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Nico Rosberg (1:35.121) posted a dominant lap time early in qualifying for the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix that won him his first career pole and Merecedes its first since 1955. Though Lewis Hamilton’s time was second fastest, Michael Schumacher will make it a Mercedes front row due to a gearbox penalty for the British driver. Rosberg managed to emulate reigning champion Sebastian Vettel, sitting in the garage as his rivals remained unable to close on his time at the end of Q3. Vettel, constantly looking to rest upon his laurels after setting a moderately fast time ended up knocked out in Q2 as teammate Webber went fastest of all at the end of that session. Kobayshi, and Raikkonen completed the fastest five times. Q1 used rather a lot of soft tyres and shook up the typical order as multiple teams took the gamble to lose a set of tyres in favor of getting out of the first session. Though Vettel did look to be in some danger (ending that session only fifteenth fastest), Vergne joined Caterham, Marussia, and HRT in the knockout zone.

Hamilton led two of the three practice sessions, the first on Friday morning (1:36.106) in cold and damp conditions and the last on Saturday morning (1:35.940) in dry and occasionally nearly sunny conditions. Friday afternoon, the Briton still dominated much of the session with a quick lap time, but a late session surge from Schumacher (1:35.973) put the German on top of the timesheets. Both McLaren and Mercedes were powerful during all three practices, with Schumacher and Rosberg in the fastest five in all three practices. Button fared not quite so well as his teammate, but did not also suffer the same five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Throughout all three generally uneventful but gripless sessions, Ferrari languished in slower times from both Alonso and Massa. Interestingly, it appeared that only McLaren and Mercedes bothered with the typical late FP3 quali runs, as most of the rest of the field settled in for race pace simulations to the end.

Q1:
The sun stopped peeking through the smog as the twenty minutes of Q1 got underway. There was no rush, as Di Resta led the drivers out for the first session of the knockout qualifying, more than a minute into the session. Quickly thereafter a third of the drivers got going with the hint of rain possible but unlikely. Five minutes into Q1, Di Resta (1:38.190) set the first time, only to have Massa beat it. The Red Bull and Mercedes drivers still remained in the garage, but every other driver was on track to set a time. Early times soon shook out, with Hamilton (1:36.763) and Button taking an early lead. Vettel’s first lap put him third fastest while Webber still lacked a time.

However, his first lap (1:36.682) put him fastest, as Hamilton, Kobayashi, Vettel, Schumacher, Button, Raikkonen, Perez, Maldonado, and Alonso completed the top ten at halfway. Meanwhile, Petrov, Kovalainen, Pic, Glock, de la Rosa, Karthikeyan, and Rosberg were in the knockout zone, all having set times. Rosberg’s first faster lap put him seventh fastest as Vettel wondered if his time were enough to keep him moving forward to Q2. Most drivers were back in the garage with eight minutes to go, as Vergne joined Caterham, Marussia, and HRT in the knockout zone.

Massa used the softer tyres as he rejoined, looking well in danger of getting knocked out in sixteenth. Nearer the top, Schumacher went fourth fastest with just over six minutes remaining. Only he, Rosberg, Di Resta, Hulkenberg, Massa, and Kovalainen were on track at that time. Massa went fastest of all in his first sector on the soft tyres while the stewards informed the world that Maldonado and Kovalainen had come under investigation for blocking by the Venezuelan driver.

Grosjean, Senna, Di Resta, and Hulkenberg joined Massa on the soft tyres as the Brazilian went fastest of all, but only by just over a tenth. Other than Massa, the top eight remained in the garage with four minutes remaining. Kovalainen and Petrov (nineteenth and twentieth fastest) were still in the garage. Di Resta joined Massa at the top, going second fastest, while Button also joined the fray. Alonso in fourteenth also pulled the trigger on the soft tyre while the order at the top got shaken up by the six tenths gain on the softer tyre. With two to go, Vergne remaine din the knockout zone. Alonso had dropped down to seventeenth, but went fastest, only to be supplanted by Perez. With all this use of softs, Vettel dropped to fifteenth while still in the garage. Button, Hamilton, Schumacher, Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Rosberg, and Vettel had no way to get back out.

As the seconds ticked down, Vergne was unable to improve and did not make it across the line before the flag flew. In the end, Perez (1:36.198) led Alonso, Grosjean, Maldonado, Massa, Di Resta, Senna, Webber, Button, and Hamilton as the top ten in a messy order due to rather a lot of used soft tyres. All times were well within the 107% rule.

Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Jean-Eric Vergne
19. Heikki Kovalainen
20. Vitaly Petrov
21. Timio Glock
22. Charles Pic
23. Pedro de la Rosa
24. Narain Karthikeyan

Q2:
There was again no rush to start off the second, fifteen minute, session of qualifying, as nearly two minutes passed before Kobayashi set off to post a time. Quickly thereafter, Raikkonen and Perez joined him, as did Alonso and Rosberg all on soft tyres. Obviously, the Japanese driver set the first time (1:35.962), but he was soon supplanted by Raikkonen, then Rosberg. Alonso was the slowest of the early men to set times, until Di Resta’s time came in slower than the Spaniard’s. Rosberg was the last out, with just nine minutes remaining. Times continued to come in as the minutes ticked down.

At halfway, the cars were back in the garage with Rosberg (1:35.725) leading Schuamcher, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Vettel, Button, Perez, Webber, and Alonso as the top ten. Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Senna, Di Resta, Massa, and Grosjean (without a time due to a bad final sector) were in the knockout zone. Vettel wondered if his time was enough, but his engineer noted that he would have to go back out, adding that the more important question was if they should continue on those used tyres or try a new set.

Only the Red Bulls (sixth and ninth) were on track as the final five minutes began, then Alonso joined them. Only those in the knockout zone or on the bubble were out with four to go, as Kobayashi and Perez joined them a minute later. Still, Ricciardo and Grosjean remained in the garage. Hamilton went back out, as did Vettel, Button, and Webber with two to go. That left only the Mercedes drivers and Raikkonen resting on their laurels. Alonso moved up to sixth fastest with time for just one more lap. Massa moved up to tenth moments later. There was much movement within the knockout zone, but little movement to get outside it. Massa looked safe as drivers continued to be unable to improve, but for a fast lap from Perez going third fastest and dropping Massa to eleventh. In the end, a final fast lap from Webber (1:35.700) put him fastest over Rosberg but more importantly knocked Vettel out. The German was behind him on track and did not improve his time. Webber led Rosberg, Schumacher, Perez, Kobayashi, Hamilton, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Button, and Alonso as those moving on to Q3.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Sebastian Vettel
12. Felipe Massa
13. Pastor Maldonado
14. Bruno Senna
15. Paul Di Resta
16. Nico Hulkenberg
17. Daniel Ricciardo

Q3:
Raikkonen kicked off the ten minute fight to pole in Q3, followed by Rosberg a few seconds later. Just four drivers were circulating two minutes into the session as others held onto soft tyres. Schumacher, Rosberg, and Raikkonen all had an extra set, but Hamilton was also on course to post a time in case it rained, though the forecast indicated that it would not. Raikkonen’s first lap (1:35.898) was quickly bettered by more than seven tenths by Rosberg. Schumacher slotted between them, only to have Hamilton supplant him as second fastest as the sky continued to darken.

Webber joined them with barely more than five minutes to go. The others remained in the garage at halfway. As the top four returned to the garage, Perez left. Kobayashi was the next to venture out, as Button and Alonso left only Grosjean sitting out the session with three to go. Raikkonen also rejoined. All but Rosberg, who was out of his car, were out at the clock hit two minutes remaining. Webber managed only fifth fastest on his first lap. Perez went sixth fastest in the final seconds with enough time for another lap. Webebr gave up from fifth, pitting at the end. Button’s first lap was his only one, giving him sixth. Kobayashi popped up to fourth as Alonso slotted into ninth. Hamilton’s lap was well off Rosberg’s time, as was Schumacher’s. The final laps were not enough to close on Rosberg’s time, giving the young German his first ever pole while sitting in the garage just like Vettel in 2011. It is Mercedes’ first pole since 1955.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix:

  Driver Team Time Laps
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.121 11
2. Lewis Hamilton* McLaren 1:35.626 14
3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:35.691 13
4. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:35.784 13
5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:35.898 15
6. Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.191 16
7. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:36.290 14
8. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:36.524 17
9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:36.622 17
10. Romain Grosjean Lotus no time 15
11. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:36.031 11
12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.255 14
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:36.283 14
14. Bruno Senna Williams 1:36.289 14
15. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:36.317 14
16. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:36.745 14
17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:36.956 14
18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:37.714 8
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:38.463 9
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:38.677 7
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1:39.282 10
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1:39.717 10
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:40.411 7
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:41.000 10

*to be assessed a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race start

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  • Brian

    With the race pace of the Mercedes being down a bit on the rest of the pack, dare I say Koba can take this one!!?!?!?!?!?!?!

    • mark h

      Are we talking, in effect, about a grid as follows…

      Koby
      Kimi
      JB
      Webbo
      Hamilton?

      That would be quite something. Of course in a non-DRS world, the opening stint of the race – at least – would have been utterly barnstorming.

      Ho-hum.

  • Tony

    Nico – great Q lap – well put together and executed, deserves a Pole at last, although as we ALL know these days, the race pace is going to be VERY VERY different.

    DRY:
    Kobi up the inside of Schumi takes them both out.

    Hamilton up the inside of button, and through to the lead, Button rescues 2nd.

    WET:
    Schumi for the win.

  • F1Sommelier

    You have a lot of drivers starting the race from positions they’re not use to, therefor my prediction is a pile up at turn 1.:-)
    Finally Nico’s Bar Mitzvah.

  • Last2.LateBrake

    Whats the over under on how many grid spots the mercs loose before drs enables?

    I kid…

    I think nico will not get his win here. I’m hoping for Bonzai Kobi personally

  • RoDe

    The Schumi fan in me hopes he wins. But Kobi being a great guy I actually hope he wins. That would be spectacular.

    I will tell you one thing I’m watching the start with one closed

  • raceviper13

    I think Kamui is going to take this one.

  • Tony Greene

    Koby in P1 by Turn 1. After that? Only Fangio knows.

  • anti vettel

    i hope vettel finishes on the last place and then red bull kick him out of the season.
    greedy selfish asshole

  • Bernie Ecclestone

    i hope vettel ends up on the 18th place , and red bull racing must definitely sack this greedy asshole.

  • Juan Manuel Fangio

    what do you think of the tux that sebastian vettel whore on the fia gala in new delhi?
    nice belt .

  • Konstantin

    Question: so Hamilton had a fitted a new gearbox for quail? So why does the 5 grid place penalty come in effect on Sunday?

    • Jack Flash (Aust)

      The 2012 FIA Sporting Regulations stipulate that, just like they have done in the recent prior years.

      Excerpt from FIA 2012 Sporting Regs:
      —————————————–
      Section 28) SPARE CARS, ENGINES AND GEARBOXES

      Clause 28.6) For the purposes of this Article only, an Event will be deemed to comprise P3, the qualifying
      practice session and the race.

      Subclause a) Each driver may use no more than one gearbox for five consecutive Events in which his team competes. Should a driver use a replacement gearbox he will drop five places on
      the starting grid at that Event and an additional five places each time a further gearbox
      is used.
      Any replacement gearbox must be fitted with the same gear ratios that were declared under d) below and will only be required to complete the remainder of the Event in
      question. Any change to the gear ratios declared under d) below will incur a further five grid place penalty. In either case a new five race sequence may start at the following Event.
      Unless the driver fails to finish the race (or is unable to start the race for reasons other
      than a penalty imposed by the stewards) the gearbox fitted to the car at the end of the
      Event must remain in it for the remainder of the five race sequence. Any driver who
      failed to finish the race at the first, second, third or fourth of the five Events for reasons
      which the technical delegate accepts as being beyond the control of the team or driver,
      may start the following Event with a different gearbox without a penalty being incurred.
      A gearbox will be deemed to have been used once the car’s timing transponder has
      shown that it has left the pit lane.

      ———————————————-

      All laid out in FIA regs print. Hope that helps answer all.
      JF

    • Jack Flash (Aust)

      For reference the FIA Sporting and Technical Regualtions can be found at this FIA website link:

      http://www.fia.com/EN-GB/SPORT/REGULATIONS/Pages/FIAFormulaOneWorldChampionship.aspx

      On this page, the regualtions for F1 in 2012, including Appendices to mains regs, and Driver licensing and Mediacal exams are here.

      Also, the 2014 Technical Regulations are there in first release, as passed by FIA council in Jan.

      Lots of really great bedtime reading!!!! ;-)
      …but seriously, the refs do help figure out all the nuances of F1 (champonship codes, car design rules, testing, practices, parc ferme, and racing). JF

  • Clutchless

    Congrats to Nico “Super Diffuser 2.0” Rosberg or maybe I should call him Brawn 2.0. I will have a little more adoration for him if he finishes on the pole tomorrow but that will not be the case.

    If you are going to get the FIA to sidestep the rule book for you at least put it on a part of the car you can use ALL the time.

    I don’t even think a MB will finish on the pole tomorrow.

    1 – RAI
    2 – BUT
    3 – WEB
    FO: PIC

  • Konstantin

    @Jack Flash thanks but I think I didn’t phrase it correctly. He replaced the gearbox for the whole weekend. Ok. We all know he has a 5 grid place penalty. Ok. So why was he sitting in the press conference as 2nd in quali? He is 5 places down through out the whole weekend not just for Sunday. It is very misleading.

    • Changing_conditions

      It’s not really that confusing, the reason he was sat in the press conference was because he qualified 2nd. Every time a driver gets pole or a win it is classed as provisional until the FIA/stewards sign off on the event. Meaning cars and drivers are checked. If they had to wait for all the checks had been done before the driver can take his podium or sit in a press conference, it would be a rather dull drawn out affair.
      Plus I think with heath & safety and Trading standards, goevenment officals tick all the boxes eager beavers crawling over every sufface, do we really need them touching our sport.

    • Jack Flash (Aust)

      Lewis Hamilton qualified second for the 2012 Chines GP. He registered the second fastest time for P2. That is why he took his place at the Post-Quali presser.

      The FIA will keep the records that LH qualified second in their official records. However, just like every post Qualification inspection period in parc ferme, there will be applied penalties emerging out of that time, or previous times in the weekend (like this LH gearbox case), that will affect the Starting Positions on the Grid for the Race.

      The FIA apply such penalties for the Race Grid on race day. JF

      ps: After conlcusion of the race weekend if you check out the FIA official records of timings, placing, laps, tyre use, car audit sheets, and parc ferme inspection reports at their Media Centre page; you’ll see the mechanisms of how FIA do things regard Penalties like this.

  • Steven

    I’m sorry, but, who is this vettel guy? He seems to be moving up the grid lol

  • Steven

    @konstantin because penalties apply for the race. With the transmission rule though they can run whatever transmission they want, but if they replace it for the race the incur the penalty. And,.Lewis still qualified 2nd, regardless penalties he still had the 2nd fastest time

  • dude

    Unless it rains, I’m guessing it’ll be either of the McLaren for the win, probably Lewis. One Merc in podium.

    Big Kobi fan here, but realistically, if he can get 5th or 6th would be good for the car’s performance. I don’t think the result in Malaysia will be repeatable easily. He also isn’t quite good as keeping tires as well Perez, I’ve notice in many races he struggles near the end when the tires are worn.

    • Brian

      I think theres a chance. I noticed the same thing with his tire wear (KK was the reason I started watching F1), but I think that usually stems from his more aggressive style when passing others. Since he’ll likely won’t be making as many difficult passes, Im holding out faith he can convert this to a podium.

  • F1Champ

    Schumi should remove the cap before putting on the helmet (pic). Maybe that cost him 0.5 to nico during the quali…

  • Sigster

    I want to see a new winner almost every race.

  • Changing_conditions

    You know sometimes I hope schumi gets a podium finish, I even hope he gets to win a race. I mean after all, he has carried a lot of flack and criticism since his return to F1, but then watching him in the press conference. I kind of lost that hope and rolled my eyes at the way he congratuated Nico.
    Schumi “He’s known as a good qualifier and no reason [for me] to be unhappy. The opposite: happy for him for his [first pole].”

    You could not help but note how he emphasized the words “First pole”. In fact in he sat back with his hands behind his head and said. “I can’t remember my first pole, but I have 68 to remember” I wouldn’t be surprised.
    I hope Nico manages to win the race and gets to bathe in the glory and respect you get from winning.
    But would always welcome a Mclaren 1-2 ;p