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Rosberg claims stunning first F1 pole in Shanghai

April 14, 2012

Nico Rosberg claimed his first Formula 1 pole position in Shanghai on Saturday in what was his 111th attempt.

The German heads an all Mercedes front row, with veteran Michael Schumacher moving up to 2nd place, once Lewis Hamilton had taken a grid penalty for changing a gearbox out of sequence.

Indeed, Rosberg ended the day with a double advantage – while on top in Q2, the Mercedes pilot decided to keep an extra set of tyres, before completing only a single run during Q3.

Rosberg’s best of 1:35.121 was more than half-a-second quicker than the nearest competition, although that gap extended to nearly six-tenths when Hamilton was removed from the order.
Such was his confidence with his lap time, Rosberg exited his car with three minutes to spare, apparently safe in the knowledge that the peak was secure.

An excellent last moment effort from Kamui Kobayashi earned Sauber 3rd on the grid, with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen starting alongside.

Jenson Button heads the McLaren challenge in 5th, albeit one second shy of the top spot, although a bigger surprise were the apparent struggles being face by the once dominant Red Bull team. Despite running with the latest exhaust update from key designer Adrian Newey, Australian Mark Webber could do no better than 6th, while Sebastian Vettel did not even make it into Q3.

Hamilton’s penalty stranded him in 7th. The McLaren ace will be partnered on the fourth row by Sergio Perez in the second Sauber, while Fernando Alonso (Ferrari, 9th) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus, 10th) command row five.

Reigning world champion Vettel was the surprise Q2 exit in Shanghai. The German decided on two runs; however as he crossed the line at the chequered flag, Vettel was two-tenths shy of the marker. Alongside Vettel will be the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa, whose struggles generating tyre grip continued into the afternoon running.

It was an all-Williams seventh row, with Pastor Maldonado pipping Bruno Senna by just 0.006 seconds in the final reckoning. The Williams pair ended the session with a slight advantage over both Force India’s, led by Paul di Resta (15th). In what is becoming a difficult weekend for Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo rounded out Q2, slowest of all the runners.

Such is the closeness of the current field, Q2 proved to be unusually busy, with 14 of the 17 drivers present feeling the need for an extra run on the soft Pirelli tyres as the clock closed in on zero.

An error on his fast lap by Jean-Eric Vergne rendered the French pilot the big Q1 scalp. The rookie ran wide over the kerbs exiting the fast turn ten left-hander, finishing any possibility of progressing.
Like virtually every qualifying session since the start of the 2010 season, the bottom six were filled by Caterham, Marussia and HRT. Indeed, a positive mention for the HRT team who had both drivers well inside the 107% cut-off point.

2012 Chinese Grand Prix (Rd 3, Qualifying)
Pos  Driver                Team                 Time          Gap    
 1.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m35.121s         
 3.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m35.691s  + 0.570
 4.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m35.784s  + 0.663
 5.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m35.898s  + 0.777
 6.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m36.191s  + 1.070
 7.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m36.290s  + 1.169
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m35.626s  + 0.505*
 8.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m36.524s  + 1.403
 9.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m36.622s  + 1.501
10.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        No time 
Q2 cut-off time: 1m35.831s                       Gap to Q2 fastest 
11.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m36.031s  + 0.331 
12.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m36.255s  + 0.555 
13.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m36.283s  + 0.583 
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m36.289s  + 0.589 
15.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m36.317s  + 0.617 
16.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m36.745s  + 1.045 
17.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m36.956s  + 1.256 
Q1 cut-off time: 1m36.933s                       Gap to Q1 fastest 
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m37.714s  + 1.516 
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m38.463s  + 2.265 
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m38.677s  + 2.479 
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth    1m39.282s  + 3.084 
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m39.717s  + 3.519 
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m40.411s  + 4.213 
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m41.000s  + 4.802
107% time: 1m42.931s
*5-place grid penalty for gearbox change
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