F1 2013 Chinese Grand Prix: Hamilton’s challenge to win in Shanghai
PUBLISHED: 20:50 13 April 2013 | UPDATED: 10:33 14 April 2013
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton bids for his first victory for new team Mercedes in the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix after bagging pole position in Shanghai qualifying.
The 28-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 star from Hertfordshire went fastest in Q3 with a qualifying lap of 1m 34.484s around the Shanghai International Circuit today (Saturday).
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who won in China last year, qualified in fourth place and will start from the second row of the grid.
Both Mercedes drivers completed just one run on the soft compound option tyre in each of the three qualifying sessions.
Red Bull’s reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel didn’t post a time in Q3, but will start on the medium tyre, suggesting a long first stint, and pitstop strategy could ultimately decide who takes the chequered flag in China.
Hamilton said: “The guys have just been working away, pushing really hard, and I’m so pleased for everyone back at the factories and here at the track that I’ve been able to deliver my first pole in a Silver Arrow.
“It would be great to convert the position in the race tomorrow [Sunday] but it’s going to be a challenge and we’re realistic about how tough the race will be.
“The soft tyres don’t last for very long, and with a couple of quick guys starting on the mediums, it’ll be interesting to see how the race plays out. I’m looking forward to it and will give it my all.”
Stevenage-born Hamilton finished top of the timesheets in every session in qualifying and secured pole by just over two-and-a-half tenths.
2013 Chinese Grand Prix stats
* Race distance: 56 laps (305.066km/189.568 miles)
* Start time: 15:00 (local)/07:00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 5.451km/3.387 miles
* 2012 winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes W03) 56 laps in 1hr 36m 26.929s (189.778km/h)
* 2012 pole: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes W03) 1m 35.121s (206.301km/h)
* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m32.238s (212.749km/h)
Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen will line-up alongside Hamilton on the front row on Sunday, with Fernando Alonso qualifying third for Ferrari.
A delighted Hamilton said: “Pole position is a great result for us today [Saturday] and to achieve it in my third race for the team is such a good feeling.
“I had to make sure the radio was off after my engineer told me I had pole because I was so excited! None of us expected this level of performance at this stage of the season and it’s a real bonus.”
Rosberg qualified in fourth place, despite losing time in P3 this morning with a hydraulics problem. Nico said: “A very good team result today and P4 is a decent grid position for me.
“I wasn’t able to do my qualifying simulation this morning due to the hydraulic problem which was a bit unfortunate. So I needed to catch up through the qualifying sessions and find my way.
“I took some settings from Lewis for the initial set-up which worked out well. I made a small mistake at the last corner on my lap in Q3 which cost maybe a tenth and a couple of places.
“But I’m in a good position for the race and we’ve worked a lot on the race performance this weekend so I hope we can gain some places tomorrow.
“It’s going to be an interesting race with some of the guys starting on the medium tyres so let’s see what happens.”
2013 Chinese Grand Prix qualifying result
Provisional grid positions (top 10 only)
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
4 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
5 Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
6 Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
7 Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)
8 Jenson Button (McLaren)
9 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
10 Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber)
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn was delighted to see Hamilton fastest in qualifying after Rosberg took pole – and then the chequered flag – in China 12 months ago.
“A great qualifying session for us today and all credit to Lewis, Nico and the team for a strong performance,” said Brawn.
“It’s a nice reward for all the hard work both here at the track and back at our factories in Brackley and Brixworth over the winter and in the last few weeks as we continue to develop the car.
“However, there are no points gained on a Saturday as they say and there is a tough job ahead of us tomorrow to convert our qualifying positions.
“It’s going to be a fascinating race from a strategy and tyre perspective, so we will wait and see how it plays out.
“Congratulations to Lewis today on his first pole position in a Silver Arrow, and to Nico for achieving fourth place and the second row despite losing his qualifying simulation this morning.”
Mercedes director Toto Wolff added: “We’re really happy about our pole position today at the Chinese Grand Prix, which the team achieved for the second year in a row.
“Lewis’ performance was excellent and Nico also did a great job to qualify in fourth place following a hydraulic problem which prevented him from completing his qualifying run in practice this morning.
“Today’s results are a nice reward for everybody at the team who have worked so hard during the winter to develop the F1 W04 into a competitive car.
“However, we will not get ahead of ourselves with this result as we expect an interesting race which will be decided by the different tyre strategies.
“A few competitors have chosen to qualify on prime tyres to run a longer first stint instead of the options which we and most of the runners used in Q3.”
Jenson Button beat then McLaren colleague Hamilton to second place in China last year. However, Button will start from eighth on primes in Shanghai on Sunday.
Button said: “Our aim was to be the first prime-tyre runner on the grid – even if it meant qualifying 10th – and we did that. This was the best we could do with what we have.
“Nevertheless, I think we should be very happy with our qualifying performance: we don’t really have the pace of the front-running cars yet, but finishing seventh in Q2 was really satisfying. And to out-qualify both Red Bulls in Q3, and with a two-minute lap, was amazing!
“All the guys in front will be starting on grained soft-compound tyres, and I think we’re going to see the high-fuel graining on the soft that we saw in practice yesterday [Friday], so it’s going to be an extremely interesting race
“The first 10 laps tomorrow are going to be eventful; if I can get a good start, I’ll hopefully be able to find some clear air in front of me, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Mercedes at Chinese Grand Prix
* Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has led 78 of a total of 168 laps (46%) in the past three years in China.
* Mercedes-Benz is the most successful engine manufacturer in China, with four wins in the past five races.
* Shanghai has a medium Safety Car risk, with deployments in one third of the nine races so far.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh also feels Button can challenge from eighth.
He said: “We believe that tyre choice in the race could be decisive, and feel that starting Jenson on the prime gives us a very strong strategy for the race.”
The 2013 Grand Prix of China starts at 8am on Sunday.
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