April 13th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lewis Hamilton has taken his first pole position as a Mercedes driver with a stunning lap in Shanghai. Kimi Raikkonen will line up second for Lotus on Sunday with Fernando Alonso third for Ferrari.
Q1 saw no action at all for almost 10 minutes, as none of the teams wanted to be first out onto a dusty track. But eventually the drivers emerged onto the track and attempted to progress to the top 16. Marussia's Jules Bianchi impressed once again, setting an initial time that was quicker than both Toro Rossos, both Caterhams and his own team-mate, Max Chilton. Both Toro Rossos managed to improve and progress to Q2, leaving Bianchi back in 19th place. Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez, Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde were eliminated in Q1.
Q2 saw the surprise elimination of Mark Webber, with what the Red Bull team reported was a "fuel-pressure problem". The general opinion of the BBC commentary team was that Red Bull had not put enough fuel into Webber's car and that he might be relegated to the back of the grid as a result. In any event, Webber set a time that was only good enough for 14th place before his car stopped out on track. Drivers eliminated in Q2 were Paul Di Resta, Sergio Perez, Adrian Sutil, Mark Webber, Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Eric Vergne.The surprise inclusion in Q3 was the Toro Rosso of Danial Ricciardo. After initially struggling in the early part of Q1, Ricciardo put in a strong lap in Q2 to progress to the top ten shoot-out.
Q3 became all about tyres, as the drivers were split into those who wanted pole position and those who wanted a choice of tyres on which to start the race. There has been an enormous difference between the tyre compounds this weekend, with the soft compound option tyre almost impossible to manage for more than a few laps. Consequently, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button elected to run in Q3 on prime tyres, knowing that they would not challenge for pole but would instead be able to run longer inthe early part of the race than their rivals.
Button qualified eighth on his set of primes, but Vettel made an error on his flying lap and pitted, meaning he did not set a time and therefore has a choice of tyres for the start of the race. At the front, Kimi Raikkonen set the first flying lap, a 1:34.761 that was good enough for second on the grid. But he was ultimately beaten by over a quarter of a second by a flying Lewis Hamilton, who showed that Mercedes really do have a strong car this season and can challenge right at the front.
Fernando Alonso outqualified team-mate Felipe Massa for the first time this season. Alonso lines up third with Massa fifth behind the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg. Romain Grosjean qualified sixth in the second Lotus ahead of the impressive Daniel Ricciardo. Jenson Button's prime tyre run put him eighth, and Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten, with neither setting a lap time in Q3, preferring to have a choice of tyres at the start of the race.
Full qualifying results as follows:
|9||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:36.537||1:35.343||13|
|11||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.478||1:36.287||9|
|13||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.349||1:36.405||11|
|14||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:36.148||1:36.679||6|
|22||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:39.660||6|
|Q1 107% Time||1:42.498|