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Vettel stuns Webber in Shanghai qualifying
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Vettel stuns Webber in Shanghai qualifying
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Apr 2010   |  8:38 am GMT  |  144 comments

Sebastian Vettel took his third pole position of the 2010 season and Red Bull’s fourth – a clean sweep so far this season. As in Australia he headed team mate Mark Webber in a Red Bull front row grid lock out.

But the margin was quite large, by their standards, over two tenths of a second, compared to the 8/100ths of a second in Melbourne. It was quite a turn around by Vettel, who had been shaded by Webber throughout the weekend to date and once again showed the German’s star quality. He admitted afterwards that he had been forced to copy Webber’s set up to get the best out of the car.

“Who needs ride height control?” said team boss Christian Horner over the radio, referring to the clarification made since the last race by the FIA to the rules regarding adjustable suspension and the suspicion that the team might be forced to take something off the car this weekend as a result. If anything Red Bull’s margin was bigger than before.

“It was tough today,” said Vettel. “This morning Mark was quicker than me. We made some changes to Mark’s direction. I was struggling in Sector 1 but then I found a better line. It was a fantastic lap. We are proving that we have a fast car, independent of the circuit type.”

“It was a good battle, it was definitely a good lap by Seb,” said Webber.

Fernando Alonso again finished third for Ferrari, this time the margin was four tenths of a second, compared to the 16/100ths in Melbourne. He said that he felt the car was better in race conditions. He eclipsed team mate Massa by 2/10ths of a second, but the difference in track position is huge; Massa has three cars between him and Alonso.

The biggest surprise was the poor performance of McLaren, who dominated practice and the early part of qualifying, but who could only manage 5th and 6th, behind the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.

Button and Hamilton both reported false neutrals several times, where the gearbox isn’t offering drive to the rear wheels. Luckily it only happened on out laps, rather than hot laps. It does not appear to have affected their performance.

Hamilton was fastest in Q1 and Q2, his advantage in sector one being clear, as it had been in practice. But both drivers struggled to get the most out of the soft tyre. On his hot lap in Q3 Hamilton lost time in the final sector and wound up behind team mate Jenson Button.

Interestingly, whereas Button went half a second faster than in Q2, Hamilton was a tenth slower. Had he found the same gain from Q2 to Q3 as Button he would be right with Vettel on a 1m 34.5.

“We were doing so well in practice and Q1 and Q2, but the car started bottoming out and I had no more time in the car,” said Hamilton.

As in Melbourne he was strangely not able to find the time in qualifying when it counted. He had been fastest in Q1 on the hard tyre and in Q2 on the soft, but once again the speed escaped him in Q3 and instead of challenging for pole he fell to P6 behind Button.

The other surprise was the performance of Michael Schumacher, who was totally subdued in comparison with Rosberg and ended up seven tenths of a second behind. It is the first time in his career that he has been behind a team mate four races in a row and raises more uncomfortable questions about the wisdom of this comeback.

“It was pretty tricky,” said Schumacher. “I didn’t find the balance of the car. We have a new rear wing solution and we have a different opinion. I’m not quick enough, on the exit of corners, I struggled a bit with rear end grip.”

Eclipsing the great man was Robert Kubica, who put in what he described as his best ever performance in qualifying, hoisting the Renault up to eighth place, just 8/10ths off the Red Bull. The Renault is getting closer all the time. If you haven’t done so already, read yesterday’s LG Technical Report to understand why.

The six new team cars were eliminated in Q1, as usual, the fastest of them was Timo Glock, some three and a half seconds off the pace. Joining them, surprisingly, was Tonio Liuzzi of Force India, who was just 2 seconds ahead of the Virgin car.

That Force India car has been a solid top ten car in the hands of Sutil this year. It adds pressure to the Italian especially with Force India test driver Paul di Resta, who has done a solid job on Fridays for the team, breathing down his neck.

Michael Schumacher squeezed through into the top ten shoot out by 3/100ths of a second, while Barrichello, Alguersuari, Buemi, Petrov, Kobayashi, Hulkenberg and De la Rosa were eliminated.

Rain is forecast for the race tomorrow.

Chinese Grand Prix – Qualifying
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:36.317 1:35.280 1:34.558
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:35.978 1:35.100 1:34.806
3. Alonso Ferrari 1:35.987 1:35.235 1:34.913
4. Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.952 1:35.134 1:34.923
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.122 1:35.443 1:34.979
6. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.641 1:34.928 1:35.034
7. Massa Ferrari 1:36.076 1:35.290 1:35.180
8. Kubica Renault 1:36.348 1:35.550 1:35.364
9. Schumacher Mercedes 1:36.484 1:35.715 1:35.646
10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:36.671 1:35.665 1:35.963
11. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:36.664 1:35.748
12. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:36.618 1:36.047
13. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:36.793 1:36.149
14. Petrov Renault 1:37.031 1:36.311
15. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.044 1:36.422
16. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:37.049 1:36.647
17. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.050 1:37.020
18. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:37.161
19. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:39.278
20. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:39.399
21. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:39.520
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:39.783
23. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:40.469
24. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:40.578

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I find it quite intresting during this Qauli, that the times in Q3 were genrally quicker than in Q2, normally its the other way around, anyone have any ideas on this?


No race fuel in Q3 this year...


Because of the Parc Ferme rules the cars have to be in race set up for their final laps, maybe on other circuits the differences between race and quali set up was not so great. Especially since most of them are expecting rain so will have taken some aero (downforce) off. Also since the track has been dry for the last couple of days, they dont have it getting so noticeably faster over the course of quali as it rubbers in.

I should add that this is an educated guess, i'm not entirely sure(!).


Henry, the usual trend in the wet is to add wing, not take it off. With the wing size regulations as they are there isn't much change from wet to dry as downforce is king in the dry. You can study the speed trap figures and draw your own conclusions on wing levels (the occasional slipstream can confound analysis).


Yup again very true, I think I was thinking too hard about ride height and aquaplaning if the car was low...But yes thank you!


Parc fermé stipulates that any change on car setups between the start of qualifying (encompassing all three parts Q1, Q2 and Q3) practice session and race is not permitted.

Here is the wording:

"Each car will be deemed to be in parc fermé from the time at which it leaves the pit lane for the first time during qualifying practice until the start of the race."

For that matter, "qualifying practice" means "the session which will take place on the day before the race from 14.00 to 15.00."

See: Sporting Regulation


Very true, thanks!


Not with the new rules. All laps are low fuel and the track improves as the session nears the end.


Jenson for the 3rd time against Lewis,


Hmmm but I will put good money on Lewis beating him past the first corner.


Well, speaking as a fan of both, maybe the LH fans can at least stop pretending Jenson doesn't belong on the same team as Lewis 🙂


Lewis is a different animal all together, this year he was either hampered by not having a clean lap or cought up by traffic or weather like last time.

Lewis is fearless and fears no one [Ontrack], and i stand to be corrected, so far this season, i think he has made more overtaking moves than most, this is a man who doesnt spend the entire afternoon staring at another cars gearbox.

Lewis has great records compared to Button, this is the man who won his championship in his second season, Button has taken a decade to win a title and let alone race wins.

I know some people would like to see Button do damage to Lewis but comparing facts and loyalty are two different things.

Im not a McLaren fan but Lewis is the most impressive driver in F1, he is like the Muhammed Ali of F1. He is the driver i respect just like Michael who have done extra ordinary thing in Formula 1.

Expect more from Lewis, the best is yet to come from him and McLaren looks like one of the chief rivals up there with Ferrari and Red Bull.

This is the driver i think Ferrari should snap up and I know Mclaren have a star in Lewis and they would not let him easily go just like they held off with Hakkinen from being snapped up by other teams.


I was watching the live timings for practice one on friday morning and I noticed that JB and LH were incredibly even matched over a lap. But of almost all the laps, Button consistently came out on top by about 1tenth. I didn´t catch practice 2 or 3 so I cannot comment on relative performance other than overall LH came out on top.

I think we really are watching Senna and Prost revisted. It´s a great pairing and although I am a JB fan first, LH is a much feistier driver and cannot help but think he will always have an edge over Jenson.


You mean, an edge over Button....except for right now, ya? 🙂


Its official - Button is outperforming Lewis. Looks like James was right afterall


James, has always supported Hamilton beating Button. He reckoned that Lewis would much better than Jenson in qualifying because of LH's ability to dominate the car and that races would be closer becauase of JB's ultra-smooth driving style.

It is still early days, just 4 races gone and I think the jury is still out. Let's at least wait for 10 GPs to see how team-mates compare.


Well today even Lewis conceded Button is better at making tyre calls in these dicey conditions. But yeah, let us see how it pans out over the next few races


Let's not start that again!!


Yeah who would have thought that. And it's not as if Button has 'looked' the faster guy throughout the practises and long runs. He's just put it together when it counts so far. I don't know what to make of that.


Maybe Jenson is just much better than LH fans have given him credit for? Just a thought.


Should nick be given a chance over schumi to actually guage where does Schumi stand. because the way it is currently, it seems to be a one man show with Nico leading all the way


I'd say it's at least worth running Nick in a Friday session just so we can see how his times compare...


It's surely in Schumacher's contract that that cannot happen!


When Nick enters, that's the signal Michael is out; that's for sure. I wouldn't expect nico or michael agreeing to nick doing a bit of running for fear of lagging behind the other, so if/when the team enter nick, it would be very interesting which car they give him: nioc's or michael's ...


This is utter nonsense, Hiedfeld will not be running on friday, a team does not hire the most successful driver in F1 history who has had 3 years out and needs all the running he can get, so that they can give valuble time to their reserve driver. Hiedfeld is a very competent driver, but Schumacher has probably forgotten more than Hiedfeld knows. Sooner rather than later Schumacher will be back right up to speed.


vettel is not making any mistakes so far this year, he looks like a true champion already. Tomorrow in the rain, he is going to be unstopable.


I can't remember which race but I am sure that he has made at least one mistake that resulted in not finishing.


last year made several. Being the most dramatic at australia, hitting kubica in the bmw. In monaco he crashed as well. But this year so far so good.


Monaco 2009?


I think Hamilton will have something to say about that!


The first thing I thought when I saw Fernando's nervous hands in the press room, was that he could jump into the car at that very moment and start the race. He later said in Spanish something like: "y ahora a esperar la carrera con ansiedad." (I'm anxiously looking forward to the race).

My money would be on him.

As for McLaren, it wasn't a surprise for me their "low" position, as it wouldn't have been a surprise had they made a one/two.

Hamilton always tries to be in number 1 position at every practice session, and I think the other drivers don't need to be there at every single occasion. He will always be the fastest if he can. It is only that on Saturday it is more difficult to be nº1.

Jake, Australia

Agree with you on McLaren thought. Lewis is performing like Rosberg in Williams last season, always fast in practices, never the qualifying or the race. Button did a much better job for sure. The grid position shows McLaren’s true position in the championship. Of course things could change in the 2nd part of the season, but so far they are the 3rd best team there is.

Terrific drive by Vettel. I’ve got my money on Alonso as well, only because he can probably get the better of the Red Bull over the course of the race. He might also get the jump on one or both Red Bulls in the first corner. However, Vettel surely is the new Schumacher. His driving is just magical. Still can’t figure out how he managed to get purple time in the first sector of Q3. It was also nice of him to thank Webber for helping to get the right set up & balance for the car. So, if I lost my money on Alonso I don’t think I’d be unhappy or surprised. The only way the outcome of the race will be changed is the weather. McLaren can only get on the podium this weekend if there’s a dramatic change of weather or safety car interruption. Should be a good race, could be boring too if the weather doesn’t change.


I agree again with Sebastian, they will be overly armed and their cars are supremely suited for dry/wet. I have great respects for Webber but Vettel just seems to sneak past his nose and be it on strategty or on the opening lap, Sebby seems to be more aggressive on him to take the lead. Your biggest competitor in F1 is your teammate.

Other than that, i think Formula 1 is now too boring and not as exciting or thrilling as was before. F1 has become more of a business and im afraid to say that, that spark is no longer there, its like a marriage that is falling apart.


Like tennis, the old days always seem better than things are now. And like Tennis, people will always argue about who the "greatest of all time is", forever mistaking opinions as facts, and forever taking offence when none was intended.

What has changed beyond all doubt with Formula One is the amount of technology which has been banned.

In the late 1970's, you had no rev limits. Engines still used steel springs on their valves. You had V8's, V12's, and turbo V6's and turbo I4's. You had Boxer 12's which weren't suited to ground effect venturis. You had poor chassis, and great chassis. But most importantly, you didn't have much banned technology.

Then 1983 came along and ground effects were banned. That was the first major banning of technology, and basicaly, those bans have kept happening ever since.

What's really important here is that even though certain technologies have been banned, the knowledge itself hasn't been banned. To be a successful team nowadays, you still have to be a world class expert in all the banned technology as much as the legal technology - because it's always on the cusp of creeping back in. And that is why the sport is so different now. The sheer numbers of experts who need to be at a race, in the back rooms, studying all the computers and the sensors and the telemetry - if you don't do it, you're destined to be at the end of the field - still burning up money like Third World debt.

I hear what you're saying about it being a business... that's true... kind of. What Formula One is nowadays is a form of competition amongst teams which have small NASA budgets.


F1 is able to keep Me occupied, Its like my fortnight Girlfriend i meet now and then for several years.

Since F1 started, it has always been about technical innovation, teams are very limited to innovation of stuff like the engines, in the past we had special quali engines, I remember the war between Ferrari and McLaren in the late 90's, McLaren would come with the faster engine with boosted bhp, a few races later, Ferrari introduces another innovative clever technology .

Im sure Fans all over the world would love to see a technical challenge and innovation between the teams. I remember vividly those seamless gearboxes and most teams copied it.

I used to buy Autosport Magazine and you read about technology that no team had from Ferrari or McLaren.

Why bother if a team wants to blow $400 million or more per season to show off their technology?

since testing is banned, teams use new parts that were not tested, you can argue and say that F1 accidents can be prevented like the did this year and last year if teams tested and made sure parts were reliable, one can argue too that the spring that hit Massa from Brawn car could have been prevented had testing been allowed to make sure cars have solid reliability.

I still feel that if teams like Mercedes were given testing they would be winning races by now.

i dont care what one can say but testing and innovation has been part of F1 since it started, these are now foreign.

if you start a year with a fast car but its not winning races due to ironing problems in testing, you are then stuck with that car for the whole year.

the FIA choses to freeze F1 technology and cars, imagine if you had to freeze a turkey in the freezer for 3 years? wont that be junk?

Europe has lost more races and people can not afford to wake up at 2 in the morning to watch F1 and then go to work, how many traditional f1 race track we see now?

i have nothing against F1 but with these restrictions, i feel F1 teams are like being in the prison camps. im not afraid to say that F1 has lost some of its key elements as the greatest giant figure it once had.

F1 no longer make major front story headlines from newspapers and on tv.

To be honest i feel sad about the state of F1, one can only hope it improves from here on. There are great mindd and people in F1, they just needs to gather and connect all the dots in the right place.

no one likes to be told by someon what to do


The 'pinnacle' of motor racing these days is LMP and LMP2, not F1.

F1 is only the "pinnacle" of overspending on microscopic aero bits.


As a Webber fan I have to admire Vettel. Seemingly outpaced by Webber for the whole weekend up until Q3, where he then pulls out an epic lap right at the death. Simply awesome! Interestingly Webber seems about 4-5km/h slower in the speed trap than seb, maybe gambling on rain?


Could be the key tomorrow.

Exactly, who was set up for a fast dry qualifying today and who looked at the bigger picture.


Not so sure about that, I think I heard somewhere that Vettel borrowed Webber's Setup as he was having a few issues.


Are McLaren running more wing here James? I would have anticipated that based on their normal straight line speed being not so much there, and of course their Sector 1 advantage.

If so, will it bode well for the rain tomorrow?


Seems that way, looking at the speed trap


So - is that Button 3 Hamilton 1 in quali and Button leading Hamilton in the Championship after changing teams, going to a team built around someone else & venturing into the Lions Den then ? - not bad for a mediocre driver as some would have had us believe - Yes early days admittedly but the "experts" said it would take the first 6 or so races just to begin to get on level par with Hamilton and Button was ahead of him after 2 ! -nice 🙂 (Credit to Button but McLaren/Whitmarsh as well for their input into this - they have certainly kept their promises re: Driver/Car equality)


i am one of those, but i have to agree, that he is driving good, and giving hamilton a run for his money.

Jake, Australia

Over the course of the season Hamilton might get the better of Button. But up until now Button proved himself to be the better out of the two. New rules this season also suits him better than Hamilton. Button gets the better out of the tyres compare to Hamilton. Good on him. As far as the equality goes, it’s still early days mate. Whitmarsh sounded more unhappy about Lewis not being able to produce same result as the free practice than Button getting the best out of the car. The grid position really shows where the team stands as far as the championship goes. 2nd half of the season could be different, but unlikely.


What a load of old nonsense.

Anyone watching the races can see that Hamilton is the faster driver and that but for an incompetent strategy call by Mclaren in Australia and a fortuitous tactical guess by Button in the same race Hamilton would be ahead on the leader board.


I thought Liuzzi got stuck in traffic on his hot lap? but I suppose he should have done enough previously, he had enough time to set a couple of hot laps.

James do you have Hamilton's fastest time in Q2? I would like to see how it compared to his Q3 time, and obviously against the rest of them. It seems odd that they changed the set up so much if it was going so well in Q1 & Q2 but I suppose that was the race set up?


Hamilton's Q2 time was 1:34.928, indeed he would have only needed to have gone two 100ths of a second quicker than his Q2 time in Q3, to secure 3rd place.

Hamilton's 3rd sector time in Q2 was 42.077. I do not know his exact sector 3 time in Q3, but it was supposedly 2 - 3 10ths slower. If he had put together his Q2 3rd sector in Q3 then his overall time would have been 1:34.858.

It was quite strange, everyone else went significantly faster in Q3 than Q2, apart from Hamilton? Even if Hamilton was pushing more in Q2, he should have at least been able to match that time with all things being equal.

James do you know any reason as to why this was the case? Did he burn out his tyres in the first sector and therefore take them away from their optimum for sector 3? Martin Whitmarsh was saying something about tyre pressures? I remember when Hamilton missed out on Q3 in Australia that there was talk of tyre pressure. Jenson was six 10ths faster than him there, which is way beyond driving ability. It seems strange if they have made the same mistake twice? Or is it a tweak they made with the balance / wing that went the wrong way? Jenson was complaining about that too.


He just didn't do a great lap on the one chance he had.

The thing that confused me was that he had 2 attempts like every one else, but they hampered him on the first run by making him run more fuel. Then on his final run they elected that he come out first. why would you do that if you thought you had a chance of pole? typically you try and be the last over the line so that your using the track when it is at its fastest with lots of rubber on it.

...anyway his qualifying this year has not be great. his racing has been exciting though.



Q2: 1:34.928

Q3: 1:35.034


1m 34.928 compared with 1m 35.034 in Q3


Hi James, I have been reading your website since before the beginning of last season now but have yet to comment. Congratulations on a top site, and I must add that this is the only blog where I read the comments as they are always interesting and informative, this appears to be a very rare thing on the internet so top marks to all of your readers as well.

My question is, if ride hight control systems are banned, why was Hamilton complaining of bottoming out in qualifying when the car has next to no fuel in it? Surely things must be looking much worse tomorrow for him when they fill it up. Or am I missing something?


Tyre pressures.


Exactly my question 🙂


Very good question and one to be concerned about, as you say. However it may be tyre pressure related.


Vettel is proving the fact that he is the best driver in formula bar none, even with him struggling with setup he managed to find time that doesn't seem to be there just like he did in Bahrain.

Alonso has been impressive so far this season and as far as I can see fundamentally a quicker driver than Massa which I'm not surprised at all unlike some hamilton lovers who were all quietly confident Massa would out drive Fernando and it's not happdning, now with a bit more luck Alonso will be redbulls main challenger.


Hamilton the rookie beat Alonso the 2 times champion in the same car. Fact, no matter how much Alonso lovers try to find excuses.

What is surprising is that when Alonso is in a slow car, it is the car's fault and when he is in a fast car, the good performance is because of Alonso?

Doesn't work that way. Massa equals Alonso when the circumstances are identical. Alonso isn't the amazingly great driver that his fans paint him to be.

Look at Mclaren. Button is beating Hamilton because of circumstances outside Hamiltons doing. In the race, Hamilton drives circles around everyone except Vettel.

Meaning, you cannot judge things as simplistic as that.


**Hamilton the rookie MATCHED Alonso the 2 times champion in the same car.**

Fixed it for you. You dont call being equal on points 'beating'.

2008/09 showed us what Alonso can do with the car. His car was rarely fit enough for Q3 and he made it to Q3 in almost all of the races in last two years barring 5-6 races whereas his 'talented young teammates' sometimes got knocked out in Q1 or Q2. What does that prove ?

Massa has been near Alonso I agree, but hasn't really made an impression. He isn't giving an impression of being cut above Alonso right now. Alonso has been a little bit erratic but this is not his long term habit

Jake, Australia

Without any doubt Vettel is the fastest driver out there. This championship looks like only between Ferrari & Red Bull. Massa is a fantastic driver for sure. But Alonso is living up to his talent. So, I agree that Alonso will probably get the better of Massa throughout the course of the year even though personally I’d love to see Massa winning the WDC, mainly because he’s a wonderful guy, great driver & deserves a WDC under his belt (keeping 2008 in mind). But this championship looks like the young Schumacher (vettel) vs Alonso (the most complete driver). As far as Hamilton’s championship is concerned he is just not fast enough when it matters (maybe because of the rule change, tyre management is an important skill this season). Good on Button for winning the team mate’s battle.


Spotted on Jake. I believe that this championship will be between Vettel and Alonso at the end. But before jumping into early conclusions, let us see what will be the upgrades Merecedes bring on Spain, as that will be a big boost for Mercedes and Rosberg. In any case, Massa if stays close enough to Alonso, will have a chance at the end.


James I have to ask Do you think that Jenson having the upperhand in qualifying over Hamilton and also winning in Australia have confirm the fact that he is a world class driver in his own way? I know nearly all the pundits including yourself had written Button off against Hamilton but he's proving to be a massive handful for lewis.

I know jenson as an overall package is behind Vettel and Alonso but so far he's had the legs on hamilton in qualifying when everyone thought he was going to get 'murdered' by mclarens golden boy, bring on the race let's see if any of them can give the redbulls a hard time, if its a normal dry race I tip alonso to beat webber but the real deal Vettel will surely win.


What's your definition of world class? Are Scott Dixon and Jimmie Johnson world class driver? Since 2003, with the exception of 2008, he has always beaten his team mate over a season. McLaren though he was worth hiring (and with Hamilton, McLaren hardly needed another British driver for sponsorship purposes).

As you'll see with other posts here, fan perception is a big thing. Jenson will need to beat Lewis several times across race weekends for those perceptions to change. Nico Rosberg is in a trickier situation as he isn't necessarily being marked up for beating Schumacher. The biggest endorsement is that Brawn picked him at all (the world champion team) but that is tainted by nationality.


No, I don't think you can draw those conclusions. I said I thought Hamilton would beat him over as season and I stick to that. But I also pointed out some strengths in his game over Hamilton after Melbourne.

Button is a terrific driver, with a lot of experience and a calm outlook on life now that he's won a championship. He doesn't do so well when the car isn't right.


Could it be that Schumacher is gambling on a wet weather set up?!


Hope so. I'm beginning to feel sorry for him. I'd like him to do well.

...and that is so British of me! 😉 When he was dominating I found it very boring, so wasn't a great supporter of his. Now he is struggling I can't help but want him to do better. It would be a shame if he was this flat going forward. It's such an unfortunate way to end a great career.


Yeah Nick, I also was never a real Sandshoe Fixer fan either, but I would like to see him be competitive, but at the same time if he doesn't I'll still remember him as one of the best. It won't change my opinion of what he achieved. But I've a sneaking suspicion that with his setup and developement capabilities and the backing of Merc and Brawn we might see him aproaching the front before the end of the season.



Dont think so...


My God, I hope so. This is slightly worrying now. He just looked completely 'off' for all 3 Quals.

His last win was at this track for Gods sake. I don't know, I've been cheerfully optimistic about him throughout the first 3 races, especially as he had some pretty bad luck in many ways, but this Qualification should have been his element, no?


"Could it be that Schumacher is gambling on a wet weather set up?!"

I would like to think so because he clearly was not trying this morning. Not using all the track, braking early, miles away from apexes, not pushing out of corners; far, far to relaxed in the post quali media scrum.

If you (Anyone who has been taught racing principles) watch carefully on his in car vid footage you can see him loosing one or two tenths on every corner. He was not on or anywhere near the edge, remember that being on, or often just over, the edge was a Schumacher trademark. Ok he may have been saving the tyres, but track/grid position has been proven paramount under the latest regs. It is possible of course that he has mapped out his passing move on Massa and will then leapfrog a couple of places by pitting early.

OR his mojo still aint working!


No, you could see from his on board lap he was well within the limits of the car


I was thinking the same thing! We'll see tomorrow. The lap times will tell the story (and not necesarilly the final positions)!


he said he is using rosberg's exact set up.


Another stupendous lap from Vettel. I honestly thought the Red Bulls were done and dusted today. The McLaren's pace was looking very good indeed... especially in Q1 and Q2.

It definitely seems as though Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren's are a lot closer to Red Bull than the previous rounds. The race is going to be a fun one to watch and for once, I hope it doesn't rain.

Oh, and was that Vettel's race engineer on the team radio saying something along the lines of: "Who needs a ride-height system huh?". Haha, I love it.

But gotta hand it to Vettel. Kid knows how to drive under pressure like it's nobody's business.


Yeah but the race hasen't finished yet!


And with Renault and FI seemingly getting closer too.. It's getting interesting! Oh and it was Christian Horner.


James, Hamilton's Q2 and Button's Q3 times are probably closely representative of the MP4-25's ultimate low fuel pace.

They have not gone faster than that at any time so far so no reason to expect that they could have extracted more pace from the car.

But they definitely have improved and are closer to RB than they were in Melbourne, when they were seven tenths off.


I posted this previously, it should somewhat prove your theory void:

"Hamilton’s Q2 time was 1:34.928, indeed he would have only needed to have gone two 100ths of a second quicker than his Q2 time in Q3, to secure 3rd place.

Hamilton’s 3rd sector time in Q2 was 42.077. I do not know his exact sector 3 time in Q3, but it was supposedly 2 – 3 10ths slower. If he had put together his Q2 3rd sector in Q3 then his overall time would have been 1:34.858.

It was quite strange, everyone else went significantly faster in Q3 than Q2, apart from Hamilton? Even if Hamilton was pushing more in Q2, he should have at least been able to match that time with all things being equal."


Fine then, the MP4-25's probable ultimate low fuel pace was probably in the region of 15-18 hundreds faster than Hamiltons Q3 time and a tenth or so faster than his Q2 time, which would still be 3 tenths slower than RB and pretty much equal with the Ferraris.

The point I was making was that there was no reason to believe that just because Button improved his time by 3 tenths or whatever from Q2 to Q3 that Hamilton would have done the same, as Allen seems to be arguing. There's an ultimate pace in cars and that no driver can go beyond.


I was thinking earlier today, when I was looking through some photos of Thursday, young Sebastien Vettel actually lacks star quality, in terms of appearance. Indeed, if you saw him in a nightclub with his mates, you wouldn't even give a him a 2nd glance, such is his relative lack of "Formula One playboy" personna. Which is probably a good thing, all things considered.

Right from the word go, Lewis Hamilton had an almost supernatural gift behind the wheel, matched with an unbearable public expectation amongst the media. Rightly or wrongly, Hamilton, it seems to me, has bought into that trap, and he's the one who has been trapped, not the other way around.

It's a credit to Vettel that he keeps rising to the occasion. Gosh, with less than 15 seconds to go in Q3 Mark Webber took pole - quite impressively too. Then, some 45 seconds AFTER Q3 ended, Vettel crossed the line on his finishing lap and took pole himself.

That's like kicking a winning penatly goal after full time in a football game. It's cutting it fine, but it's full of drama.

One thing's for sure, the Red Bull cars are consistently setting the fastest times. It would be wonderful to know what the relative engine outputs are this year amongst the teams.

And once again, thank you James for your excellent posts. Don't forget to put those driver lap times up after the race in your first post race blog OK? That last graph at Malaysia was pure gold I felt.

have a great race call.

Regards, ive.


Star quallity? Well I wouldn't say Button has it either, at least Vettal finds time to shave!
As far as Hamilton goes, unfortunately I'm struggling to see him as Brittish, [mod], but I regard him highly as a racer. I think Weber might have your "star quality", and unlike Hamilton, what Weber has to say is always interesting and fact and worth listening to. In fact I'd like to see him win the race today!

MOD - There was a racist comment in the original version of this. Please do not bring racism to this site



Through the Australian GP telecast we had ads with Mark "singing" a Canberra Milk tune (while in his Red Bull suit). It won't be his second career...

Webber is well placed at the start as the 2nd position gets reasonably cleaned and pole less than normal. Also the first corner is flat on entry so being on the inside is important.


Qualifying is the most exciting racing of the weekend.

george cowley ci5

after another poor performane by mclaren,it time to realise they have built a duff car like last years,take away the f duct and there be over a second behind redbull,ferrai etc,its pathetic,a team with the resources they have on tap.if i were hamilton ill start putting the feelers out for next year...


I can think of eight Constructors who wouldn't mid McLaren's 'Duff Car', not to mention the points in the Constructors Championship!


I think McLaren is one of the fastest....same level as Ferrari, slightly behind Red Bull. I think that both Ferrari and McLaren will out-develop Red Bull this year, but I have no clue who is going to have the fastest car at the end of the season. I hope that it is going to be Ferrari....taking WDC abd WCC.


go along to Woking and look at how many championship cars they have.

Redbull gave nailed it this year other than reliability. That is reason.

It's like saying redbull would be rubbish without all of it's technology. That's the point of f1


2nd in constructor's after 3 races = duff car? What planet are you on, mate? This is race 4 of an 18 race season. I wouldn't write McLaren off just yet.


I'm with you Keith. The car is not duff by any standards and it is well capable of winning races this season. Also the team have to be a pretty safe bet when it comes to late season development (look at last year.)

Probably the best driver line up (sorry Tifosi, Massa is always going to be a #2 driver) so i wouldnt rule them out.

Really interested to watch Alguersuari develop this season as well, pleasantly suprirsed with how he is coming of age compared to Buemi, Kob and the others.


What were you saying about Ferrari and Red Bull?


Hum, best line up on Mclaren! I must disagree on that. And you will have proof of that tomorrow. Red Bull and Ferrari have the best line up for sure. And it will not be long before Mercedes also show upper hand on Mclaren duo.

Definitely Button is a great driver and a deserving WDC, he will not perform consistently for sure. Time will tell.

In any case, Mclaren car is good enough to win races this year. And they will improve more for sure.


exactly. And don't forget that everybody knows it's gonna rain tomorrow. So, i'm thinking that maybe (just maybe), knowing that they are fast anyway, they set the car up for wet conditions. And maybe Schumi did that as well! we'll see tomorrow! But it's too early to say that McLaren is not good!!


In the german post qualifying interview Schumacher said that he was not happy about the performance but that he was using the new rear aero parts and Rosberg wasn't and that these parts did not work in qualifying as expected... Again he was quite relaxed about it saying that it was no good but that there were reasons for this. With no word did he mention or hint that he regretted the come back. Interestingly he seems to say different things when giving english interviews.

Let's see how he goes in the rain tomorrow.


I just read though that both Mercedes cars ran with the F-duct in qualifying. Schumacher didn't know until the Saturday debrief.


I have a theory on McLaren, the track temperature was around 30c in Q1 and Q2, but in Q3 it dropped to 20c!

That might have meant that the cars especially McLaren needed to be more aggressive in warming up the tyres on the outlap? Plus, wouldn't the tyre pressures need to be adjusted too?


Yep, 100%. Their q2 times on hards, were faster than than their q3 times on softs. I thought Hamilton had Petrov in tow the amount of weaving he was doing to get the tyres warm. I would have thought Button would have suffered even more.


Hamilton set his fastest Q2 time on the options, not the prime tyre!!


Hamilton was on soft tyres for his best time in Q2.


That's very interesting, where did you get that information that track temperature was 30c in Q1 and 20c in Q3? To be honest though, at the end of Q2 they were strongest, so I cannot see that in 10 minutes or so the temperature would have dropped by 10 degrees.


It was actually mentioned by the tall one, in the commentary. but you can see it on the official page here, Click the Weather and speed tab on the left. The air temp was 20C all the time. Also note the air pressure fell, hence density, hence downforce. The data is from the quali period it, makes up for the awful data (or lack of it) shown on the bbc (not their fault, apparently it's the crumbs that Bernie deigns to give them)

I always have that page open on the laptop during quali now.


The live timing feed on has air and track temp feeds too - look for the tabs at the top.


more probable air temp did


It wasn't the air temp, I was talking about the track temp. But since your name is 'F1Novice', it's not surprising your still pretty confused! 😛


Or perhaps they're just not as fast as RB?


Alonso beat Massa by 2/10ths of a second and there´s 3 drivers between them that´s how close it was behind the Red Bulls.

Four drivers in 1/10ths that´s really close.

James the Red Bulls have any special upgrade at China? They seem even quicker in Quali.


Its not the first time Seb Vettel goes out and bang, delivers the fastest time under huge pressure. He made McLaren freeze.


It's going to be really interesting tomorrow, especially given the forecast of the rain. This is definitely apparent on the setup gambles the different teams have made when they ran their cars during qualifying.

Hats off to the Red Bulls being up front again—ever since the Japanese GP last season, it's always been a Red Bull car on pole. Fantastic run from Alonso, too. Can't wait for tomorrow.


For what it's worth - take the fastest sector times from each team to give a composite "theoretical" best:

Red Bull = 24.816 + 27.875 + 41.811 = 94.502 (1:34.502) vs 1:34.558 in Q3 (Vettel)

McLaren = 24.847 + 27.934 + 41.973 = 94.754 (1:34.754) vs 1:34.979 in Q3 (Button)

Mercedes = 24.828 + 28.067 + 41.962 = 94.857 (1:34.857) vs 1:34.923 in Q3 (Rosberg)

Ferrari = 24.910 + 28.001 + 41.980 = 94.891 (1:34.891) vs 1:34.913 in Q3 (Alonso)

So Alonso was 0.022s off, Vettel was 0.056s off, Rosberg was 0.066s off and Button 0.225s off (4-5x worse than the others).

McLaren must be really kicking themselves right now - the car arguably could have gone P2 but they didn't come close. Maybe they were distracted by the gearbox problem...?

PS Source:


"The biggest surprise was the poor performance of McLaren..."

Does anyone in the media ever criticise Massa? He's been at Ferrari years and has not won the championship depsite his team mates doing so and regardless of his performances is never the one under any pressure or given criticism.

Nice guy though he seems, he's not a winner and Ferrari should've kept Kimi - it's a bad reflection on the strength of Ferrari's management skills that they couldn't get the best out of him on a regular basis.

Look at the best managers in sport e.g. Alex Ferguson, he takes temperamental stars but gets them playing - that's a real skill.


Massa would have become world champion in 2008 but engine failure and car/team reliability prevented him from that. This year a deja vu?

Jake, Australia

Not to mention crash gate & Ferrari making mockery out of several pit stop blunder. Massa is a worthy championship leader.


Well, Massa has sacrificed a lot for Ferrari, he never complained with Schumacher running in front of him, some say the 2008 championship was his, even some McLaren fans admitting that is was like a shared title.

I remember Hakkinen's massive life threatening injuries, there were drivers faster than Hakkinen at McLaren like Senna etc but years later, that loyal relationship payed off.

Massa hardly makes any mistakes, there are races where he is untouchable.

With that massive accident and nearly losing his life for Ferrari speaks for itself. Traditionally Massa is shines a lot once we get to Europe.

Ferrari have been known to loyal and keep their drivers for a long time and to stabilize the team as well.

Irvine was another driver who many called for him to be removed at Ferrari but his partnership proved to be one of the longest with Schumi in the team.


Have you seen Massa's starts in Melbourne and in Malaysia this year?

Did you watch Massa's drive in Hungary '08 when his engine cruelly robbed him of certain victory?

Did you notice his drive in Brazil '08 where under huge championship pressure he took pole and dominated the race? He performed significantly better than Hamilton (07) or Button (09) under similar championship pressure.

I've been convinced of Massa's talent when the first time he turned up in Brazil in a car capable of winning (06) he won from the front with clear a clear aura of calmness. Barichello never managed that in all his years at Ferrari.

If Massa has the humility to take driving advice from his engineer and then proceed to go faster (remember that Monaco pole?), or drive better (Melbourne this year) then then he has my respect. Can you imagine Lewis, Michael, or Alonso would take being told how to drive?

Your come-back may be "but they already know how to drive." No F1 driver is perfect without admitting humility.



Check the facts before you right rubbish in comments area. How many WDC's teammates Massa had in his drive for Ferrari? 2008 and 2009 proved the worth of Massa, although he is not a media junkey like LH. He is currently leading the WDC, and he might not be after this weekend race, but he will be close by.

It is clear that he has not been confortable at the car so far. But even though he is been consistent and will remain such. Wait until the mid european season, and you will see his worth.

Jake, Australia

Well said kinkas. The plain fact is that Massa is the most consistent driver in F1 today. The proof of that is Massa is the only driver to have scored points in last 10 cosecutive races. Of course at the begining of his career in Ferrari he seemed to be a little lost, but this guy has developed into a complete driver over the years thanks to Ferrari's & Schumacher's great support. He is a worthy championship leader for sure.

He may not win the championship this season, but he is certainly not out of contention. He just doesn't crave media attention like so many other drivers on the grid. Apparently all top 10 drivers are in contention to win the WDC because of the new point system.


Why should Ferrari persist with Kimi when he used to be outperformed by Massa for most of both the 2008 and the first half of the 2009 seasons? Unless there is a reason I am not entirely coginsant about.


I totally agree with you there on Massa it's so far proven to all the Alonso haters out there that Fernando is a class above Massa and if it wasn't for the bad luck of the last 2 races Alonso would be nearly out of sight already.

Don't agree with the Alex Ferguson thing though, getting rid of Tevez was a disaster.


Just posted something similar a bit further up the stack. Massa is a nice bloke and a quick racer, but if you cut Ham/Schu/Alo in half they have champion written through them like a stick of rock. I don't see that in Massa. Although a quick look at the drivers championship confirms that we are could all be full of hot air hahaha!


You're spot on Duncan. Massa helped Kimi win the title in 2007 & outqualified Kimi in 2008 while losing the title to Hamilton by 1 point. Massa also won more races in 2008 than Hamilton, 6 to 5. Now in 2010 after recovery from a severe head injury, Massa leads the WDC. He sure isn't a winner. Please think before you write garbage on this website.


You did notice that Massa is at the Front of the championchip table, right?


"He’s been at Ferrari years and has not won the championship depsite his team mates doing so"

Only Kimi has won the WDC when Massa has been at Ferrari. That's 1 since 06 and after Kimi's WDC year, Massa was the one getting the results mostly.

Fernando's probably the best on the grid right now-he certainly is in my opinion- so if Massa does want to come out on top he has to cut out the mistakes. he also needs to get comfortable with the car as it does appear to be sliding about a lot.


During Felipe Massa's time in the Ferrari race (as opposed to test) team only once has his team mate won the title - Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.

Michael Schumacher came close in 2006, although not as close as Massa himself came to lifting the crown in 2008. Felipe was fairly well matched with Raikkonen in 2007 and looked to have the beating of him in 2009 before his crash in Hungary. So far in 2010 Massa is leading the WDC. All things considered, he hasn't done at all badly.

That's not to say he couldn't do better. A truly outstanding driver does not need to be goaded by his race engineer to put in a fast lap at Monaco. We rarely hear Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel being told how to defend their position, as Felipe was in Australia this year.


Is that the Massa that's leading the WDC or some other? The set ups for these cars are on a knife edge and so difficult to get exactly right for qualifying. There is only one car you can depend upon in qualifying, the RBR. All the rest are going to share the errors around amongst themselves until conditions or upgrades give them the options to move forward. Just who would have expected the Mclarens to go completely off with the first try of the soft tyres, especially after looking so good on the hards?


He would arguably have won a World Championship had Flabio & Piquet e.t.c. not CHEATED him out of it by deliberately crashing in singapore ! 🙁


Does anyone in the media ever criticise Massa? Good question. I'm going to keep my eye on that, moving forward. If it becomes increasingly clear that Alonso is the superior driver as the season progresses, you can safely assume that Massa's Ferrari days will be numbered, I suspect.

Ferrari have been a mixture of ruthless and fenaticaly loyal over the years, depending on whether they had a winning car or not at the time. In 1983, they looked like they had a real red hot winner in Rene Arnoux, then he fell by the wayside. They kept Jean Alesi on for years when they arguably should have turfed him much earlier. And yet the let Jacki Ickx go when they definitely shouldn't have.

Arguing about opinions on the internet is something I do try to avoid. But your question is a good one. Massa seems to be getting a bit of a free ride, media wise, but let's not discount something. He's currently leading the points table, and in particular, a good serious study of Malaysia's lap times shows that Massa put in some devilishly consistently fast laps for quite a period after his pitstop - he then caught and passed Button, and continiued putting in the very, very fast laps.

Ferrari management would have noted that. Fellippe Massa seems lilke such an uninteresting Grand Prix driver - almost anonymous - but those lap time stats don't lie. He did more laps in the 1:37-1:38 range at Malaysia than any other driver.

Quite a feat considering his left eye socket and forehead was caved in last August.


I missed Qualy this morning. But getting the round-up here was a blessing. Thanks again for the facts and some insight that is really needed in other sites. I got a very good idea of what is going and don't feel so bad that I missed the live action! Looking forward to the race and some brilliant post race commentary!


Vettel was right on the ragged edge to get that pole - just like Melbourne. I think Mark Webber

is doing a fantastic job alongside the "wunderkid."

Great effort by Alonso but if he loses another engine then I think his championship hopes will evaporate. Some wet races will help his cause.


Vettel is amazing, always delivering at the final stroke. If all goes well for Red Bull there will certainly be new records in F1 history. Wonder will Alonso pass Webber as he's on the clean side. Rain predicted, can throw some surprises and mayhem.

Jake, Australia

I must say reading the comments on this article so far is that readers are predominantly McLaren fans (particularly Hamilton). The performances by both Webber & Vettel were outstanding. So was Alonso’s. But most of the readers seem to be more concerned why McLaren and Lewis aren’t on pole rather than anything else. Well, looking at the results from every race weekend this season I believe McLaren is exactly where they should be. The cars aren’t as fast as Ferrari or Red Bull when it counts and Lewis’s aggressive driving style doesn’t suit the tyres. I wonder what would’ve happened if FIA did ban the ‘F-Duct’!!!!!


At last some sense! For obvious reasons most of readers are british and pro Mclaren / Lewis, but that should not in theory take the capability of them reading into the results are they are.

We saw for the last 2 race weekends at least, that Mclaren preferred to do qualy simulations instead os race setups and people couldn't understand that Ferrari and RBR were on different programmes and running heavy fuel loads.

I don't believe that either Mclaren and Ferrari will close the gap to RBR on early european season. All of them will have upgrades at Spain.


You only see what you want?

I see more Alonso fans than Hamilton fans here. James Allen being one for starters.


Pfft.. that's possibly the first time James Allen has ever been accused of being anti-Hamilton and pro-Alonso.


This season has been a revelation so far. Conventional wisdom on the pecking order of drivers has been thrown out the window.

Rosberg has the upper hand over Schumi - Seven tenths?? If I had not seen the times I would not believe it.

Button out-qualifying Hamilton yet again.

James, I would be interested to find out what you are hearing in the paddock about Schumi's lack of performance. Is he still rusty after being away from F1 for 3 years? Have the cars changed so much in the last 3 years that he is struggling with that? Was his speed at Ferrari simply due to the fact that the whole team was built around him and there was no internal competition? Is Rosberg the first team mate that Schumi has had that is truly superior in ability? Ahhh.... all the questions in my mind....


Off topic.

It looks like none of you are coming home James, the volcano is not cooperating. Even if you fly straight to Spain (which is still open at present) the teams are going to have difficulty getting on the ferries which are now several times over subscribed, as is Eurostar. The French are helping by going on strike as usual.

This must have stopped teams flying out parts on Thursday and Friday, not to mention today. Ferrari may just be ok if they fly to the heel and drive back up the thigh.


Hi James, in seb's pole lap on board footage, the front wing seems to flex alot. It seems to move down on straights and move back up on the corners... what are the rules in this regard and do u think such a FW can give some advantage?


I have even compared it with ferrari's onboard footage and Ferrari's FW doesn't flex (at least not visible to the eye). I am surprised as to how much Red Bull's FW flexes.

Comparing Seb's lab from '09 and '10 china gp, there is a significant flex in the FW in '10 so much so that its visible through the footage.

I think teams have been looking at the wrong place ala Ride height control. I believe this flexing is giving them the advantage however I do not have any data to support my argument.

If its legal, then other teams should also incorporate this "moveable FW" and quicker otherwise i am afraid there is no stopping RB this season


There is a deflection test


James, interestingly Kubica was omitted in your qualification description while he said it had been his the best qualification driving in Renault team this season....

I would make a bet Kubica will score more points than Schumacher this season.


Webber made a fantastic job with a car setup that helped Vettel to get a pole. Is it true Webber contract with RB terminates this year? There are rumours Kubica could join Ferrari but I think RB is better choice for Kubica if any...


James, I like how you often refer to MS as 'the great man'.

Very respectful and very cool.


Well he's a seven time champion and whatever happens here he's deserving of great respect


Off the topic breaking news - is it serious danger to F1 racing from Iceland Volcano? Reportedly the previous ash spreadig of that volcano lasted 2 years.


Lewis is going to be a man on a mission in the race after different setbacks in the first few races, and the qualifying result will make that even more so in the race. I think that he can win the race from 6th on the grid. Also I think that the honeymoon period for Jenson is about to come to an abrupt end.


One big advantage at RBR is Adrian Newey.Also without making major changes from last year they appear to be simply picking up where they left off.And now I am starting to see a gap on the time sheets.

Once back in Europe the other teams will do what they can to get back on even par.But if the Red Bulls are still showing this sort of pace by Silverstone time I do not believe McLaren,Ferrari nor Mercedes will produce a champion in 2010.


After seeing the race on Sunday it is clear that Mark was running more wing than Seb, watch Vettel Eclipse Mark on the long back straight early in the race. The fact that Mark got within 2 tenths in qualifying with that much more wing I think is amazing.

Vettel is strong though, his last laps in Q3 are wild, see how wide he runs on the last corner in Shaghai, and how much sawing of his wheel he did in the final two corners in his Melbourne pole lap. The fact that he even stays on the track is amazing considering how much speed he is taking into the corners.

He is a wild animal in qualifying, a special talent, I think it's amazing Mark can stay so close when he is no where near as aggressive as Seb.


Well observed. That pole lap in Melbourne was extraordinary. He was over and beyond the kerbs - and yet Webber was only 8/100ths off his time!

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