Chinese GP: qualifying report

Posted by topgear at 08:21 am on Sunday August 19, 2012

We don’t know about you but Nico Rosberg has never really looked like a Grand Prix winner to us and, even after what’s already being talked about as a perfect lap to give the 21st Century Silver Arrows their first pole, we’re still not sure he does.

Nico certainly didn’t act like it. What might have seemed a sure-fire way to spook his rivals – his team-mate especially – looked childish. If you are going to get out and park your car early Nico, utterly confident that nobody can beat your lap, hang around with the team, pretend to look at other’s times, crunch data. Don’t go and hang around in the weighing room so all the others have to say ‘Well done Nico, for sure that was an astonishing lap…’. It just looks kind of needy.

And you will have your work cut out, Nico, if you are going to convince us that you are a winner. You are truly in the lion’s den there. Alongside you, if only by virtue of Lewis Hamilton’s five-place grid penalty, is your team-mate Michael Schumacher, last year’s fastest man off-the-starting-grid by a mile. And he’s going to be doubly-miffed that it’s you Nico, that has given Mercedes’ its first pole position since 1955. That wasn’t the plan.

And talking of men with a lot to prove, behind you, again thanks to Lewis’s demotion from the front row, is Kamui Kobayashi proving, what with team-mate Perez in eighth, that the Sauber is a properly fast car. Perez has become the man of the moment, but Kamui wants the spotlight back. And oddly enough he did it by adopting the minimal style of his team-mate, while Perez seemed to be drifting it more, Kamui-style. Go figure?

Also going for first lap glory is one Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified fifth and starts fourth. It’s been another tricky weekend for Lotus but come qualifying it went according to plan for the returning champ. We said before that the Lotus E20 was the third quickest car and we stick by that, maybe adding the caveat “equal” to account for the Sauber’s pace.

It is certainly quicker than the Red Bull RB8. Mark Webber could only manage seventh (an off-form Button and Hamilton’s penalty means the top four run as Rosberg, Schu’, Kamui and Raikkonen) and Vettel…?

Well, eleventh. Yes, the reigning and double world champion failed to make the cut for the final 10 places for the first time in over three years. There are real problems with the Red Bull RB8. It is not just that it’s not got the Mercedes Double DRS (the extensive plumbing for photographed here for the first time by German publication Auto Motor und Sport, coincidentally the alma mater of Mercedes racing boss Norbert Haug…), but both cars are running slightly different exhaust systems this weekend as the team flails around trying to win back the exhaust-gas leveraged advantage it largely invented only to see it banned. Neither configuration seems to work that well.

Predictions for the race? There’s no evidence that Mercedes has found a solution for its tyre appetite. And Lewis, although confident of his car, has never won from lower than fourth. Leaving us with Kobayashi or Raikkonen. Are we serious? Just remember, Malaysia is all we’ll say.

TAGS// formula one, f1, shanghai gp

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