Saturday, April 13, 2013

Not-So Shanghai Surprise: Hamilton Takes Pole for Chinese Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

Starting the 2013 Formula 1 season with two races on back-to-back weekends, the V8 engines of 22 powerful open wheel cars fell silent for a two-weekend break in the action. Hosting the third event for the 2013 tour, the Shanghai International Circuit is the sight for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Last year, Nico Rosberg secured for the Mercedes AMG team's first and so far only victory in China. For 2013, the racing organization seeks to repeat their feat with either Rosberg or the newly-added former World Champion Lewis Hamilton. On their way to the win in 2012, Mercedes captured pole for the Sunday event. In six of the previous nine Chinese Grand Prix races, the pole position was the path to first place across the line. Heading into the 2013 running of the Chinese Formula 1 race, qualifying possesses a historical importance.

Unlike the previous two qualifying sessions of the 2013 Formula 1 season, Saturday's time trials at the Shanghai International Circuit was entirely conducted on a dry racetrack. This led to the typical "watch and wait" strategy by major teams. In Q1, it wasn't until halfway through the session until a race car recorded a lap. With drivers swarming the 3.387-mile road course in the dying moment of Q1, the Mercedes AMG team topped the time chart with Lewis Hamilton leading teammate Nico Rosberg by just over a tenth of a second.

Hamilton retains the top spot after the Q2 time trial session wrapped. Fernando Alonso with Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull-Renault were the closest challengers to the leading Mercedes AMG driver. Notable developments in Q2 was the struggling McLaren team. Sergio Perez could do no better than 12th fastest on Saturday while Jenson Button needed to make a last minute effort to vault himself into sixth place at the end of the second session. After than the McLaren team, the Red Bull Racing squadron also experienced an off day in Chinese Grand Prix qualifying. With less than seven minutes remaining in the Q2 cycle, Mark Webber pulled his Red Bull-Renault off-track unexpectedly. Webber will be starting 14th for Red Bull Racing for Sunday's main event.

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

Maintaining the advantage he had in the previous two sessions, Lewis Hamilton locked up pole for the Chinese Grand Prix in Q3. Clocking a time of 1 minute, 34.484 seconds, Hamilton allows Mercedes AMG to opportunity to defend the event once again with one of their vehicles at the top of the starting grid. Lewis Hamilton is the only two-time event winner in China since the Formula 1 tour began holding an event at the Shanghai International Circuit in 2006.

Starting beside the pole-winning Mercedes will be Kimi Raikkonen driving for Lotus F1 Team. Raikkonen's time was less than three tenths of a second off Lewis Hamilton's pace. On the second row for the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix will be Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and the second Mercedes AMG car driven by reigning race winner Nico Rosberg.

Besides the troubles for Mark Webber's car, the Red Bull Racing team operated outside of their comfort zone in 2013 qualifying. Winner of the previous two qualifying sessions of the season, Sebastian Vettel chose not to log a lap in the final Q3 session. Vettel will start the Chinese Grand Prix in ninth place. The Red Bull Racing organization decided to place medium Pirelli tires on Vettel's race car before the end of Q3 in what appears to be a race strategy. According to Pirelli, the medium compound slick tires can run about twice the distance of soft rubber. McLaren has also elected to use a similar tire strategy for the race car Jenson Button. Button logged a slow lap in Q3 allowing the McLaren-Mercedes to start one position higher than Sebastian Vettel.

A 56-lap affair, the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix is slated to start at 3 PM local time (3 AM eastern time).

2013 Formula 1
Chinese Grand Prix
Qualifying Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault
3 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
4 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
5 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari
6 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
7 19 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
8 5 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
9 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
10 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber Ferrari
11 14 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes-Benz
12 6 Sergio Perez McLaren Mercedes-Benz
13 15 Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes-Benz
14 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault
15 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1 Renault
16 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
17 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
18 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari
19 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia Cosworth
20 23 Max Chilton Marussia Cosworth
21 20 Charles Pic Caterham Renault
22 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham Renault

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