Tag Archives: Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton takes last-gasp pole position in Spa

Lewis Hamilton has taken a surprise pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix.

While it appeared until the dying minutes that Paul di Resta would take the top spot, the changing conditions meant that the Mercedes driver could unseat the Force India, preventing their first pole position since Belgium 2009. Here is what happened:

Q1

With rain falling 20 minutes before the start of Q1, intermediates were equipped on all 22 cars.

The times tumbled throughout the session, with 10 seconds being shaved off the fastest time in the final few minutes. As the track became drier, the Marussia drivers and Giedo van der Garde opted to take on slick tyres, which paid off immensely. Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton were 11th and 16th, while Giedo van der Garde took an unlikely 3rd place after being the last driver to set a time on the improving track.

However, this left a few bemused drivers at the back of the grid. Both Toro Rosso drivers, along with Pastor Maldonado, Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez and Charles Pic were all knocked out in the first session. Pic also took on the dry tyres, but was held up at the weighbridge, and was unable to set a fast time.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

17) Pastor Maldonado – 2:03.072

18) Jean-Eric Vergne – 2:03.300

19) Daniel Riccardo – 2:03.317

20) Valtteri Bottas – 2:03.432

21) Esteban Gutierrez – 2:04.324

22) Charles Pic – 2:07.384

Q2

As expected, the three backmarkers filled the grid spots from 14th to 16th, but all 3 were pleased with their personal best qualification finishes.

With the track dry in Q2, the best Giedo van der Garde could manage was 14th, with Bianchi and Chilton behind.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:49.088

12) Adrian Sutil – 1:49.103

13) Sergio Perez – 1:49.304

14) Giedo Van der Garde – 1:52.036

15) Jules Bianchi – 1:52.563

16) Max Chilton – 1:52.762

Q3

As 9 drivers sat at the end of the pit lane before Q3, rain began to fall once again. They all scrambled to set a fast time before the track dampened, but were forced to pit for intermediates, as the rain fell harder.

The last remaining driver – Paul di Resta – had quietly emerged from the pits, 30 seconds after everyone else, equipped on the inters. The rest of the paddock could only watch in shock as Di Resta grabbed pole position – or so he thought.

Force India believed that the rain would keep falling, and so pitted Paul, confident that pole was theirs. As the other drivers hastily rejoined the track on wets, they were unable to match Di Resta’s time in the wetter conditions. Nico Rosberg got the closest, but he was still half a second off the mark.

To Force India’s surprise though, the rain clouds slowly cleared, paving the way for a crazed finish to Q3. Rosberg then thought he had provisional pole secured, but within a matter of seconds found himself in 4th place. Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and then Lewis Hamilton all set blinding lap times, with the Mercedes driver eventually on top.

A bemused Di Resta finished 5th, ahead of the two Lotuses and two Ferraris. Hamilton and Vettel share the front row once again, and we are set for a stunner of a race tomorrow.

 

2013 half-way driver rankings: 4th – 1st

In the last of 3 articles, I rank this year’s F1 drivers based on their performances in the first 10 races.

We are left with 4 drivers, each driving for a different team, which shows just how spoiled we are for driving talent these days. Without delay, here’s the driver in 4th place:

4th – Fernando Alonso

Previous ranking: 1st

Previous quote: “In 9 years of watching F1, this [2012 season] was the closest thing to perfection I’ve ever seen.”

Had Fernando Alonso reached his peak in late 2012? It’s a question I refused to believe at the start of this season, but slowly I can see why this may be the case.

Flawless victories in China and Spain demonstrate what he can do when the car is on form. Spirited drives in Australia and Canada earned him praise as well. But we’ve also seen uncharacteristic errors from the Spaniard – a bizarre decision to stay out with a broken front wing in Malaysia cost him a potential podium finish.

Making the error of activating his broken DRS wing in Bahrain forced a second unscheduled stop, ruining any chance of a good result. As well as this, we have seen Alonso become more visibly flustered by Ferrari’s incompetence at building a consistently competitive car. A rift in the team grew over the summer break, fuelled by comments from Luca di Montezemelo, criticising Fernando for turning on his team.

None of this has helped his 2013 challenge in the slightest. It also puts him under pressure as to his drive for the 2014 season – should he switch to Red Bull or Lotus, or continue to try with a team that can’t fix a wind tunnel after 3 years of failure?

At this point, there’s no correct decision. All he can do for now is push on track, and try to close the gap to Sebastian Vettel as much as possible. But the title may already be out of reach, thanks to his early-season errors.

3rd – Lewis Hamilton

Previous ranking: 2nd

Previous quote: “If Hamilton can transform Mercedes like Schumacher did to Ferrari, he will go down as one of the best drivers of the modern era.”

3rd place in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix confirmed what many had hoped over the winter – Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes was indeed the right call. More than that, we are seeing inspired, confident drives from the Brit more than ever.

Coping with a car that proved erratic under braking and suicidal when it came to tyre wear, two podiums in Malaysia and China were also very impressive, with his first Mercedes pole position to boot. Losing out in the pit stops in Monaco cost him another excellent finish.

Once he got to grips with the W04, wins were just around the corner. To everyone’s surprise, he calmly converted a pole in Hungary into a win, and I feel he could have done it even with Vettel unhindered by backmarkers. More superb victories in 2013 are expected, naturally.

Any poor finishes were the fault of the car, not the driver. The two Pirelli tyre massacres – Barcelona and Silverstone – threw him out of podium-finishing places. If it weren’t for these, he would have finished in the top 5 at every single race. With himself and Kimi Raikkonen both on form, there could still be a surprise winner to the 2013 season.

2nd – Sebastian Vettel

Previous ranking: 4th

Previous quote: “I still think that he was out-performed by other drivers on the grid.”

His unsporting antics in Malaysia earned him criticism, but in my mind it has cemented Vettel as a true racing driver. No triple world champion would throw away a victory like that – drivers like Hakkinen, Senna and Gilles Villeneuve have done the exact same.

His 2013 campaign is already shaping up to be one of his best – flawless performances are a standard for him these days. Of course, he is assisted by the Red Bull RB9′s stellar pace, but what world champion won their title in a Minardi? Sebastian has proven himself, once again, to be more calculating, more tactical and overall faster than his disillusioned teammate.

If it wasn’t for a gearbox failure in Silverstone, he would have finished in the top 4 at every single race. Such consistency is what we’ve come to expect from the triple world champion, and we’ve seen so much of it that perhaps we’re used to it. Perhaps that’s a good and a bad thing, but at the end of the day, Vettel is as ferocious a racing driver as ever.

1st – Kimi Raikkonen

Previous ranking: 3rd

Previous quote: “Raikkonen did a hugely impressive job this year, establishing himself as one of the sport’s finest drivers.”

It’s easy to appreciate Vettel’s stellar streak of wins across multiple seasons. But Raikkonen’s string of second-placed finishes is perhaps even more impressive, considering the speed difference in the cars they drive.

This year’s Lotus is reliable and consistent on the tyres, but lacks overall pace. The fact that such a car can be dragged to 5 2nd-placed finishes in 8 races is proof of Kimi’s impeccable racecraft. A win in Melbourne was earned with supreme tactical finesse, surprising many inside and outside the paddock.

Where the E21 has failed, it has tended to drag Raikkonen down with it, but I doubt any other driver could do much better. But even where his car was clearly off the pace, we still saw tremendous racecraft from the Finn, with Monaco being the prime example. After falling to 13th, Kimi pulled off three impressive passes on the final lap to snatch 10th place.

Such consistency has earned him the record for most points finishes in a row, with 27 being his current streak. It’s impossible not to recognise this kind of racecraft, and that’s why I’m tipping Raikkonen to be the surprise victor of the 2013 championship.

Who can catch Sebastian Vettel in 2013?

We are now halfway through the 2013 season, and Sebastian Vettel again holds a commanding lead in the championship – a sizeable 38 points over nearest rival Kimi Raikkonen.

But if the form of the first half of 2013 is anything to go by, we’re in for an unpredictable battle all the way to the end. Let’s have a look at the drivers who will take the fight to the Red Bull:

Kimi Raikkonen

Gap to Vettel: 38 points

Finishing form in 2013: 1-7-2-2-2-10-9-5-2-2

To say that his return to F1 has been a success would be a massive understatement. Kimi has been on the pace from the get-go, and has shown nothing but sheer determination and speed every time he’s out on track.

What holds him back though is the team itself. Lotus is bearing the brunt of severe overspending in recent years, and they have shown to be unpredictable when it comes to car development. A temporary slump from Monaco to Silverstone hurt Raikkonen’s chances of making steady progress, and it remains unclear whether Lotus can keep up to Red Bull in the development race.

The E21 can be described as “erratic” when it comes to performance between races – track temperature impacts on their car moreso than others, and this tends to make or break their race weekends before they even begin.

But when the car is on the pace, so is Kimi, every single time. The emergence of Romain Grosjean as a more reliable teammate may also come in handy, as the team may opt to use him as a tactial tool to delay his rivals. If Raikkonen is to win the championship, it won’t be by out-pacing the Red Bull, rather by clever tactics and strategy.

Fernando Alonso

Gap to Vettel: 39 points

Finishing form: 2-DNF-1-8-1-7-2-3-4-5

Rumours of a rift in the Ferrari garage wouldn’t be unrealistic – Alonso has been unhappy with the pace of his Ferrari for some time now, and he can only do so much with the 3rd fastest car.

Like Raikkonen, Alonso is being forced to put more pressure on his team to achieve results, but Ferrari’s leadership has struck back, claiming Fernando should put the team before himself. This has produced a rather worrying situation where Fernando may lack the support from Ferrari in order to win the title.

To make matters worse, Alonso is not the faultless driver he was last year. A bizarre decision to stay out with a broken front wing cost him a Malaysian Grand Prix finish, and Fernando made the mistake of accidentally activating his broken DRS wing in Bahrain, despite having just pitted to have it fixed down.

It’s clear that he has been rattled by years of chasing the apparently unassailable Vettel, and it is now a case of whether Alonso will jump ship altogether, or continue to fight with Ferrari. Despite being a fan, I can’t see any realistic chance of the Ferrari/Alonso combination catching Sebastian in this form.

The next 2 races are expected to suit the F138 though, so if we are to see any late-season charge, we will have to see Fernando perform well in Spa and Monza.

Lewis Hamilton

Gap to Vettel: 48 points

Finishing form: 5-3-3-5-12-4-3-5-1

Only a week ago, I assumed that the 2013 title battle was a 3-horse race. It seemed impossible that the tyre-melting Mercedes could possibly mount a charge. But mount a charge it did, in the searing heat of Hungary no less. Lewis Hamilton is now equipped with the best car to take down Sebastian Vettel, but is it too late?

A 48-point gap is by no means unassailable – look at what Fernando Alonso managed after Silverstone 2010. But the fact that Red Bull are so strong in the second half of the year is the biggest issue. Tackling Vettel at the power circuits – Spa, Suzuka and Austin – will be Hamilton’s biggest test.

Another factor will be Lewis’ reliability – we know all too well what happens when Hamilton goes off the rails, and to do so in 2013 would be catastrophic. I feel that he still lacks the precision driving that Raikkonen excels in, and this could be the difference between becoming the champion and crashing out at the decisive moment.

Lewis has progressed in leaps and bounds in the last 2 years, but it remains to be seen whether he can tackle his major weakness in 2013.

Lewis Hamilton takes first victory for Mercedes at Hungarian Grand Prix

With his first win for Mercedes now under his belt, Lewis Hamilton has now emerged as a serious title contender, taking a commanding victory in Hungary.

After his pole position yesterday, the Brit remarked that it would be a “miracle” if he could cling onto the lead by Lap 2. He did more than that though, stretching out a lead to his rivals during the race, and eventually cruising to the chequered flag.

At the start, Lewis got a clean start, while Sebastian Vettel was pressurised by Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg. Romain was squeezed off the racing line by the Red Bull, while Nico swiftly went backwards – clipping Felipe Massa’s front wing at Turn 5, and falling to 12th place. Grosjean then firmly held off Fernando Alonso, almost shoving him off the road to hold his position.

Up front, Hamilton and Vettel toyed with the DRS zone, but the Mercedes’ straight-line speed was enough for now. Grosjean kept the pressure on Vettel in the opening laps, but couldn’t get close enough to make a move.

It was expected that Mercedes would be forced to pit first, and there were few surprises when Hamilton pitted on Lap 10. He emerged behind Jenson Button, who would turn out to play a massive role in the development of the Grand Prix. Not wanting to be held up by his former teammate, Lewis executed a pass on the McLaren the following lap – which probably won him the race.

Like the race leader, Vettel also emerged behind Button, who had started on the prime tyres. However, Sebastian’s poor straight-line speed was to cripple his chances for victory, as while Hamilton sped away up front, the Red Bull languished behind an increasingly lacklustre McLaren. The same fate befell Grosjean, and the two could only watch as Lewis pulled out a 10 second gap.

A tense battle began to form, with Grosjean stalking Vettel, who in turn was watching Button’s pace carefully. Sebastian pounced first – on Lap 23, he pulled a brave move on Button at the unlikely spot of turn 4. Grosjean was eager to also put a move on Jenson, but whacked his wheel off the McLaren’s in the process, earning him an investigation by the stewards. Fernando Alonso, who by now had caught up to this battle, swiftly passed Button one turn later to continue his charge.

With possible wheel damage, Romain pitted on Lap 25 to check for any issues. He emerged behind Felipe Massa, and wasted no time trying to pass the Ferrari. While he pulled a fantastic move around the outside of turn 4, he had put all 4 wheels off the track while doing so, and suddenly he was under investigation again.

A few laps later, the Lotus driver was handed a drive-through for the Massa incident, while the Button clash would be investigated after the race. This scuppered any chances of a race win, but handed the advantage to his teammate, who had executed a 2-stop strategy plan to perfection.

Amidst the tense battles between Vettel, Grosjean, Button and Massa, Raikkonen had quietly used a longer second stint to leap into second place. He wasn’t the only one either – Mark Webber started on primes, and despite not making a single notable pass all day, he had crept up to 5th place, after temporarily leading the race earlier.

Annoyed after losing so much time, Vettel was forced to chase Raikkonen for second. But there was more than a slight chuckle heard in the Lotus garage soon after, after Vettel pitted from his second stop, and emerged behind Button yet again. Luckily, Jenson pitted within 2 laps, but even more damage had been done to the Red Bull’s chances.

After Vettel’s third pit stop of the day, he was left with 15 laps to close the gap to Kimi. With the advantage of fresher tyres, he quickly caught the Lotus, but passing it was another matter. Another tense battle ensued, with Sebastian having a look almost every single lap, but not being able to complete the pass. He had one final shot with 2 laps to go, trying to go around the outside of Turn 4, but Raikkonen slammed the door in Vettel’s face. In Kimi’s mind, this was payback for Sebastian beating him to the line in Germany the race before.

While it was mostly plain sailing for Hamilton in the second half of the race, there was a huge scare with 6 laps to go. Nico Rosberg, who had never really recovered from his first-lap shenanigans, suffered an engine fire and retired from the race. Worried faces were aplenty on the pit wall, but Lewis was unfazed, and took the chequered flag for the first time in 2013.

Raikkonen took second, as he does every time Hamilton wins in Hungary. Vettel was disappointed with 3rd, while Fernando Alonso just didn’t have the pace to keep up with the leaders in 4th. Romain Grosjean put the Ferrari under pressure in the final stint, but was held back. A 20-second time penalty for hitting Button negated any gains he would have made anyways.

Webber was 6th, Button 7th, Massa 8th and half a minute behind his teammate, Perez 9th, while Pastor Maldonado took the first point for Williams this season, although he was helped by Rosberg’s late retirement. Nico Hulkenberg was handed a drive-through penalty for pit lane speeding, so he could only manage 11th. Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t convert a good qualifying position into a result, and finished 15th.

The championship battle is now more interesting than ever. While Vettel now has a slightly better lead over Raikkonen and Alonso, he now must deal with the threat of Hamilton and Mercedes in time. The question is, can Lewis recover the 48-point deficit in time?

Hamilton scrapes unlikely Hungary pole position

After an entire weekend struggling with a car that was supposedly off the pace, Lewis Hamilton has enjoyed a sudden turnaround in luck, with a surprise pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes team languished in both Friday practice sessions, but were able to claw back the deficit to Red Bull and Lotus, with Hamilton and Rosberg taking 1st and 4th on the grid. A potential McLaren resurgence failed to materialise, while Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed another impressive qualifying performance.

Q1

Immensely hot conditions met the drivers on Saturday afternoon, with track temperatures approaching 50 degrees Celcuis for the entire session.

Esteban Gutierrez and Sergio Perez, both of which missed running in Saturday morning practice, were both able to compete. The Sauber driver locked up his tyres on several of his flying laps though, and qualified 17th.

Paul di Resta suffered another torrid session, and was knocked out of Q1 for the third time in 4 races. This time, the team were not to blame, as a simple lack of grip left the Force India sliding all over the track.

Caterham appeared to have pulled out a gap to Marussia over the 3-week break, with Pic and Van der Garde finishing comfortably ahead of Bianchi and Chilton.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

17) Esteban Gutierrez – 1:21.724

18) Paul di Resta – 1:22.043

19) Charles Pic – 1:23.007

20) Giedo van der Garde – 1:23.333

21) Jules Bianchi – 1:23.787

22) Max Chilton – 1:23.997

Q2

In a turn of events as shocking as the Pope announcing he’s a Catholic, Mark Webber suffered a KERS failure and electrical issue in Q2, ruining any chances of competing at the front. His final lap put him 7th, but the team were unable to fix his issues for Q3.

Searing lap times from Sebastian Vettel and the Mercedes duo dropped the lap times below the 1:20 mark, while further back the gap between 8th and 12th places was less than a tenth of a second.

Daniel Ricciardo did his chances of a Red Bull drive no harm with another Q3-reaching effort, alongside Sergio Perez, although Jenson Button didn’t do as well. Their last-gasp attempts put Adrian Sutil and Nico Hulkenberg out of the final session.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11)  Adrian Sutil – 1:20.569

12) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:20.580

13) Jenson Button – 1:20.777

14) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:21.029

15) Pastor Maldonado – 1:21.133

16) Valtter Bottas -1:21.219

Q3

Both Rosberg and Hamilton, as well as Alonso and Raikkonen, did their first Q3 laps on scrubbed soft tyres, resulting in their lap times nearly a second off Vettel’s pace. Mark Webber made no appearance in this session, the team deciding that his car issues negated any advantages to setting a time.

Sergio Perez set a very slow time, albeit on the medium tyre, giving him a strategic advantage for tomorrow’s race. Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo lined up ahead of the McLaren driver.

The top 6 all went for one last attempt in the final few minutes, all on new soft tyres. Oddly enough, despite going extremely fast in the first sector, both Rosberg and Grosjean were unable to unseat the Red Bull. Fernando Alonso took what would become 5th position, with Kimi Raikkonen one place behind.

Lewis Hamilton had played down his chances of a win earlier this weekend, but pole position was still in reach, as demonstrated with a 1:19.388 lap time – just 0.038 seconds faster than Vettel. The Red Bull driver will start from the dirty side of the grid, but watch out for Romain Grosjean in 3rd, who has looked threatening all weekend.

Hamilton scrapes pole position for German Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton endured severe pressure from Sebastian Vettel to take pole position at the Nurburgring.

Teammate Nico Rosberg was hugely frustrated to be knocked out in Q2, while Ferrari are taking up an alternate strategy for tomorrow’s race. Here is what happened:

Q1

Williams suffered a disastrous performance at their 600th Grand Prix weekend, with both drivers failing to make the cut.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

17) Valtteri Bottas – 1:31.693

18) Pastor Maldonado – 1:31.707

19) Charles Pic – 1:32.937

20) Jules Bianchi – 1:33.063

21) Giedo van der Garde – 1:33.734

22) Max Chilton – 1:34.098

Q2

Vettel’s 1:29.992 initially put him fastest, and indicated that the frontrunners were even faster than predicted. An impressive time from Romain Grosjean put him within 0.01 seconds of Vettel’s time.

The two Ferraris and Raikkonen soon knocked the Red Bull off its pedestal. However, the biggest shock of the session was when Nico Rosberg decided to stay in the garage, blinked, and found himself lying in 11th place. The Mercedes team were confident they would get through, but such was the pace of Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Button, Rosberg will start from 11th place.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Nico Rosberg – 1:30.326

12) Paul di Resta – 1:30.697

13) Sergio Perez – 1:30.933

14) Esteban Gutierrez – 1:31.010

15) Adrian Sutil – 1:31.010

16) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:31.104

Q3

With Rosberg out of the running, Hamilton was left to defend against both Red Bulls in Q3.

Both Ferraris and Jenson Button went out on the medium tyres, indicating that they didn’t feel that they were in the running. With Nico Hulkenberg opting not to set a time, this resulted in Daniel Ricciardo sealing an excellent 6th place on the grid.

A 1:29.622 for Vettel put him on provisional pole, with Hamilton soon retaking the lead. Webber’s first two sectors were faster, but a mistake at the end of his lap put him 3rd.

Sebastian’s final attempt put him a tenth ahead of Mercedes once again, but a stellar 1:29.398 from Lewis sealed his pole position. Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean didn’t have enough pace to challenge, and lined up 4th and 5th.

Hamilton storms to pole position for British Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has delighted the home fans by taking pole position for his home Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Mercedes have locked out the front row, with the Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber on row 2 ready to attack. Ferrari and McLaren has poor sessions, with Fernando Alonso only starting 10th, and neither McLaren making it into Q3.

Q1

In a dry but windy session, Mercedes were quick off the mark. A 1:30.995 by Hamilton was the quickest lap all weekend, and saw no response in the first session.

Ferrari almost suffered a huge embarrassment, with their drivers lying 14th and 15th. In particular, Felipe Massa remained in the drop zone until the final few minutes, only matching his teammate’s time despite being on the faster compound tyre.

Esteban Gutierrez was knocked out of Q1 for the 6th time in 8 races, while Pastor Maldonado’s final lap put Valtteri Bottas back in 17th place. While Max Chilton qualified 22nd, Giedo van der Garde will start from the back, after his 10-place grid penalty from Canada.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

17) Valtteri Bottas – 1:32.664

18) Esteban Gutierrez – 1:32.666

19) Charles Pic – 1:33.866

20) Jules Bianchi – 1:34.108

21) Giedo van der Garde – 1:35.48 1

22) Max Chilton – 1:35.858

Q2

Sebastian Vettel’s initial run in Q2 was 0.005 seconds faster than Hamilton’s Q1 lap – a signal that Red Bull were still in the running.

With an empty seat left by Webber at the end of this year, both Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo were keen to impress. However, Vergne ran wide on his final lap, and could only manage 13th, while Ricciardo made it into Q3.

Both McLarens were knocked out, taking only 11th and 14th places. Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen almost joined them, surprisingly, but both drivers scraped through.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Jenson Button – 1:31.649

12) Felipe Massa – 1:31.779

13) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:31.785

14) Sergio Perez – 1:32.082

15) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:32.211

16) Pastor Maldonado – 1:32.359

Q3

A 4-way shootout was on the cards, with both Mercedes and Red Bull duking it out in Q3. Mark Webber was first up, setting a 1:30.505, but this was quickly beaten by Nico Rosberg by almost half a second.

Hamilton then put himself on top, while Vettel’s first attempt only put him 4th. With a few minutes to go, Rosberg’s second flying lap was initially faster, until a blinding lap by Lewis put him 4 tenths clear of the rest of the field.

Vettel could only slot in front of Webber in response, locking out the second row.

Raikkonen and Alonso were the disappointments of the day, only managing 9th and 10th respectively. Almost unnoticed performances were done by Paul di Resta and Daniel Ricciardo, taking 5th and 6th places. Adrian Sutil was 7th, while Romain Grosjean marginally beat Raikkonen to 8th place.

Hamilton was ecstatic to take pole in front of his home crowd, but will he be able to hold off his 3 rivals behind?

Chinese Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton seals inaugural pole position for Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton has earned his first pole position of his Mercedes career in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Kimi Raikkonen will start alongside him on the front row, the first time he has done so since 2008. Fernando Alonso is 3rd, while the Red Bulls had a torrid session, struggling with fuel pressures and the option tyres. Sebastian Vettel is 9th, while Mark Webber drops all the way to 22nd after running out of fuel in Q2.

Here is what happened this morning:

Q1

Q1 saw a suspiciously slow start to the session, taking almost 10 minutes for a single car to venture out on track.

This was due to the option tyre being weaker than Pirelli had predicted, and teams feared they would only be good for one or two flying laps.

Eventually the Mercedes drivers set the pace, almost half a second faster than anybody else. Felipe Massa continued his good run of form,  finishing higher than teammate Alonso, while Webber and Vettel attempted to minimise the amount of time spent on track.

Jules Bianchi impressed again, running as high as 16th until the Toro Rosso’s final runs, but he was still within 0.7 seconds of Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

17) Valtteri Bottas – 1:37.769

18) Esteban Gutierrez – 1:37.990

19) Jules Bianchi – 1:38.780

20) Max Chilton – 1:39.537

21) Charles Pic – 1:39.614

22) Giedo van der Garde – 1:39.660

Q2

The second part of qualifying saw most of the focus on Red Bull. They started the session on scrubbed option tyres, landing them 5th and 8th places initially.

But disaster struck Mark Webber, who slowed to a halt at Turn 14 with a fuel pressure problem. It later emerged that Mark’s car was underfuelled, and he will drop to the back of the grid as punishment.

After a disappointing Friday, Sergio Perez was in for more bad form today, as he exited Q2 only 12th, while his teammate easily slotted into Q3.

Daniel Ricciardo impressed with 9th place, well ahead of his teammate, and the first time he has gotten into Q3 since Bahrain 2012.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Paul di Resta – 1:36.287

12) Sergio Perez – 1:36.314

13) Adrian Sutil – 1:36.405

14) Mark Webber – 1:36.679

15) Pastor Maldonado – 1:37.139

16) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:37.199

Q3

Again, it was a slow start to Q3, with only Sebastian Vettel venturing out on track in the opening minutes. However, he pitted soon after, indicating he was not about to set a fast lap in this session.

Nico Hulkenberg attempted the same strategy, while Jenson Button set a slow lap time on the primes to ensure he was to qualify ahead of the two Germans.

It was surprising to see two of the big names participate, but the other drivers weren’t so conservative. Kimi Raikkonen set the initial pace with a 1:34.7, but this was smashed by Hamilton by nearly 3 tenths of a second.

Nico Rosberg made a mistake in the final corner, and could only manage 4th, behind Fernando Alonso, who avoided being out-qualified by his teammate for the 5th time in a row. Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo went almost unnoticed in Q3, taking 6th and 7th respectively.

Obviously, Hamilton is in the best starting position for the win tomorrow, but he has some stiff competition breathing down his neck – Raikkonen, Alonso, Rosberg and even Vettel will also be in contention.

Team orders are ugly and unpopular, but they have to be made – and obeyed

The use of team orders by more than one major team this weekend has left a sour taste with many F1 fans. The fanbase is divided – at Red Bull, there are those who feel Sebastian Vettel should have respected the order to hold position, and those who claim that he should race as hard as he could, regardless of the situation.

In the case of the Mercedes team orders, things are more clear-cut. Nico Rosberg passing fuel-saving Lewis Hamilton would have had no adverse affect on the team’s standing in the championship, and it was a more “pure” outcome – if they weren’t teammates, Rosberg would have passed Hamilton easily.

I fully agree with those who argue that Nico shouldn’t have been held up, and that he deserved to take the podium spot. However, the fact that he still obeyed team principal Ross Brawn shows a degree of respect within the team, something that is not apparent at Red Bull.

If another team orders debate arises at Red Bull, neither driver will think twice about ignoring such an instruction from the pit wall. This might be fun to watch, but it raises huge risks for the team, and can destroy any professional friendship between the drivers and/or their bosses. Sebastian and Mark would do well to avoid a repeat of Turkey 2010 in the future.

Whether the fans like it or not, Formula 1 is a team sport at heart, and the team should always come first. Ferrari understand this, having ironed out any hope of a rivalry between Alonso and Massa in recent years. Meanwhile, the current constructors’ champions are faced with dealing with two ego-fuelled rebels, who will now lock horns on-track at the first opportunity. It doesn’t take a genius to calculate that Ferrari’s system is more consistent and safe.

Vettel’s ignoring of his team’s instructions has unraveled any remaining friendliness between himself and Webber, that much is certain. Compare this to Rosberg’s choice, which has gained him respect within the team, and by Hamilton. If such an issue arises again, both drivers should be able to deal with it in a professional manner which benefits the team. Red Bull have no hope of this.

This isn’t about adrenaline-fueled glory runs, or brazen chest-bashing. It’s about understanding that the team is more important than the individual driver, and how sacrifices should be made for long-term benefits. If a three-time world champion can’t comprehend this, the Red Bull have a serious problem on their hands.

Hamilton suffers brake failure and crash on first Mercedes test

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes career hasn’t gone off to the best start, as the Brit crashed out of the second test day in Jerez today.

The W04 failed to slow for the Curva Dry Sack – where Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve clashed in 1997 – and speared into the barriers, travelling as fast as 160mph before being slowed down by the gravel trap before impact.

Mercedes have confirmed that the shunt was caused by a brake failure. Hamilton had only completed 15 laps before the incident, and had only driven the new car today.

Lewis described the incident soon after:

"I just hit the brake and for a split second it was working and then the pedal 
just went straight down and wouldn’t work. I don’t know, I just had to brace for 
impact. This is what testing is all about, but of course we’d like to have done 
several days.

It’s disappointing for all of us here in the team because everyone worked so hard 
over the winter. We didn’t anticipate this but I’m glad we get it out of the way 
now so we don’t have to worry about it happening in the future."

After two days of testing, Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean have topped the timesheets so far. Instead of daily reports, an article summarising the 4-day session will be put up here after its conclusion.

Here’s a video of the incident: 

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