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China 2013 - Qualifying highlights - The stop-start sessions find a new polesitter for Shanghai

Published by Christine

Sutil leaves the pits in China
Credit: James Moy

The bright and sunny Shanghai track played host to an unusual session of qualifying, one in which waiting seemed to be the optimum strategy. All the action was left until the final minutes of each session, but when it came, it was intriguing.

The tyres dominated proceedings, but they weren't responsible for everything we saw. Red Bull struggled, Mercedes prospered, and the Toro Rosso drivers found themselves world's apart. You can relive it all in minute by minute coverage from the Factbyte Factbox. Catch up or remind yourself what happened here.

As it happened: China 2013 - Qualifying

Event Highlights

  • Bottas and Gutiérrez drop out of first session as Toro Rosso scrape through.
  • Webber stops out on track during Q2, a fuel pressure problem.
  • Daniel Ricciardo gets through to final top ten shootout.
  • Hamilton takes pole position, as Vettel sets no time - and tyre saving rules the day.
  • 06:30

    Hello and welcome to the Factbyte Factbox. A three week break means we have fully recharged batteries for the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend - first step, qualifying!

  • 06:32

    Naturally, everyone has been talking about the tensions at the Red Bull garage, and Vettel has come out fighting this weekend - not all as sorry as he initially made out.

  • 06:33

    But there are ten other teams vying for good grid slots today, and an hour of qualifying for them to fight it out.

  • 06:36

    Felipe Massa managed to secure a front row grid slow in Malaysia, and has outqualified Alonso at both races so far. Can he do any of that again here?

  • 06:37

    The team orders debacle wasn't just at Red Bull, the Mercedes duo also held station in Malaysia. They may still be "friends", but there'll be a lot of pride at stake this weekend.

  • 06:41

    The sun is shining over the Shanghai circuit at the moment. Weather forecasts for the weekend show mostly sunshine, a bit cloudy here and there, but no rain as yet.

  • 06:42

    TweetTweet from @MyCaterhamF1: T -20 to qualifying in China 2013. Both drivers and the whole team are fed, watered, briefed and ready.

  • 06:44
    Fastest Session Times
    Free Practice 1N Rosberg1:36.717
    Free Practice 2F Massa1:35.340
    Free Practice 3F Alonso1:35.391
  • 06:47

    QuoteInterview with Martin Whitmarsh, after a three week break McLaren are: "Not much of a step further forward. We are frankly, third or fourth fastest car. Qualifying is going to be tough, the race is going to be tough. We've got to get an upgrade for Spain, that will take us forward. The first four races are going to challenging, we've got to dig deep... make the most of any opportunities that arise."

  • 06:51

    Interview with Stefano Domenicali: "We had a good Free Practice, but above all with the soft tyres... Today we need to take care of the tyres for tomorrow as the points are tomorrow. That will be the key decision of the way we qualify today.

    "We will try [for pole position] but to try doesn't mean you can do it. We will try. So far, we haven't understood why the jump between the two different compounds makes the car much easier to drive, but it's a fact we've seen since yesterday but let's hope we have the same situation today, and then for tomorrow we need the pace on the medium as that is the tyre for the race."

  • 06:54

    For reference, last year's pole position was by Nico Rosberg who went on to win a race. The Mercedes driver took P1 on Saturday with a 1:35.121.

  • 06:57



    Wind speed4.9mps
  • 06:57

    Double DRS this weekend, down the two long straights. Last year was just the single zone so that could have an effect this weekend. This year, DRS in qualifying is limited to the two zones rather than the full track as well.

  • 07:00

    Green flagQualifying session 1 begins.

  • 07:01

    No drivers are keen to hurry on out of the pit lane yet, it's a quiet start to the session.

  • 07:02

    Who will be the first to head out?

  • 07:02

    Bottas is ready to go, but waiting for the opportune moment, via @WilliamsF1Team.

  • 07:05

    Sam Michael and Martin Whitmarsh sit, arms folded, on the pit wall. Everyone just waiting to see who jumps first.

  • 07:05

    Mark Webber's not even in the car yet, overalls sitting around his waist, he's deep in conversation with an engineer.

  • 07:06

    Vettel is busy putting on his helmet, making final preparations, concentration face on.

  • 07:08

    Some team radio instructs Vergne there will be one timed lap on the prime (medium) tyre.

  • 07:09

    Pirelli tyre selectionPirelli's tyre selection this weekend, medium (white) and soft (yellow).

  • 07:09

    Cars are finally breaking cover, with Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton out, as well as two Toro Rossos.

  • 07:11

    Jules Bianchi crosses the line to start his flying lap, as more drivers pour out of the pit lane. Ten cars on track now.

  • 07:12

    Bianchi sets the first lap time of qualifying, with a 1:39.025. His teammate is about half a second further down.

  • 07:13

    In fact, Bianchi's lap time is faster than all others so far - the two Toro Rossos included.

  • 07:13

    Nico Rosberg crosses the line to show the vast difference between the teams though, a 1:35.959.

  • 07:15

    Hamilton shaves two seconds off his teammate's time to jump to P1. The Force India drivers fit in behind the Mercedes pair.

  • 07:17

    Just over three minutes to go, all the remaining drivers are out on track and crossing the line to squeeze in a lap time.

  • 07:18

    Felipe Massa jumps up to P3, with Webber and Alonso behind. The two Mercedes sit comfortably at the top.

  • 07:18

    The drop zone features Ricciardo, Vergne, Chilton, Van der Garde and Pic and Bottas who has not yet set a time.

  • 07:19

    Grosjean's radio instructs him he should be safe - up in eighth place currently.

  • 07:20

    And Bottas crosses the line for 15th place, knocking Bianchi into the drop zone.

  • 07:20

    Chequered flagQualifying session 1 ends.

  • 07:21

    After the chequered flag dropped, both Toro Rosso drivers completed their laps and managed to move themselves out of the drop zone. That may not have been the one timed run they were planning though!

  • 07:22

    Team radioTeam radio from Sutil: "Räikkönen destroyed my lap so please tell the stewards."

  • 07:22
    Qualifying Position
    17V BottasWilliams
    18E GutiérrezSauber
    19J BianchiMarussia
    20M ChiltonMarussia
    21C PicCaterham
    22G van der GardeCaterham
  • 07:23

    The fastest three in that session were Hamilton, Rosberg and Massa.

  • 07:27

    Green flagQualifying session 2 begins.

  • 07:27

    Another quiet start to the session, no drivers waiting at the end of the pit lane or anything.

  • 07:28

    It is Sebastian Vettel who heads out first, one minute in, used soft tyres on the car. Radio instructs him to do one timed lap.

  • 07:29

    Webber, Hulk, Sutil and Vergne join the World Champion out on track.

  • 07:31

    Vettel crosses the line for a 1:36.260.

  • 07:33

    Webber is the second driver to set a time, he's four tenths off Vettel's time. Hülkenberg is third, with Sutil crossing the line fourth.

  • 07:34

    Di Resta puts in a good time to split the Red Bull drivers, before Alonso tops them all with a 1:36.186. Massa then slips into third, one tenth off his teammate.

  • 07:34

    TweetTweet from @OfficialSF1Team: DIR was on new options, everybody else on used options. #F1 #PIRELLI

  • 07:35

    Webber's Red Bull has stopped off track, an odd position in a layby section. The Australian climbs from the car.

  • 07:36

    He's currently fifth, it may not be enough to see him through to the final session.

  • 07:37

    Kimi Räikkönen jumps up to P1, knocked down by Rosberg.

  • 07:37

    Hamilton tops them all with a 1:35.078. Webber is now down in eighth.

  • 07:38

    Webber's neat parking.

  • 07:39

    Three minutes late, the drivers had returned to the pit lane but are ready to come out for another shot at a flying lap.

  • 07:40

    Only Hülkenberg is out on track at the moment, but Vettel exits the garage, followed by many more.

  • 07:40

    Only the top three remain in the garage for now, Hamilton, Rosberg and Räikkönen.

  • 07:42

    In the drop zone, Ricciardo, Sutil, Pérez, Vergne and Maldonado. Grosjean hasn't set a time yet but he's on one now.

  • 07:42

    Chequered flagQualifying session 2 ends.

  • 07:43

    Vettel crosses the line second, Sutil improves but is knocked slowly down again.

  • 07:44

    Daniel Ricciardo has somehow managed to get his Toro Rosso up to ninth!

  • 07:45
    Qualifying Position
    11P Di RestaForce India
    12S PérezMcLaren
    13A SutilForce India
    14M WebberRed Bull
    15P MaldonadoWilliams
    16J VergneToro Rosso
  • 07:46

    Team radio to Jenson Button gets the rundown of who else is in the top ten. The Brit's reaction? "Ricciardo? Wow!"

  • 07:47

    The Webber problem has something to do with fuel. The radio messages at the time told him to save fuel, and he's had to stop because he either ran out or wouldn't have enough to give a sample at the end.

  • 07:48

    Interview with Valtteri Bottas: "Frustrating is the wrong word but I think it's a shame because we really had a chance to get to Q2. I can't make too many excuses, Pastor did and I didn't. I was surprised by the wind which has picked up since Q3, not a perfect lap. I think we were planning for us to do two runs, but as we saw there were no other cars running on track, we were going to delay it a bit, I don't know what happened but we missed the window to go for two times.

    "I think we have too many tyres for the race now because we should have gone through. We should have gone for it, it's easy to say now."

  • 07:50

    Interview with Mark Webber: "Lack of fuel pressure, so I couldn't get back and had to stop the car on circuit. Qualifying was over before it started, really."

  • 07:50

    Green flagQualifying session 3 begins.

  • 07:51

    Sebastian Vettel is out early again for this final ten minute session. He's got used soft tyres on the Red Bull car.

  • 07:52

    Team radio to Vettel asks him to come back into the pit lane before he sets a timed lap.

  • 07:54

    Vettel is pushed back into the garage, the only sign of life we'd seen this session has now gone.

  • 07:55

    Five minutes gone, five minutes left on the clock.

  • 07:55

    Tick, tock, tick, tock.

  • 07:57

    Rosberg is putting his gloves on!

  • 07:57

    It's a sign of the times that putting gloves on is a highlight of the session.

  • 07:58

    And thus, all the cars file out of the pit lane, it looks like all are on softs except Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel.

  • 07:58

    That would see Vettel and Button sacrificing pole (well, one of those two, anyway) for tyre strategy tomorrow.

  • 07:59

    QuoteComment from Lukeh: "I swear, if any of these drivers/teams complain about congestion"

  • 07:59

    TweetTweet from @OfficialSF1Team: so, now the action starts. soft tyres and time for only one flying lap. #F1

  • 08:00

    Chequered flagQualifying session 3 ends.

  • 08:01

    Räikkönen sets the first time of the session - 1:34.761.

  • 08:01

    Rosberg goes wide in the final corner, slips into second.

  • 08:01

    Hamilton crosses the line fastest, Alonso goes third.

  • 08:01

    Massa has a good second sector but can't put it all together, he goes fifth.

  • 08:02

    Only seven competitive lap times on the board, Button sets a super slow lap to move into eighth.

  • 08:03

    Vettel messed up his lap, going straight on at the corner, so he abandoned it and settled for ninth. Hülkenberg also did not set a time.

  • 08:03

    StopwatchPole position for Lewis Hamilton with a time of 1:34.484.

  • 08:04
    Qualifying Position
    1L HamiltonMercedes
    2K RäikkönenLotus
    3F AlonsoFerrari
    4N RosbergMercedes
    5F MassaFerrari
    6R GrosjeanLotus
    7D RicciardoToro Rosso
    8J ButtonMcLaren
    9S VettelRed Bull
    10N HülkenbergSauber
  • 08:06

    Button gives polesitter Hamilton a quick hug, the two on very different strategies tomorrow!

  • 08:07

    Interview with Ross Brawn: "Delighted, of course. It always takes a bit of time to settle into a team, but I saw this weekend, Lewis was beginning to gel with his engineers and understanding the car... It's still an upward slope, hopefully it hasn't stopped."

  • 08:11

    QuoteInterview with Sam Michael: "Jenson is the first runner on prime tyres. Eighth place on the grid is nothing to get excited about at McLaren, it was a strategic move to do the opposite of whatever Sebastian did."

  • 08:12

    TweetTweet from @GvanderGarde: Tough session.. Not where we want to be! Tomorrow it's a different story, we will keep working hard!! #F1

  • 08:14

    Interview with Daniel Ricciardo: "It's really nice to be back in Q3, it was nearly a year ago I was in the top ten. bahrain was the last time, good to be back. the first couple of weekends haven't gone to plan by any means... Just putting the session together, that's how we did it today. Yesterday was probably the best Friday we ever had, in terms of how we worked together as a team, and I think that showed today.

    "We're definitely planning [on finishing the race], we've started on the right foot. In FP2, we got nearly 40 laps, that's close to race distance. We're definitely going to try and see a chequered flag tomorrow, and hopefully points as well."

  • 08:16

    Press Conference Quotes - Lewis Hamilton: "Incredible feeling, so happy to have our first pole for some time. I'm just ecstatic really. The lap was great, the team performed well all weekend so far. I really hope we can carry that into tomorrow.

    "Obviously, in P3, Ferraris were very quick, didn't know where they would be in qualifying. We had good pace in Q1 and Q2, but that last lap is so difficult to get. We left it to three minutes to go, you've got to do the perfect outlap, the perfect lap to get yourself up there. I can't complain about the lap, so I'm really happy."

  • 08:17

    Press Conference Quotes - Kimi Räikkönen: "I think the gap is quite big still. We don't have the speed right now, second is not too bad. I think it's the best I've been with the team ever. Not too bad, but of course you'd rather be in first place, we don't have the speed, we're missing the downforce in the middle sector, but we'll see what we can do tomorrow."

  • 08:18

    Press Conference Quotes - Fernando Alonso: "Very happy, I think the weekend has been very good for us, the car felt competitive from Friday. This morning we made some changes, the car responded well. I think we have a good setup for the race, as well, which is more important than qualifying always. I think tomorrow we should be able to fight for the podium, hopefully with both cars, it's good news so far for the team."

  • 08:19

    Press Conference Quotes - Lewis Hamilton: "These tyres are very tricky this weekend.Making the option tyre last is almost impossible, there's probably going to be quite a short stint at the beginning. Everyone at the time, except for this guy on the right [Kimi Räikkönen], he seems to be able to look after them better than most people."

  • 08:23
    Gap Analysis
  • 08:25

    A difficult hour then, minutes of waiting followed by bursts of action. Some intriguing results to set up a good race for tomorrow.

  • 08:26

    Daniel Ricciardo's hunt for a chequered flag this year, starting well within the top ten. Hamilton and Räikkönen lining up on the front row together. Both Vettel and Webber with a lot of work to do.

  • 08:26

    All the attention is on the tyres for tomorrow, with the soft compound barely holding it together. Strategy will be key, as ever.

  • 08:27

    Do join me again tomorrow for the Chinese Grand Prix, where we'll find out who will be the winner of the third race of 2013.

All content in the series China 2013