Red Bull’s red hot Qualifying streak continued as they qualified at the top of the pile for the Chinese Grand Prix and locked out the front row – Sebastian Vettel on pole position with Mark Webber on P2. Fernando Alonso’s on P3 with Nico Rosberg P4, Jenson Button P5 and Lewis Hamilton managing only P6 after dominating the practice and earlier qualifying sessions. Felipe Massa qualified on P7 with Robert Kubica P8, Michael Schumacher P9 and Adrian Sutil rounds off the top ten.
It was a rather surprising result, given McLaren had dominated the practice sessions – Button fastest in FP1 & Hamilton in FP2. The signs were there in FP3 as Mark Webber clocked the fastest time. However, as the initial two qualifying sessions showed, McLaren were back on top as Hamilton edged out their rivals in both the sessions. But right when it mattered, the Red Bulls pulled out fastest times outta the bags! Mark Webber was almost celebrating as he was on P1 as the chequered flag waved but Vettel was still some way behind and as expected, clocked the fastest time – a 1:34.558 as compared to 1:34.806 for Webber.
Q1 started with Renault racing against time to get their second driver Vitaly Petrov out on track after he destroyed his car after a shunt in this morning’s third practice session but eventually they did get him up and running. McLaren and Lewis Hamilton showed that their practice pace was no flash in the pan as they were fastest in the first session. Nico Rosberg was second fastest for Mercedes with Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso & Felipe Massa following closely. It was a bad day at the office for Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi as he failed to make the cut into Q2 for the first time this season. Joining him at the back of the grid were the two Virgins of Timo Glock and Lucas Di Grassi, the two Lotuses of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli and the two Hispanias of Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok.
Q2 was the same old procession as McLaren and Hamilton again sewed up top place with the top 4 almost remaining the same as the first session. The session was kinda spruced up at the end as the Williams of Rubens Barrichello almost pipped the Force India of Adrian Sutil into tenth place but luckily enough, Sutil was still on a flying lap and he went 9th fastest with Michael Schumacher stealing the last place. That meant Barrichello dropped out, along with teammate Nico Hulkenberg, the two BMW Saubers of Pedro De La Rosa & Kamui Kobayashi, the two Toro Rossos of Jaime Algersuari & Sebastian Buemi and the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.
Ferrari laid down the marker for the third and final session with a 1:35.065 but was soon eclipsed by the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel who clocked up a 1:34.970. McLaren took a gamble by sending out Lewis Hamilton on his second set of fresh tyres a tad early and that almost paid dividends as he took advantage of a relatively empty track to clock up the second fastest time – just a tad behind Vettel’s time. But that was eclipsed rather easily by teammate Jenson Button and others as Hamilton dropped down to 6th by the end of it all. Red Bulls continued their red hot qualifying streak as they pulled off fastest times right at the end of the session to lock out the front row.
The race could an intriguing affair as both McLaren and Ferrari look good in race trim and will look forward to beating the Red Bulls. The only concern might be the engines as Alonso is already on his 3rd with only 8 allocated for the season. Mercedes also had a strong showing with Nico Rosberg and hopefully will translate that into some points. If it rains – as it is widely predicted – it will add more spice to the proceedings, no doubt. Here’s hoping for a cracking race come Sunday.
Best Performance: Robert Kubica
Mover & Shaker: Rubens Barrichello
Affected by Mechanical/Hydraulic/Brake/Misc problems: Michael Schumacher