Notebook – Chinese Qualifying

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Sebastian Vettel has pipped his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen by less than a tenth of a second to take pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix. The Mercedes drivers struggled to have answers for the pace of the Ferrari.

Pole Lap – S, Vettel

Sebastian Vettel comes across the track as he goes to the outside for the multi-apex turn one and two, he keeps the speed going before breaking as he nears the apex. Says at a steady speed before dipping down and around the apex of three, Vettel then opens up the car as he goes through five.

Breaks around eighty metres before going to the outside crosses the track before running through the mid part of seven and then breaks into turn eight. Which he takes perfectly as well as nine, he gets a good exit going to the inside hitting the kerb.

Good entry and exit which is very important from thirteen, around the apex then to the centre where he opens up the car. He then goes for the outside along the 1,170 metre back straight. Breaks a 100m before the hairpin and stays on the outside, turns in then back to the outside.

Curves his way back to the inside then goes and hits the apex of sixteen, going to the inside and crosses the line with a 01:39.009.

Mercedes blame tyres for underperformance

Mercedes have blamed their underperformance on not being able to manage tyre temperatures. I think Mercedes underperformance has been a real surprise this weekend, they were comfortably beaten by both Ferrari’s who locked out the front row.

Speaking after the session CEO of Mercedes Motorsport Toto Wolff boss told Sky Sports “We’re lacking grip, and you can fall out of the window by the tyres getting too hot, or by the tyres being too cold. The two extremes like we had in Bahrain. I think this is what happened. I think it’s a tyre issue.”

Wolff admitted, however, that Mercedes would have to seek out some answers as to why Ferrari was so strong.

“They’ve been really strong all day, already in the morning,” he said. “Qualifying performance, they put one on top. Tomorrow it’s expected to be much warmer, so I hope that we’ve done the right thing set-up-wise and we’ll have better pace in the race than Ferrari.”

These tyre problems are not new for Mercedes, we saw them last year he team struggle to get the tyres in the correct operation window, and they haven’t achieved that target of resolving that problem.

Ferrari’s strange performance – Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton says that Ferrari’s performance in very different circuits is “very strange.” Mercedes were beaten in a straight fight by Ferrari in Bahrain and on Friday it looked as if Mercedes had the upper hand on pace, as Hamilton looked to edge out Kimi Raikkonen.

However in qualifying the silver arrows slipped to half a second behind the prancing horses. Ferrari locked out the front row as well and Hamilton had to settle for fourth, behind his teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Asked how much of a concern Ferrari’s consistency is, Hamilton replied: “Right now I’m not really thinking about the Ferraris, I’m trying to understand why we don’t have the pace. For some reason their car is working everywhere. It’s very strange.

“You go to Bahrain where it’s very hot and we would expect Ferrari to be strong, but they are even stronger than we expected. But in the race, we actually weren’t too bad, which wasn’t expected.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff compares the situation to last year, when the team struggled to get the softest of Pirelli’s compounds to work, however, it would be the opposite problem because the car isn’t generating enough temperatures.

He said “If we are in the sweet spot, the car is very fast. We have seen occasions more than Ferrari where the tyre drops out because it is too hot, or drops out because it is too low.

“Is that inherent to the car? I don’t know. Maybe it is trickier to get it there, but maybe its peak performance is also superior to our competitors if we get there.”

Ricciardo surprised

Daniel Ricciardo says he was surprised to have taken part in qualifying after a turbo failure during third practice. The Red Bull drivers were forced to stop out on track during the session, and the team recovered the car just in time to get out in Q1.

The Australian said “I was obviously prepared [to qualify] but didn’t really expect it,” Ricciardo said. “With about half an hour to go, I went in to see the engineers and said how are we looking? They said it’s going to be very tight, get ready, but sorry if it doesn’t happen.

“Obviously it was really close and that was literally as quick as we could have got out. We definitely weren’t doing it for the cameras. It was cool to get out there and very happy to have got it done for the boys as well.”

While he qualified sixth behind the rest of the top five drivers,  Ricciardo said his patience is being tested with Red Bull’s Renault engine.

“This is the second time in seven days Ricciardo has had issues with an engine component after he suffered an energy store failure in Bahrain which forced him into a lap two retirement.”

Ericsson gets a grid penalty

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson has been handed a five-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix. The Swede was on his flying lap, when his teammate Charles Leclerc spun at the last corner.

Ericsson steered around the other Sauber and completed his lap, and was judged by the FIA not to have slowed sufficiently.

After being called to see the stewards, it was deemed that he had broken the rules and was handed a five-place penalty, which won’t affect his starting position as he qualified last anyway.

As well as the grid penalty, Ericsson has been given three penalty points on his licence, moving him up to five points in total for the past 12 months.

Haas off the mark

Haas has been one of the stand out performers in the last two months, however, they struggled in qualifying. I believed that this would have happened as we moved more into the European season, but we are at a very different circuit to Melbourne and Sakhir.

Romain Grosjean said “The engineers changed quite a lot on the setup last night to give me a better feeling in the car, which was great to have today. So, I’m really pleased with all of that. I was very pleased to get through to Q3. Our position in Q3 is not ideal.

“On the last lap, we didn’t have the grip we had earlier on in the session. We just need to analyse that and make sure we understand why. We’re starting on the ultrasoft, and everyone behind is going to start on the better tire (the soft), but we can work from there.”

I think that Haas’s problem is straight line performance this weekend but the team was strong during testing. Its then would be a bit surprising as the team performed well in similar conditions in Barcelona testing.

Race Prixview

Looking at the performance from qualifying and the first two races of the season, I believe that Ferrari has just enough to win this race unless we see a wild change in track conditions. This is surprising as we believed going into this weekend that Lewis Hamilton would be good here.

You still can’t count Hamilton out because of his record in China, but if Ferrari breaks the DRS activation time that could become more difficult. Overtaking is possible in Shanghai, but in practice long run pace if also a strong point of Ferrari!



Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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