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Rosberg Heads All Mercedes Front-Row In Spain: Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso in the hunt
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Posted By:   |  11 May 2013   |  3:39 pm GMT  |  261 comments

Nico Rosberg made it a hat-trick of pole positions for Mercedes GP as he produced two laps fast enough to take the top spot for the Spanish Grand Prix, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

After concentrating on longer fuel-laden runs in Free Practice, Mercedes went in to qualifying somewhat unknown as attentions were focused on Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus. But – as with at China and Bahrain – the one-lap specialist Mercedes was able to eclipse its competitors. Rosberg clinched the third pole position of his career by over 2/10ths of a second, with Vettel a further tenth behind.

Their pace came predominantly in the slow, technical, final sector where the pair were around 3/10ths faster than those behind. And after heading the field in both Q1 and Q2 with Hamilton they were able to clinch their first front-row lock out since their return to Formula One and put themselves in with a chance of victory tomorrow.

In the twenty-two years that the Catalunya circuit has hosted the Spanish GP, only once has the winner come from beyond the front-row. This will give some confidence to the Silver Arrows – but we can still expect to see the fight for victory take place between the Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus trio.

Rosberg showed particular confidence getting through into Q3 using a set of used tyres, while Hamilton was forced to use a new set, which meant he had one set less of mediums for the final runs.

Red Bull went for a strategic plan in qualifying, saving its new sets of the hard tyre for the race tomorrow, indicating that they will do three stints on hard tyre after the opening stint on the used medium tyres they used for qualifying. Webber had the edge on Vettel in morning practice but the pace eluded him on his final run and he ended up 8th.

Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen fulfilled his objective by getting on the second row of the grid. With Mercedes in this kind of form that was the best he could manage, but the Lotus had the standout long runs on Friday and Raikkonen will fancy his chances of winning tomorrow, by running longer stints than the Mercedes or Vettel. Starting on the dirty side of the grid, however, he will have one eye on Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who has made sensational starts here in the past and will be looking for another tomorrow from fifth.

As Mercedes took to the top from the outset of qualifying, Ferrari or Lotus never seemed capable of challenging for the front-row but instead concentrated on giving themselves the best opportunity ahead of tomorrow.

Alonso is to be joined on the third row by Felipe Massa, should he not be penalised for what seemed to be a block on Mark Webber, which the stewards decided should attract a three pace grid penalty, dropping him to 9th. Massa clearly impeded Webber while not on a hot lap. Massa could not replicate his pace from the final Free Practice session and ended the day half a second away from the ultimate pace. Also penalised was Esteban Gutierrez, who drops three places to 19th.

Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber were beaten by their respective team mates and will begin the race on the fourth row. Webber was left frustrated by Massa’s actions in Q2 and may see himself gain a position should the FIA deem the Brazilian’s actions unnecessary.

Completing the top ten are strong performances by Sergio Perez and Paul Di Resta. Perez was able to make it in to the final shoot out as the sole McLaren and therefore beat Jenson Button in qualifying for the first time this year.

After their spat in Bahrain, it was telling that Perez got the upper hand in the underperforming McLaren. Button was well beaten in Q2, as he accepted.

Di Resta got the better of team mate Adrian Sutil in their on-going team battle, the German only managing thirteenth.

Following last year’s victory, the Williams team’s fall from grace was stark. Like McLaren a raft of updates seemed not to have helped them as both cars exited qualifying at the earliest stage, a humiliation for a team like Williams. They have dropped in to the claws of Caterham and Marussia this season, and need points as soon as possible to avoid being mentioned in the same breath.

Of those teams,  Giedo van der Garde was the pacesetter using an impressive late lap to move his Caterham above the Marussia pairing and team mate Charles Pic. Max Chiton will be pleased to have ended up only 2/10ths of a second behind team mate Jules Bianchi.

SPANISH GRAND PRIX, Barcelona, Qualifying
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m20.718s
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m20.972s + 0.254s
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m21.054s + 0.336s
4. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m21.177s + 0.459s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m21.218s + 0.500s
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m21.219s + 0.501s
7. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m21.308s + 0.590s
8. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m21.570s + 0.852s
9. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m22.069s + 1.351s
10. Paul di Resta Force India 1m22.233s + 1.515s

11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m22.127s + 1.126s
12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m22.166s + 1.165s
13. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m22.346s + 1.345s
14. Jenson Button McLaren 1m23.166s + 2.165s
15. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m22.389s + 1.388s
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m22.793s + 1.792s

17. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m23.260s + 1.532s
18. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m23.318s + 1.590s
19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m24.661s + 2.933s
20. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m24.713s + 2.985s
21. Max Chilton Marussia 1m24.996s + 3.268s
22. Charles Pic Caterham 1m25.070s + 3.342s

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1

GET RID OF THESE TYRES!!! Its just a big train of drivers looking after tyres! Boring!!!!!!

2

Anyone know how many sets of new hard/medium tyres Alonso, Vettel and Raikkonen have at their disposal?

3

James,

do teams do video analysis of past GP starts to see what lines are promising into the first corner? Also, do drivers study past starts of drivers next to them on the grid? E.g. do Vettel + Raikkonen analyse Alonso’s past starts in Barcelona to get an idea of what to expect from him?

4

Yes of course

5

Don’t be fooled by Hamilton saying that he didn’t have the perfect setup, because he also didn’t have the perfect setup in Bahrain for qualifying, yet performed way better than Rosberg in the race.

Mercedes are in the best position to win this race due to having track position, and the fact that it is so hard to pass on this circuit.

6
Danny Almonte

No major updates from Mercedes but a slew of subtle refinements. If Mercedes have mitigated the tire wear issue they could be on the podium on Sunday.

7

Hey James it would be great if you did a piece evaluating all teams improvements in Barcelona (sine it has been billed as the place where all the teams would bring upgrades) personally I think the story so far is the huge gains by torro rosso, hopefully we get a chance this year to see what the two guys can do.

8

It’s in the works..pending results from the race to judge effectiveness

9
All revved-up

I wonder what Brawn/Mercedes’ strategy will be.

Have one Merc hold up the pack while the other races off into the distance?

10

There’s no doubt that Nico and Lewis are very closely matched, but what actually happened was that Nico had his car set up just that little bit better than Lewis giving the slightly faster time in Q3. Having said that Lewis’s run in Q2 was outstanding. It will be interesting to see how the race develops between the two as I suspect Lewis may get past Nico in the first couple of laps. Of course the bigger question is how will the tyres last. Mercedes say they have done some work on improving the situation, but I suspect they are still not there in reducing tyre degradation adequately. They need to pull it back just enough to make the tyres last without impacting too greatly on their single lap performance or their ability to get heat into the tyres adequately for qualifying. Everything now depends on tyre performance and set up.

11
All revved-up

Nope, didn’t cross many minds. And certainly not the minds of F1 experts criticising Hamilton’s move to Mercedes all pre-season long.

Hind sight is a wonderful thing, but as many F1 fans have learnt, Murray Walker’s first commandment of F1 is so true: “in F1 anything can happen and usually does”.

Twists and turns in an F1 season is what makes it so fascinating.

0.3 seconds in sector 3 – wow.

12

Hamilton’s move is still not smart because they just perform in qualifying (zero points), you guys are cheering way too early about it being a good move. Wait until this season is over, then gloat if you can.

BTW, Rosberg is easily matching him.

13
All revved-up

Don’t mean to gloat. I’m neutral about Hamilton’s move.

I was just referring to the overwhelming sentiment in 2012 by “experts” that his move was a bad one.

But the race results certainly support your point that it’s too premature to conclude one way or the other.

I would have expected F1 experts to explain the good and the bad between McLaren and Mercedes. Instead the commentary seemed overwhelmingly negative about Mercedes. As though the Brackely team of people were second class compared to the folks in Woking.

14

James, I’d be curious to hear about Alonso and reason behind his relative lack of form in qualifying. Has Massa really been that exceptional, or has Alonso been struggling this season? Any concern that he might be “peaking” in his career, overall? Or have we all just been spoiled by his special performances last season.

15

I don’t think the Ferrari is particularly brilliant in qualifying. Massa was in front a bit at the end of last year too.

Remember that Alonso always finishes well ahead in the race, so he’s obviously prioritising that in his set up, but yes you are right he’s not been stellar in quali

16

Alonso has always said he’s not the best or fastest qualifier – I think I recall his quote that he is not the best at anything but he’s more consistent in all areas.

17

He was being modest but it was quite an honest assessment. Alonso knows that there are almost certainly faster one lap specialists, more daring overtakers, more strategic thinkers – but they all have ups and downs. I think alonso knows his best trait (and I’m paraphrasing his interview from memory here) ‘there are others who are 100% in one area but lacking in others – I am only 95% in all areas but I have no outstanding weakness’

That sounds like a pretty good thing to be.

18

LOL

“… he is not the best at anything but he’s more consistent in all areas.”

I am curious, what does that exactly mean – “not the best at ANYTHING” but “more consistent IN ALL AREAS”?

One thing is certain for sure, he is being modest.

19
Mohammed Al-Momen

With Kimi on the 2nd row I think he is real threat, and could possibly win the race.

20

Hi James.

Sergio Perez seems to be 3 tenths slower in Q3 than his Q2 time. Did he do any mistake in his lap?

In Q2 he was only 3 tenths off the pace of the ferrari’s and lotuses. Have McLaren actually improved??

And finally, can we expect a dramatic turn around when the other parts like front wing, rear suspension updates come in monaco and canada?

21

Yes, Q3 time was a let down after the high of Q2

22

Looking forward to the start tomorrow, I fancy Alonso to lead into turn 1, with yet another perfect non wheel-spin start. How does he do that perfect start every single time?

23

It’s the car.

24
Scuderia McLaren

Post quail conversation:

Rosberg: “Schooled Hammy…”

Hamilton: “Shuddup or I’ll tweet our wing settings!”

Rosberg: “You obviously forgot about social media confidentiality clause 7.3″

Hamilton: “Shit”

Rosberg: “Yeah that’s right. Wanna go back to McLaren?! They might take you back. If not, Sauber might… hehe.”

Hamilton: “No!”

Rosberg: “Didn’t think so. So you just play nice and tell the world I was faster, again.”

Hamilton: “Still I rise… Still I rise… Still I rise…”

25

How is it that on a fresh set of tyres the rears on Webber’s car were gone by turn 9? These tyres are pathetic for F1. Pirelli should be embarrassed.

26

One thing that’s funny is how the usual suspects stopped with the “it’s easy winning from pole” argument, used againts Vettel.

Using that argument: if Nico or Hami don’t win, it must prove they are average cabdrivers, nothing more 😉

27

Well done Mercedes boys, lets hope that they won’t be going backward too much tomorrow

28

James, I seem to recall that Lewis and Nico are supposed to be great buddies. How do they appear to be working out as teammates?

29

As you would expect from kids who grew up together..

30

Today was an interesting day and I feel we’re starting to learn some interesting things.

1) Hamilton is a good loser. This shows well for his personality because in my view he is the fastest out there.

2) nico is quicker than anyone thought

3) What a job MSC did at 40+ yrs

Enjoyed today and looking forward to a titanic battle tomorrow.

31

All three valid observations

32

Wow, great qualifying by Mercedes team. I’m rooting for kimi though. Just worried about the start from the lotus. On 2 occasions there was wheelspin from the lotus of kimi, which cost him the attack. Ferrari look very strong at Starts especially Alonso, and maybe he can challenge the silver arrows at turn 1 itself.

33

Why are people forgetting that Alonso was out-qualified by Massa 4 times in a row and almost again today? It does not make Massa a better driver than Alonso does it? I don’t like some of the Hammy undermining going on here.

34

“Hamilton is faster than you, can you confirm ?”

35

McLaren look all at sea. At least Ferrari turned it around in pretty quick order last year. How can you fix the car when the car spends most of its time in the garage like in first qualifying. There’s a cancer at McLaren and I’m afraid it may centre around a certain Ex Williams employee! Get a grip Ron

36

Come on…Ferrari didn’t really turn anything around that quickly. It took them some time before they got a decent car. I think the Mclaren bashing is a little ridiculous. In my opinion, over the last few years Mclaren have had a generally faster car than Ferrari. Frankly this is the first year in the last six that Ferrari is faster than Mclaren. The only team that has had a faster car than Mclaren over the last few years is Red Bull. So I don’t believe Mclaren deserve that much grief.

37

Ferrari and Mclaren have both had the same problem with their wind tunnel calculations it seems. It’s just mclaren hit this year and Ferrari last year.

Last year though Ferrari had alonso on perfect form and they had bullet proof reliability. Mclaren are having all sorts of failures as well as poor speed. Jensons recurring curse of the unattached wheel nut has left him even lower in points than he might have salvaged from this utterly confused car.

38

Lol….3 poles in 3 attempts with the added bonus of a front row lock out (I’d hate to be Paddy Lowe right now) – now if they have resolved the rear tyre problem this weekend we may be in for a suprise.

Hamilton eluded to what the problem was in an interview with Brundle the other week – hot air from the exhaust causing the tyres to over heat – o.k over one lap a problem over race distance.

don’t be suprised to see that 0.5sec transfer to race day in the not too distant future.

You watch…those Mercs may just vanish into the distance…….

39

0.5 of second per lap wouldn’t have been enough to win in Bahrain…

40

It’s a given that Lewis will finish higher than Nico tomorrow.

But am I wrong in thinking Mercedes have the strongest driver pairing on the grid?

42

Not according to Ross Brawn. An advantage Mercedes have is that its drivers get along better than Red Bull’s.

The Mercedes driver who is ahead at the end of lap one will be pretty well placed to be there at the end. However, in Malaysia we saw the leading Mercedes race the cars around it and the other not race and drive to a delta time. The same thing happened in Bahrain. In Malaysia, Rosberg should have finished ahead and in Bahrain he needed an extra stop. So it could be that the driver that races the least finishes ahead. In that sense, Lewis with his greater success is probably more mature as he doesn’t have to win right now, while Nico will want to establish himself.

On your question, I’m debating whether Lotus’ line up has greater potential than Mercedes’. For me, Vettel’s edge over Hamilton (fewer errors in tyre management over a season) is a large part of this doesn’t overcome Webber’s drop in performance this year. I feel Massa’s form pick up and his experience in winning is still worth something, but he needs to master the tyres in race conditions. At the moment I’m sitting on the fence on Mercedes versus Ferrari, to see a few more races. By the end of the year, if Grosjean picks up, it could be black team ahead by having the strongest #2 driver.

43
Kieran Mathers

No, it’s a damn good pairing. Young, enthusiastic and willing to push each other really very hard. The car helps too though! O hope LH’s and NR’s friendship survives though, they seem like good mates.

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