Hamilton on pole as Red Bull hit trouble

2013 Chinese Grand Prix qualifying

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai, 2013Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole position on his third attempt for the team.

He completed a clean sweep of all three parts of qualifying and beat Kimi Raikkonen by three tenths of a second to claim his first pole for the Silver Arrows.

Team mate Nico Rosberg will start from the second row alongside Fernando Alonso.

But there were problems for Red Bull. Mark Webber dropped out in Q2 due to a fuel problem and Sebastian Vettel didn’t set a time in Q3 after going off at the hairpin.


The need to save tyres for the race was clearly weighing heavily on the minds of teams as qualifying began. Nine minutes of the first session passed before anyone took to the track.

Most drivers chose the soft tyres whose short life make them a poor proposition for the race. The two Mercedes led the running with Felipe Massa taking third ahead of Mark Webber, followed by their respective team mates.

The Toro Rosso drivers were the only ones to start the session on medium tyres but were unable to set a time fast enough for Q2 on them. Jules Bianchi’s Marussia was among those quicker than them.

A late switch to softs secured the passage of both drivers to Q2 at the expense of Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas. Bianchi had to settle for 19th and Chilton held on to 20th ahead of the Caterhams despite a water pressure problem preventing him from running again.

Both Force India drivers made it through but Adrian Sutil was unhappy at being held up. “[Kimi] Raikkonen destroyed my lap so please tell the stewards,” he said as he returned to the pits.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1’37.769
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1’37.990
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1’38.780
20 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1’39.537
21 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1’39.614
22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1’39.660


The front runners returned to the track on their same tyres from Q1. But with those behind them opting for new tyres to try to reach Q3, all the drivers had to use new tyres eventually.

Hamilton remained on top with both his laps. Alonso’s last effort brought him within a tenth of a second of the Mercedes and Vettel was third.

But disaster struck Mark Webber who came to a halt at turn 14, his RB9 apparently out of fuel. He was only a few hundred metres from the pit lane entrance.

The divide between those who made the cut and those who didn’t was measured in hundredths of a second. Nico Hulkenberg was the last man into Q3, Paul di Resta and Sergio Perez missing out by less than a tenth of a second.

The Force India driver felt he could have found the missing time, “if we can keep the tyres on the ground all the way to the second corner”. Team mate Adrian Sutil also failed to make the cut.

Webber slipped out of the final ten and ended up 14th. Jean-Eric Vergne failed to make it into Q3 but his team mate did, to the surprise of Button when he was given the top ten run-down: “Ricciardo? Wow…” he said.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’36.287
12 Sergio Perez McLaren 1’36.314
13 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’36.405
14 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’36.679
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’37.139
16 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’37.199


Vettel left the pits the moment qualifying began but returned to the pits without setting a time. The track remained empty until three minutes before the end, none of the teams wanting to waste an extra set of tyres.

Although all the cars eventually left the pits, not all of them set times. Hulkenberg and Vettel ventured out on mediums but the latter returned to the garage after going off at the hairpin. Button also used the medium tyres and did set a time, albeit a dawdling two-minute lap to ensure he started in front of Vettel.

But not everyone was holding back. Raikkonen put in a scorching first sector time and carried his advantage through to the line, setting a 1’34.761.

It looked like that might be good enough for pole position when Nico Rosberg made an mistake in the final corner and came across the line a tenth of a second slower. But Hamilton in the other Mercedes produced a clean lap and beat Raikkonen by three tenths of a second.

Alonso demoted Rosberg a further place and Massa took fifth ahead of Grosjean. Daniel Ricciardo claimed seventh for Toro Rosso, the last of the drivers on soft tyres.

Top ten in Q3

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’34.484
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’34.761
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’34.788
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’34.864
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’34.933
6 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’35.364
7 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’35.998
8 Jenson Button McLaren 2’05.673
9 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault No time
10 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari No time

2013 Chinese Grand Prix

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153 comments on Hamilton on pole as Red Bull hit trouble

  1. Solo (@solo) said on 13th April 2013, 9:31

    I found interesting Brawn’s comment on sky. Ted asked him if he was happily surprised by the speed his new driver has shown. And brawn said: “Well NOW i am”. Which was was followed by the question. “Now? So not before?” and Brawn said that a drivers need time to settle down into a team etc and that this weekend Hamilton looked amazing.
    So i guess he wanted to see more from him in the first two races?

    • Aled Davies (@aledinho) said on 13th April 2013, 12:07

      Probably expected him to be a bit further clear of Rosberg in the first 2 races than he was.

      Nico has stepped up his game that’s for sure but I also think that whenever there is big pressure for Rosberg to pull out a lap in qualifying he tends to fail (china 2012 being the obvious exception) but look at Australia and malaysia this year, rosberg has been quicker in practice a lot of the time but when it came time to put a lap in q3 Lewis has always come out on top

  2. Yoshisune (@yobo01) said on 13th April 2013, 9:33

    I think it was sad that we had to wait almost 10 minutes to see some action on track. Tyre degradation was fine for me in 2011 and 2012, but I think it has become a bit too much. It seems that Softs and Supersofts are completely useless this year.

  3. Adam86 said on 13th April 2013, 9:33

    Not sure Kimi’s ability to make the soft’s last will be very important once they hit lap 3 and the Medium runners are already quicker – at that point they might as well just get off the tyres ASAP and accept it is a 3 stop race.

  4. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 13th April 2013, 9:35

    Many were expecting Fernando to be out qualified by Massa again for the 5th race in a row but they forgot that Fernando unlike many drivers can deliver under pressure

    • toiago (@toiago) said on 13th April 2013, 9:44

      What kind of pressure was Alonso under? Because to be honest I can’t see any.

    • Mads (@mads) said on 13th April 2013, 10:58

      ehmm… what? He is under very little pressure now, unlike the end of last year where he was under massive pressure and failed to deliver the cars full potential. I don’t really see your logic…

    • karter22 (@karter22) said on 13th April 2013, 15:10

      @toiago , @mads

      I think he is reffering to the pressure to qualify ahead of Massa. Everybody was making such a big deal of it that he had to come out and shut some mouths.
      In all honesty, I think Alonso was just letting Massa Qualify ahead so he can feel good about himself(it´s obvious he is a driver that performs on emotion) so that they can get both cars up there.

    • Traverse (@) said on 13th April 2013, 19:15

      Your comment is a perfect example of how some people will give their favourite driver more credit for something that his teammate (Massa) has already done twice.

  5. Giggsy11 (@giggsy11) said on 13th April 2013, 9:38

    I have a little theory. Red Bull choosing a different strategy due to the fact that out right they wouldn’t get pole? It must have taken a large performance disadvantage to stray from the strategy of their rivals around them.
    I fully expect this to be a Ferrari-Mercedes affair with kimi being the dark horse, we haven’t seen much of him this weekend but there’s no doubting the lotus’ pace in Warm/Dry conditions. Obviously Vettel should be up there by the end of the race too but who knows? Looking like a very interesting race.

    • Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 13th April 2013, 10:05

      RBR only seem to have a disadvantage on soft tyres, not on medium (based on FP). So yes, little chance for pole, but could still have very good race pace.

    • Kazihno (@kazinho) said on 13th April 2013, 11:00

      I still don’t understand why they’d do it: They have a huge straight-line speed disadvantage. Starting in the middle of the pack is a huge danger.

      Vettel’s whole race depends on clearing Button at the start and hoping Ricciardo donates his position. If Vettel cannot jump Button, he won’t get past him until pit stop time and will be a target for all those sitting directly behind. Hulkenberg, Sutil & Di Resta won’t need a second invitation to have a lunge down the inside at the hairpin and they’ll also be running the prime tyre.

      • Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 13th April 2013, 14:29

        Vettel’s whole race depends on clearing Button at the start and hoping Ricciardo donates his position.

        Ricciardo is on options so no issue. Agree that he needs to get past Button by the time the first seven pit.

      • Giggsy11 (@giggsy11) said on 13th April 2013, 15:42

        I’m not too sure about people passing Vettel, the only way they can attack him is if hes stuck behind Button which means he’d get DRS too. I think by the time it gets too the last sector Vettel will have a big enough gap to defend it.

  6. Fixy (@fixy) said on 13th April 2013, 10:15

    It’s now the second (or possibly third) time that I now hope and to a certain extent believe that Massa will take pole, this is a good sign but also a sad one :(

  7. Theodosios (@theovog) said on 13th April 2013, 11:00

    Ι think that the soft tyres will last longer that we all think they will. With cooler temps expected for tomorrow, I reckon 8-10 laps for the softs. Also, some said today that the softs were almost 1.5 secs faster than the mediums and Button even said 5 secs faster. So, if Lotus and Ferrari can jump Hamilton on lap 1 (who is currently the favorite for winning tomorrow) and keep a good pace on the much faster soft tyre for as long as it last, they may end up in front of the traffic (or at least not stuck behind many cars). Also, both Ferrari and Lotus have good top speeds, so they shouldn’t have any problems passing slower cars on used mediums with their fresh mediums. The big question for tomorrow is this: 2 pit stops or 3? The evolution over the course of mere minutes that the track showed today, maybe suggests 2 stops? I honestly can’t make a prediction on that one.

  8. DaveF1 (@davef1) said on 13th April 2013, 11:36

    Nico is beginning to make a habit of choking when it counts in qualifying. This isn’t the first time he’s looked good in Q1 and Q2 but then failed to deliver in the final part.

  9. Jason (@jason12) said on 13th April 2013, 11:46

    Rosburg is P4; if Schumacher was P7 today with this same car no-one would think Merc has the fastest car.

    Ross Brawn would still be seen as a disappointment. It’s obviously very hard to determine which bit driver and which is car.

    No disrespect to Seb but a part of me also feels like there’s so much more to be extracted out of that already dominant Redbull. Guess we’ll never really know….

    • Klaas (@klaas) said on 13th April 2013, 11:57

      That’s why they got a speed-nut like Ham on board – to see if they have come out with a piece of crap or a winner car. Now they know, unlike McLaren who are still wondering weather they have crappy drivers or car, or both.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th April 2013, 15:49

      No disrespect to Seb but a part of me also feels like there’s so much more to be extracted out of that already dominant Redbull. Guess we’ll never really know….

      @jason12 – We won’t know, but going by your earlier logic, if Vettel wasn’t taking those wins, Webber would have lost to Alonso and Button in 2010/11, plus several others in 2012. We wouldn’t be able to determine that the Red Bull was the best, let alone “dominant” (and the 2010/2012 cars weren’t “dominant”, 2012 especially was a highly competitive season with numerous winning teams). It’s just very difficult to claim that more can be extracted, when SV took 21 wins and 3 titles in 3 years.

    • Last year in China Mercedes started first and second – a better qualifying result than this year. And nobody who knew anything about F1 thought this meant that “Mercedes had the fastest car” back then.

  10. tvm (@) said on 13th April 2013, 12:55

    This need fixing, two easy solutions:

    No time set in Q3 > back of grid (there could be tech issues)

    Not within 107% in Q3 = No Start

    The 3 trailers ought to get a penalty for discrediting the sport.

    • josephrobert (@josephrobert) said on 13th April 2013, 16:32

      Its only qualifying what do you want next, points on a Saturday?

      Forcing Q3 runners to start on the tyres they Qualified on is a disadvantage to them.
      Having them use up more rubber then those who didn’t participate in Q3 is a disadvantage.

      when those two disadvantages are worse then starting on 10th, especially if they are not going to be able to get higher than 8th, 9th or 10th, then they don’t play ball and don’t drive to save tyres and or choose the Tyre they start on.

  11. Theoddkiwi (@theoddkiwi) said on 13th April 2013, 13:04

    I think the most interesting thing would have been if Merc had both Ros and Ham to do a qualifying run on the mediums at the very start of Q3, leaving enough time to run the Softs for a second run.

    That would have forced all those who were going to do untimed runs to commit to either softs or medium with proper runs.

    The run on softs by vettel at the start of Q3 made no sense if they always intended to start on the mediums. I sense Redbull are panicking i little bit.

    I don’t think the medium runners will have as clear cut run to the podium as some think. The last two races have not panned out as many had predicted with the tyres. I think the soft /med/med stratigy will work out better than expected.

    • I think the soft /med/med stratigy will work out better than expected

      A two-stopper? That seems unlikely. The guys at the front are looking at a soft/medium/medium/medium three-stop strategy. Those who decided to start on mediums have a few different options as to when to run the softs, depending on how the race unfolds.

      I wonder if we’ll see a race this year where somebody uses up all their rubber and has to drop out?

  12. Hamilfan (@hamilfan) said on 13th April 2013, 13:27

    Ok , I understand that the front runners will have to pit and the mid field will be leading , however , at the end of the medium stint for the mid field , the top qualifiers will have better rubber though behind.Can it somehow end up in their ( p1,p2,p3) favour? one thing is sure , If you want to win you have got to overtake well . Shame red bull took the “medium” route . We could have seen his wheel to wheel skills earlier on in the race

  13. R.J. O'Connell (@rjoconnell) said on 13th April 2013, 13:44

    Checo and Pastor struggling in lackluster machines isn’t fun to watch, and as someone who doesn’t try to complain about the tyres in F1, that session was about as silly as the flap over delayed qualifying in Melbourne.

    Color me intrigued as to how the race itself will play out though, with the Mercedes and Ferrari team clearly ahead of the class on pace, Lotus’s drivers are right up there too – and on the other end, surely RBR will start both their drivers on prime tyres and try and use strategy to their advantage along with having a quick car.

  14. Francorchamps (@francorchamps17) said on 13th April 2013, 15:19

    Disappointing performance of Gutierrez, Bottas and Chilton. These tree rookies should not be in Formula 1.

  15. Anyone know when the last time a Toro Rosso out qualified both Red Bulls?

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