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Lewis Hamilton on pole for Chinese Grand Prix, Webber starts at the back
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Apr 2013   |  8:05 am GMT  |  449 comments

Lewis Hamilton took the first pole position of his Mercedes career in China with Kimi Raikkonen throwing down the gauntlet in second place and Fernando Alonso third.

Mark Webber stopped on track in Q2 with a fuel shortage issue and was sent to the back of the grid by stewards.

Given the tyre management abilities of Lotus, Raikkonen is in a strong position, although he has questioned whether the Lotus has the pace to win tomorrow. Whether he can make one less stop than his rivals and turn it to his advantage, time will tell. More likely it will mean that he can balance out the stint lengths better than his rivals.

Ferrari are well placed; they were arguably not as quick in qualifying as they had hoped to be, with Alonso third and Massa fifth, but Alonso said that he was very happy with the race set up and their long run performance in practice backs this up. They had good pace and less degradation than rivals.

Rosberg disappointed with fourth fastest time, four tenths slower than Hamilton, again struggling to deliver in the crucial part of qualifying.

It was Hamilton’s 27th career pole position on a track where he has won twice already and it was Mercedes’ second in a row in China. He took a gamble, going out quite late, but it worked out for them.

The last seven pole positions have been set by either Hamilton or Vettel. Raikkonen’s front row slot is his best qualifying result since his comeback.

It was a very strange Q3 session, with the top ten drivers not wanting to use up tyres, given the restrictions imposed by the behaviour of the Pirelli tyres. The cars only went out with a couple of minutes to go, to do one run.

Knowing they didn’t have a chance of pole, Vettel and Button went for the medium tyres with the intention of doing a different race strategy from the rest. It should make for a very interesting race. The cars starting on used soft tyres will need to pit very early, possibly within the first seven or eight laps.

Vettel had a problem with braking and locked a wheel, meaning Button ended up qualifying in front of him, eighth with Vettel ninth. Daniel Ricciardo did a very good lap to get seventh place.

On the warmest day of the weekend so far, the other major drama centred on Mark Webber once again, this time because the Australian stopped out on track with fuel issues. The team said it was a fuel pressure problem; he was instructed to save fuel on the way back to the pits and risked facing the same problem Lewis Hamilton had in Spain last year, where he was sent to the back of the grid for not being able to supply a fuel sample. The stewards duly penalised him and he will start from the back of the grid tomorrow.

In the Q1 session, the Mercedes led the way with Hamilton ahead of Rosberg and Massa, with Webber ahead of Alonso and Vettel. But the times were still not as fast as Massa’s best time from Friday FP2.

At the back, Bianchi did an outstanding first lap to go faster than the Toro Rosso pair, who found time on their second runs and made it through. Gutierrez and Bottas were dragged down into the drop zone. The late timing of his run left him no time for a second run.

In Q2 Webber stopped out on circuit, having been told to “save fuel” after setting what was the fifth fastest lap at that time. He ended up 14th.

“It’s a shame,” said Webber. “We had a fuel pressure problem and we are out of position. If you are not prepared right that’s what happens. I can move forward but how far we will find out. I found out 30 seconds before (that there was a problem).”

Team boss Christian Horner said, “Unfortunately in Q2 the amount of fuel that was required to be put into the car from the fuel rig was not fully delivered. This was due to an error with the fuel bowser that meant it under-delivered 3kg of fuel. Therefore on Mark’s in-lap we saw large drop outs in the fuel tank collector and the car unfortunately ran dry of fuel, which is obviously frustrating.”

It was a similar problem to the one Vettel suffered in Abu Dhabi last November, where he took the option to start from the pit lane and change his set up to help overtaking in the race with less wing and a longer 7th gear.

Team manager Jonathan Wheatley made a public radio message informing team principal Christian Horner that the fuel bowser had been quarantined.

Also in trouble was Sergio Perez, the McLaren driver falling out in Q2 half a second slower than Jenson Button. Both Force India’s disappointed with 11th and 13th places, but Di Resta has good strategy options for the race, starting just outside the top ten.

Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo did a great job to get into Q3, as did Hulkenberg.

CHINESE GRAND PRIX, Shanghai, Qualifying
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m34.484s
2. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m34.761s + 0.277
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m34.788s + 0.304
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m34.861s + 0.377
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m34.933s + 0.449
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m35.364s + 0.880
7. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m35.998s + 1.514
8. Jenson Button McLaren 2m05.673s + 31.189
9. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull No Q3 time set
10. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber No Q3 time set

11. Paul di Resta Force India 1m36.287s + 1.209s
12. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m36.314s + 1.236s
13. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m36.405s + 1.327s
14. Mark Webber * Red Bull 1m36.679s + 1.601s
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m37.139s + 2.061s
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m37.199s + 2.121s

17. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m37.769s + 1.976
18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m37.990s + 2.197
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m38.780s + 2.987
20. Max Chilton Marussia 1m39.537s + 3.744
21. Charles Pic Caterham 1m39.614s + 3.821
22. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m39.660s + 3.867

* Webber will start from the back of the grid

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Poor Mark got shafted problem with the fuel collector yeah right… Hoping he can drive a cracker of a race pass Vettel and get on the podium


Well, good news. Christian Horner says they worked on Webber’s car to set it to overtaking; for me that proves Red Bull are being impartial with the drivers.


Hi James,

There is a lot of complaints about the tires. Why is a tire issue so much talked about when other regulation changes are not?

When the engine rules change, the teams have to build new engines to suit them. They play with the engine mapping and everything to get the maximum performance.

When the tires change, they have to do the same. Why are these drivers crying when clearly their teams are not delivering as compared to other teams?

Also, the qualifying drama is brought about by the rules. The restriction of the number or tires for a grandprix and the rule that every car has to use both the types at least once is the reason for ‘strategic qualifying’. I don’t see a problem. If fans can understand ‘overtaking in the pits’ they are intelligent enough to understand ‘strategic qualifying’.

If one goes to a grandprix to watch qualifying drama, then they don’t get it. They don’t understand that the rules have changed. F1 is a far more involving and intricate sport than stock car racing where you floor the car and try to win.


Cannot see how to edit.

I wrote Dabhi and Dhabi to see which one looked correct, then Googled the spelling and forgot to knock out the errant version.


Just had a thought on Red Bull and how impartial they are with their drivers. The 2012 car became successful when it was set up to perform if the car got into clean air after two laps, which was why Vettel was able to charge ahead by really incredible distances.

At Abu Dhabi – a bit unfairly, I thought – RBR reversed the ‘clean air’ requirement on Seb’s car overnight so that it could come up through the field from the back. So, with Mark at the back of the grid due to the same ‘oversight’, if RBR bother to modify his car in the same way, we can rest assured that they support both drivers; if they don’t, well, they don’t.


Hi everyone , before i get shot down , has anyone else noticed that lewis locks his inside front more than most drivers and will this have an influence in todays race?. By the way GO KIMI.:)


He has always done that, if you look carefully. Braking is one area where Hamilton differentiates himself from other drivers


Aha, a novel way of enforcing team orders. There you go, Mark, any other questions?


Hundreds of sensors on a car, but not one to detect fuel level. Seriously?


Hello James,

Isn’t it very funny that the FIA, the teams and the engines manufacturers ALL decided a few years ago a unique tyre manufacturer was the right choice because everybody was only talking about tyres and nothing else, and the fact everyone is doing exactly the same now with a unique manufacturer?!!

Would there be a link with the fact that there is still no agreement with Pirelli for 2014? Any insight about this?


I think it will be Pirelli again.

Tyre companies competing against each other means lots of testing, which means lots of cost and also tough to control speeds

Andrew Halliday

The time has come for the qualifying format to be changed. Q1 and Q2, whilst important in setting the grid positions from P11 downwards, are otherwise a waste of time. Whether a driver finishes these sessions in P1 or P10, it has no effect on the outcome of qualifying. Viewers are therefore sucked in to watching what is effectively a non-event. I’ve always preferred the 90’s style qualifying format: One hour session, drivers are allowed 12 laps and can do these laps as and when they please within the hour. The old argument that this is boring for TV viewers no longer stands as we now have so much filler during TV F1 coverage, it’s no different than getting up at 3am to watch a practice session (which I do!). Qualifying (and F1 in general) needs to go back to basics and let men and their machines fight each other rather than the current manufactured system, where there are too many sub rules such as having to use both tyre compounds, some cars must start the race on the tyre they qualified with and so on.


Watched Ted’s Notebook (sky) and was dismayed to see lots of mechanics working on Hamilton’s car. I know there was a steward watching them but how is he able to make sure they’re not doing anything illegal when he can’t see what they’re doing underneath the car. I thought Park Ferme meant the cars couldn’t be touched!


They are allowed to change things that are broken. The FIA publishes a list of things they are permitted to change and makes it public before the race.


James, you seem to have missed one of the key points from qually. . . What about Ricardo, that car is prob 3rd slowest on the grid so p7 is an amazing achievement.

Well done to Lewis, once again proving in terms of single lap pace, there’s not many out there who can match him


Vettel remains the pole position king in my books. His onboard view when doing the pole lap is nothing short of amazing. His driving precision is immaculate even when driving on the very edge of grip.

Hamilton looks more exciting on the outside with the car weaving all over the place. He is one driver who does not have to hit every apex and yet he can be faster than anyone.


Hamilton is far better at hitting apexes than Vettel. Same with Alonso. Vettel is great, but many of his poles have relied on the car covering up for missed lines, etc.


He’s mentioned…


Sorry I mean ricciardo


At least you pronounced it correctly 🙂


If these tyres are the new normal for this year and beyond, the qualifying format needs to be updated. To what, I don’t know, but not running shouldn’t be an option while tickets and TV subscriptions still cost money.

If it was my choice, I think I’d maybe replace qualifying with a sprint race, on a special high performace low-deg sprint tyre. Finishing positions dictate starting positions for the Sunday marathon. Points could be banked, but only collected if the car finishes the GP on Sunday. That way championships will always be decided on a Sunday.


They may as well have four 10 minute sessions. Then at least there’s only 5 minutes per session where cars aren’t on track…!


Im willing to bet that the people on here calling to go bak to bridgestones type tires were the same ones complaining of no overtaking and procesion type races. You can have it both ways.

I will, however, say that I feel that this year they’ve gone a little too extreme, I think last year was as far as they should have gone. But, at least all they drivers are on the same tyres.


These are all interesting assumptions and I hear it again and again with NO evidence to back it up.

I would imagine that the people on here calling back to Bridgestones loved the racing under their regime. I know I did.

Yes there were the odd dud processional race, but not nearly as many as people make out.


just as the racing now is better than some are making out.


Hi James

I was reading on some of the drivers comments about the tyres. Mark Webber commented that the tyres are making it a bit will the WWF(now WWE)

It could make an interesting blog, about the way the tyres have changed things.

I think the tyres are having too much influence on the racing now, and needs to be more consistent, rather then degrad so quickly. But that is just my opinion


Whatever one can argue about the current tyre sutuation, it is definitely nowhere near as WWEesque as what Red Bull and Merc pulled at the last race. And Webber was a part of it.


Do we know if high fuel weight exacerbates tyre degradation? If so, surely it makes sense to use the options on low fuel, later in the race, rather than have to pit 4-5 (maybe more for Kimi) laps into the race. One might even pick up a few places (if one is not leading by then already). I can’t wait to find out.


Yes, but pitting 4-5 laps from the end of the race isnt ideal either;


If we have to sit and watch empty tracks could Q1, Q2 and Q3 all shorter by 5 minutes, I’d be so disappointed if I’d paid to go and watch qualifying.

They disqualified 2 badminton pairings during the Olympics for not taking part in their sport, so maybe drivers should start going back to 11th and further back if they don’t go out if they don’t set a time in Q3, why fight for a top 10 and then settle for 10th. At least Ricciardo tried and was rewarded with a 7th place.


Lewis, Kimi and Fernando in the top 3, feels like 2007 again.


Good times!


Where will Brawn be in 2014?


Putting his feet up by the sound of it 🙁


Red Bull.


Well, as Dietrich said, “team orders not permitted”. Maybe Mark may prefer to make a better start at the back before leaving ahead and find one of his usual problems (kers, clutch adjustment, etc). Well, maybe it’s out of his reach. (Yes, possibly). Good luck Mark.


Formula HoHum.

Though it proves once again that Friday times mean almost nothing.


Friday times NEVER meant anything, all the teams are doing is gathering data about tire performance and longevity. LIke James said, its important work, but they will never show the pecking order


But Friday’s work is very important, learning how the car and tyres work on long runs


The italics end here. 🙂


Question about Webber:

It’s a long-shot, but is it just possible that someone in the team called the order to short fuel Webber in order to separate he and Vettel during the race.

Fear of a agro-fueled collision if they were too close at the start maybe?

I can’t be the only one thinking it…


…and I just read that he has a penalty now also.

Why do the drivers get penalised for a mistake the team made? I know it’s the rules, but still…

Dig deep Mark.


Well if Webber can´t finish withing the points it hurts RB in the constructors championship. Even if he finishes in P1O it is just one point and also hurts RB even if Vettel wins the race

If there was some conspiracy against Webber he should quit now. It´s too much humiliation


…or not 🙁


Yourself & James are absolutely correct; I only put it out there because people were going to be thinking it, so it might as well be said out loud.

I do doubt very much that that is what happened, but suppose it did?

As you said it would be humiliating…unless he came back and beat Vettel, as he did in Silverstone. There a couple of different versions of that story, but the fact is that after Vettel got the ‘better’ font wing from Mark, Mark came came straight back and won that race.

I think it would be a stretch to say he could win today – or even that he will beat Vettel – but a good result should be possible and will show that after a knock down he can still come back harder than before.

There’s no humiliation in that; the only true humiliation is quitting 🙂


As you point out, it hurts the team if Webber starts from the back

Competition for WCC is much hotter this year with Ferrari a real challenger to RBR. They lose money and points if Webber’s race is compromised. Why would they invite that problem on themselves?


I must think RB did this on purpose to MW, this can take him out of the running for WDC and make the on track issues a none factor between him and SV…..and I know everyone will say there is no way RB would do this….amazing every time MW is close to SV he has issues on the start line …and and and


Pirelli can bat away criticism as long as only two teams criticise the new tyres, and ask for a return to 2012 rubber; but with the entire Quali 3 field – barring whatever Hulkenberg’s deal was – leaving the session empty until the last three minutes to cope with your tyres, that has to say something.


Can we agree now that:

knew what he was talking about?

looking forward to more insights rest of season.

keep it up.

oh and congrats Lewis – but job only 30% done make it a win 2moro OK!


Not to belittle James, but that was kind of self-evident…and a small correction for you:

His job 100% done on Saturday, 0% done on Sunday.

There’s a school of thought that says that those who start on the mediums may actually have the advantage.

We’ll see soon enough, but best of luck to Hamilton and the others, should be a good race 🙂

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