomorrow.

Felipe Massa will start the race from ninth place in the second Williams Martini Racing FW37 having set a time of 1m 26.757s. Speaking following the session the Brazilian stated:

I’m disappointed because I made a mistake in Turn 3 on my flying lap in Q3, running off the track which lost me a lot of time. I had to use two sets of options in Q2 to make sure that I was safe, so that one timed lap in Q3 had to be it. Without that mistake I could have been in the top five. The car's long run pace looked solid yesterday so provided we get a clean start I should be able to move forwards, so there is still a lot to play for tomorrow with a good amount of points on offer.

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

We’ve brought some upgrades to this grand prix and today has shown that we have more than kept pace with our rivals, and perhaps moved a bit ahead of the teams that have been behind us. Seeing as this is a track that does not necessarily suit our car, the fact that we still have the Ferraris and Mercedes in our sights is very positive. Felipe lost a lot of time on his flying lap in Q3 after going off the track at Turn 3, which is a shame, but these things happen when you’re pushing hard. Valtteri starts in a strong position and our focus will be on trying to get a car home on the podium tomorrow.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten for the Milton Keynes based outfit and speaking following the session, the Australian stated:

I think tenth place must be my worst quali since I started with the team, so it wasn’t the best day. I was frustrated mainly in sector 3. In Q1 and Q2 I felt it was my strongest sector, but then in the end we lost maybe half a second or more through there. And I don’t really have an explanation for why that happened. I am disappointed with the outcome, as I had hoped to be at least P7 or P8. From the long run I did in FP3 this morning, the car performed consistently and the balance was okay, so we should be okay on tyres tomorrow. We are not really quick enough down the straights, so we need a good start and then we will try and do something with strategy.

The Lotus F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean just missed out on a place in the top ten and will start the race from eleventh place. Speaking following qualifying the Frenchman stated:

We can be happy with where we are following qualifying. After this morning we didn’t think that we’d make it into Q2 but we made good progress since FP3. P11 is quite a good position to be in, on a clean side of the grid and we’ll have plenty of new tyres for tomorrow’s race. Of course I’m a racer and I always want more, which sometimes can cost me a little bit but it’s been good to be able to fight this afternoon after a complicated start to the weekend. We are hoping for points tomorrow like we scored at the last two races. There could be some nice overtaking manoeuvres opportunities on Sunday even though it can be tricky here in Barcelona.

Grosjean’s team mate at the Lotus F1 Team, Pastor Maldonado will start the race from 12th place and commenting on his day after the session, the Venezuelan stated:

Qualifying was actually not too bad when you consider where we were yesterday and this morning as we’ve been working very hard to find some balance with the car. We ran a different strategy for qualifying as we saw that the single lap pace potential wasn’t all there, so we’ve looked to the race and our strategy there to make up positions, especially with an extra set of new tyres relative to our rivals.’

It was great day for the McLaren Honda F1 Team as for the first time this season the Woking based outfit got bot cars into Q2 with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button showing that the MP4-30 is making progress. The pair will start Sunday’s race from 13th and 14th place respectively.

The Sauber F1 Team’s Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson will start the race from 15th and 16th place in a Noah’s Ark back of the grid line up. Speaking following the session, Nasr stated:

After FP3 I felt good with the changes we made for qualifying. On my last run in Q2 I was a bit too aggressive with the result that I had a lot of oversteer. The rear tyres were overheating when driving the car on the limit. It is not going to be an easy race for us, but we will do our best to fight for points.’

Marcus Ericsson commented:

Overall it is a bit disappointing. We are starting further down the grid than we had hoped for. The first run in Q1 was ok. We were able to find some improvements when we went out on the second set of tyres, but it was not enough to make it into Q2. We need to analyse and understand the reasons for it. Tomorrow we have to make the best out of our positions.’

Sauber F1 Team Principal Monisha Keltenborn commented:

“A disappointing result. We knew it was going to be very tough. However, we did expect to be a few more positions further up the grid. Nevertheless we are not going to give up and will try to make the most of the race tomorrow.”
Sauber’s Head of Track Engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara stated:

We can obviously not be satisfied with this result, although we do not seem to have any specific issues on the car. The day itself went quite reasonably as we were able to collect more data about tyre management. The drivers felt quite comfortable with the balance of the car. We have to accept this result for the moment and make the best out of it for the race.

It was an extremely disappointing day at the office for the Sahara Force India Formula One Team as Nico Hulkenberg will start the race from 17th place while Sergio ‘Checco’ Perez will start the race from 18th place.

The Manor Marussia F1 Team’s Will Stevens Will Stevens starts the race from 19th place while his team mate Roberto Merhi, one of three Spaniard’s on the grid rounded out the grid in 20th place.

© Ben Johnston 2015

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