Qualifying for the 3rd race of the Formula 1 season is over and Lewis Hamilton is your pole sitter for the 10th running of the Chinese Grand Prix. His Mercedes topped the charts in Q1, Q2 and Q3. Remember, Nico Rosberg won this race last year from the pole for Mercedes so this isn’t a big surprise to see them fast again. What is surprising is the starting positions of the Red Bull teammates who will start 9th and 14th respectively. It was a unique session and everyone was worried about tires. In fact, the need to save them led some teams like Red Bull to sacrifice a potential pole run in favor of conserving them.
For the first 9 minutes of Q1, there was no on track activity whatsoever. Finally, Jules Bianchi in his Marussia pulled out of pit lane and became the first driver to post an official time. Lewis Hamilton led the uneventful session with with a lap of 1:35.79 followed by his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Felippe Massa. Max Chilton, Giedo Van Der Garde, Charles Pic, Esteban Gutierrez, Jules Bianchi, and Valtteri Bottas were the six drivers knocked out in Q1. Jean-Eric Vergne was the final driver to advance to Q2 just 25 hundredths ahead of the KO zone.
3x reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel was the first driver to hit the track for Q2. With 7 minutes remaining, Mark Webber pulled his Red Bull off to the side of the track after he apparently ran out of fuel. His stricken RB9 sat there for the rest of the session while the very disappointed Aussie returned to pit lane. The Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg once again led the way followed by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen. The drivers knocked out were Mark Webber, Adrian Sutil, Pastor Maldonado, Jean-Eric Vergne, Paul Di Resta, and Sergio Perez. Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo were two nice surprises that advanced into Q3.
2 McLarens, 2 Ferraris, 2 Lotus’, 1 Red Bull, 1 McLaren, 1 Toro Rosso, and 1 Sauber made up the rather diverse Q3. Not a single car went out until Raikkonen with just 2 minutes remaining and qualifying became a 1 lap shootout for the pole! Lewis Hamilton took the pole position with a lap of 1:34.484. It is his 27th career Formula 1 pole and his 3rd at the Shanghai circuit. 2nd was Kimi Raikkonen followed by Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, and Nico Hulkenberg.
It is worth noting that Vettel, Button and Hulkenberg did not post a lap time in Q3. Only once in Ricciardo’s career has he started higher than 7th and that was a 6th at Bahrain last year. Felipe Massa failed to out-qualify teammate Fernando Alonso for the 5th race in a row which would of been a feat no one has ever accomplished had he done it. Mark Webber will start 14th unless the stewards decide to issue a penalty to Red Bull for Webber running out of fuel which is such an embarrassing blunder by this team. It was a very interesting, very strange qualifying session that featured some new names near the top and big names a little further down the charts. This is certainty one Grand Prix that you don’t want to miss!