Chinese GP 2007 qualifying: Hamilton edges Raikkonen

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Shanghai International Circuit, 2007 | GEPA / Franz PammerLewis Hamilton took pole position for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix with an excellent lap to beat the Ferraris as he bids to become the sport’s first rookie world champion.

It had been Kimi Raikkonen’s weekend so far at Shanghai until the Briton snatched pole position from the Finn by a tenth of a second. Massa lines up third ahead of Alonso.

But with rain threatening for tomorrow’s race it remains to be seen which driver has got the most suitable setup on the car.

A major storm is closing in on the Shanghai International Circuit. But qualifying was dry and sunny, if a little breezy, giving teams an enormous headache over how to prepare their cars.

Part one

The Renaults set early quick laps – Heikki Kovalainen on a 1’37.810, two tenths quicker than Giancarlo Fisichella. But a string of drivers soon began setting quicker times, promising another tight battle in the midfield.

Lewis Hamilton went to the top of the times with a 1’35.798, fastest in every sector. Behind him Fernando Alonso matched him to within a hundredth of a second, then Felipe Massa beat Hamilton by an even smaller margin – six-thousandths of a second.

Meanwhile everyone up to sixth placed Sebastian Vettel was in the battle at the bottom of the times sheets: Heidfeld one second faster than 16th-placed Alexander Wurz, who headed the effective bottom six before Raikkonen had set a time.

Raikkonen seemed to have a solid advantage in the second sector, ekeing out a quarter of a second over his rivals and going fastest by 0.1s. The leaders’ laps were already half a second quicker then they had been in the final practice session.

The session ended in a flurry of personal best laps from a host of drivers which dropped one major name out of the running – Giancarlo Fisichella. His team mate Heikki Kovalainen came perilously close to being knocked out as well, finishing the session 16th, seven-hundredths quicker than the Italian.

They were two of five drivers who set a 1’37.2 – the three quickest of which got through to the second part of qualifying, and the last two being knocked out.

Wurz was eliminated once again, although the gap between him and Nico Rosberg was much less than usual (0.3s). Sato ended the session 20th, one second slower than Anthony Davidson.

But how many of the slower drivers were gambling on a wet weather setup for tomorrow? We’ll find out in 24 hours.

Bottom six drivers’ times for part one

17. Rubens Barrichello 1’37.251
18. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’37.290
19. Alexander Wurz 1’36.456
20. Takuma Sato 1’38.218
21. Adrian Sutil 1’38.688
22. Sakon Yamamoto 1’39.336

Part two

The track had improved noticeably during the first part of qualifying and it was a full four minutes before any driver ventured out onto the track.

The usual top four took up their places at the front of the field (with Raikkonen significantly quicker than the rest by 0.4s), followed by Robert Kubica, the two Red Bulls and Nick Heidfeld.

Sebastian Vettel led the bottom six, less than a tenth behind Jenson Button, with Kovalainen, Ralf Schumacher, Davidson, Jarno Trulli and Rpsberg all threatened with the drop zone.

As usual, it was everyone bar the top four that went out to improve their times at the end of the session. That included Kubica, even though he was over half a second faster than the rest.

Schumacher produced a fine lap to jump into ninth place, with Button also moving up into tenth. Kovalainen was poised to drop the Briton out of the top ten until an error at the final corner lost him over a second, leaving Button in the clear. Davidson had ended his lap in a similar way and finished 15th.

Also out was Rosberg, an uncharacteristically lowly 16th, suggesting Williams had also prepared for a wet race.

Bottom six drivers’ times for part two

11. Vitantonio Liuzzi 1’36.862
12. Sebastian Vettel 1’36.891
13. Jarno Trulli 1’36.959
14. Heikki Kovalainen 1’36.991
15. Anthony Davidson 1’37.247
16. Nico Rosberg 1’37.483

Part three

The final part of qualifying featured the six usual suspects – the McLarens, Ferraris and BMWs – plus the Red Bulls (led, unusually, by David Coulthard), Schumacher and Button. The latter was once again through to the final part of qualifying as his team mate failed to pass beyond the first stage.

Hamilton set off at the front of the field with Alonso in hot pursuit as they began their ‘fuel burn’ laps. The Briton locked up halfway around the lap and Alonso hounded him briefly before dropping back.

The drivers did very few laps before pitting to begin their final runs – Button doing only one lap before pitting – to ensure they had put some running in on the tyres they might have to use in the race.

On the first round of laps Hamilton was quickest initially before both the Ferraris beat him – Massa leading Raikkonen by three-tenths of a second, which suggested Massa was carrying more fuel. Alonso slotted in fourth, comfortably clear of fifth placed Coulthard.

For their final runs the leaders switched to the softer compound, nursing the tyres on their out laps.

Hamilton had been the last man across the line at Fuji the week before to snatch pole position, but this time he set the quickest time and then cruised back to the pits while everyone else failed to beat it.

Fastest of all in the first two sectors, Hamilton’s 1’35.908 pipped Raikkonen by a tenth of a second. Massa slotted in third, with fourth placed Alonso six tenths slower than his team mate.

The rest of the top ten had an unusual look, with Coulthard fifth ahead of Schumacher, then Webber, the two BMWs, and Button’s Honda tenth.

If Hamilton finishes where he starts tomorrow, he will become the sport’s youngest champion (more on how the championship might be settled in Shanghai).

Top ten drivers’ times for part three

1. Lewis Hamilton 1’35.908
2. Kimi Raikkonen 1’36.044
3. Felipe Massa 1’36.317
4. Fernando Alonso 1’36.576
5. David Coulthard 1’37.619
6. Ralf Schumacher 1’38.013
7. Mark Webber 1’38.153
8. Nick Heidfeld 1’38.455
9. Robert Kubica 1’38.472
10. Jenson Button 1’39.285

Photo: GEPA / Franz Pammer

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17 comments on Chinese GP 2007 qualifying: Hamilton edges Raikkonen

  1. MacademiaNut said on 6th October 2007, 8:19

    Great job by Hamilton, indeed!

    Good luck to all for tomorrow.

  2. another lewis fan said on 6th October 2007, 8:35

    BRILLIANT go lewis i will be up at 6.50 to watch race.lewis just amazes me he has all the stresses of this season and he just rises above it every time he is so composed! FERRARI,FIA STICK THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT!

  3. Magnus said on 6th October 2007, 8:40

    Interesting quali, wonder if Alonso is gambling on an alternate strategy (rain setup/more fuel) or if he has just given up. Didn’t see much of his lap, but he didn’t do any obvious mistakes did he?

    The BMW’s surely must be gambling though, no reason to be that far off the pace otherwise.

    Oh, and I see “another lewis fan” lives up to his name…

  4. another lewis fan said on 6th October 2007, 9:20

    how did u see the quali it was’nt on tv this morn not on until 11.40am?

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th October 2007, 9:26

    Assuming you’re in Britain, it should have been on ITV3: Chinese GP TV times.

    But I understand some regions (I think Wales is one of them) have been missing qualifying due to the rugby recently, which is very poor of ITV.

  6. oliver said on 6th October 2007, 9:32

    Magnus, Alonso says he hopes its his fuel strategy responsible for his qualifying position, while that might be true to an extent, i suppose he may have seen from the split times that he was further behind and then tried to push harder but then made those microscopic mistakes. If he insinuating Mclaren gave him wrong setup, then it means Mclaren also fiddled with the setup of the Ferraris, cause they had been faster all weekend

  7. Andy J said on 6th October 2007, 10:19

    Great quali results for Lewis, DC, & Jenson. All we need now is those three on the podium to round off a great weekend!

  8. Magnus said on 6th October 2007, 10:31

    oliver: Gotta love them conspiracy stories.

    We’ll see tomorrow if he has more fuel or if there will be rain, otherwise I think Lewis will secure the title tomorrow. So far this year when Alonso has been weak in quali he usually follows it up with a weak race it seems.

    If the autosport article is accurate he also managed to take a swipe at Lewis for his driving at Fuji, claiming the title was decided off track by the stewards yesterday.

  9. oliver said on 6th October 2007, 11:02

    Hahaha, yes the title was decided off track, Alonso was off the track when Hamilton won. The drivers say Hamilton was driving erratically during the SC situation, but those were not under race conditions, why would drivers shadow so closely under the safety car in appalling conditions. If it was during race conditions, and Hamilton caused an accident then it would have been fair to give some penalty. However i think his comments, Alonso comments, are way of the mark, and i really wonder for his psychological state.

    Now a driver is way ahead of the others, I just want the championship to end quickly, lets not drag it to another race, cause there would be a greater chance of more controversy.

  10. Scott Joslin said on 6th October 2007, 11:08

    I hope Lewis is not flattering to deceive like he did in Silverstone – He looked slower than all 3 rivals over most of the weekend until that lap. I wonder if he went to a lighter fuel strategy just to demoralise Fernando and Kimi! If he is not on lighter fuel and pits at the same time, it was one hell of a lap. My money is on Kimi for the win – Lewis to come in 3rd and win the title!

    Fernando’s bitching and Moaning is reminding me of Alain Prost and how everyone else is at fault. If he had not dumped it in the wall he would not be nearly so far behind!

  11. oliver said on 6th October 2007, 11:09

    Speaking of the top commentators champoinship, i’ve pulled up right beside Number 38 and Robert. I hope to make a pass along the pit straights. As for Milos, i may yet be unable to catch him this season. I so look forward to next season.

  12. About the practise yes lve on ITV3 from 6am – and everybody is shouting again? – sorry if youre not one of them about McLaren being biased for lewis – if I was on his engineering staf – Iwould use everything(legally) to get my man too the winning post – yes I am a fan of his – bet you guessed – come on lewis – the only englishman I would love too win – yes sad old scot – ok

  13. oliver, speaking of top commentators, I seem to have fallen off the list recently. I can only assume that the posts counted there are time-limited, since I was the top commentator a couple of months ago. Oh well, I’ll have to speak up a bit more…

    And yes, the ITV treatment of qualifying is annoying. Why would they get more viewers for children’s TV at that time than F1?

  14. You had no idea we were all competing like mad to be top commenter, did you, Keith? ;)

  15. Robert McKay said on 6th October 2007, 17:55

    Wonder if RBR can overhaul Williams. Fifth and seventh on the grid is a good place to try bag a decent points haul. And if it does rain, Webber and DC seemed pretty calm and sensible in Fiji. Williams could be under threat in the WCC.

    I think Lewis just did a great lap. But that doesn’t mean he’s got the best wet set-up, neccessarily, if it does rain.

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