April 14, 2012

F1 Quals: China 2012

The 2012 F1 season to date has hinted that it was on the verge of deserving its own nickname.  2011 was Vettel's Year.  2009 was Bizarro Season.  After today's Quals for the Grand Prix of China, I hereby declare 2012 as The Season Of Wackiness.  Here's the provisional grid for the race:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.875 1:35.725 1:35.121
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.763 1:35.902 1:35.626
3 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:36.797 1:35.794 1:35.691
4 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.863 1:35.853 1:35.784
5 Kimi Räikkönen Renault Lotus 1:36.850 1:35.921 1:35.898
6 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.746 1:35.942 1:36.191
7 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.682 1:35.700 1:36.290
8 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.198 1:35.831 1:36.524
9 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:36.292 1:35.982 1:36.622
10 Lettuce Grosjean Renault Lotus 1:36.343 1:35.903 no time
11 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.911 1:36.031
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.556 1:36.255
13 Pontiff Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:36.528 1:36.283
14 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:36.674 1:36.289
15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:36.639 1:36.317
16 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:36.921 1:36.745
17 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:36.933 1:36.956
18 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:37.714

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus Caterham 1:38.463

20 The Red Menace
Lotus Caterham 1:38.677

21 Tim O'Glockenspiel Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.282

22 Charles ToothPic Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.717

23 Pete Rose
HRT-Cosworth 1:40.411

24 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:41.000


Q1 107% Time
1:42.931

Nico Rosberg has long been thought to possess a surfeit of talent.  For the whole of his career, however, he's hidden his light under a bushel.  To be sure, he's had five podiums, including a 2nd place in 2008's GP of Singapore, but that doesn't match the predictions made for him.  He's certainly never had a pole position.  Until now.  He turned one hot lap in Q3, then parked his car in the garage and let everybody take shots at him... and nobody really came close.  So not only does Rosberg earn his first pole position, and Mercedes their first pole since St Fangio the Quick did it in the 1955 Italian Grand Prix, he earns the pole and still has a completely fresh set of soft tires for the race to boot.  The past two races, the Mercedes W03 has shown great pace in Quals, but fades away during the race... are we going to see the same tomorrow?  We'll find out tomorrow, obviously, but this seems... different.

With Lewis Hamilton dropping to 7th after his gearbox change penalty, Slappy Schumacher makes it a front-row lockout for the Silver Arrows.  It's good to see Gandalf Kobayashi sitting in third with Mumbles Raikkonen right behind in fourth as well... unexpected, but good.  Really, to be honest, the entire top 10 looks like someone just picked positions at random.  How cool is that?

The big news is what happened in Q2.  Two-time World Driver's Champion Seb Vettel set a time, then put his feet up in the garage and had a danish, confident it would hold up and get him through the knock-out session.  As his time slowly moved down the grid, there was no panic or even reaction... save to get another danish.  Then suddenly, there were a couple of minutes left and Vettel was 11th.  He made it onto the track and even got to turn a hot lap, but to no avail: he'd been knocked out.  He's actually been on pole here in China for three consecutive years before this.

Here's a stunning thought... if either Mercedes driver wins on Sunday, there'll be amazing reactions.  Either a driver gets his first ever win... or Slappy gets his record-extending 92nd win.  I'm not sure which I'd rather see.  God help me.

It's gonna be a helluva race tomorrow!  See ya then.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:11 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 617 words, total size 18 kb.

1 So let's assume for argument's sake that the f-duct really is helping the Mercedes cars. Given that it's keyed off the activation of the DRS system, doesn't it make sense that the cars will run faster in quals (when they can drop that hammer whenever the track straightens out) than in a race (when they can only do it on one part of the track, and that for overtaking only)?

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at April 14, 2012 12:39 PM (GJQTS)

2

It does indeed make sense.  But does it make a half-second worth of difference?  They say KERS gives a 3/10th of a second advantage over the course of a full lap over a car unequipped with it.  I find it unlikely that the f-duct is making that much of a difference, plus more besides.  Know what I'm sayin'? 

There's every chance in the world you've got the right of it, Av.  It just doesn't smell right.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 14, 2012 01:17 PM (OS+Cr)

3 KERS is another device which is of limited utility - you only have so much "go" juice allowed per lap. But it's the same utility on race day that it is on Saturday.

You're right, I'm not saying that the f-duct is the only thing that put Rosberg on the pole. Heck, Schumacher had one and he was a half-second behind Rosberg! Just a command performance out there either way.

And Kobayashi! We know that Perez has the mojo, after last week. But Kobayashi qualifying fourth, and both Saubers over both Ferraris? If they can get race performance like this, we might have five teams honestly competing for the championship this year, and that would be -fantastic-.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at April 14, 2012 01:57 PM (GJQTS)

4 Av, I did carefully specify a KERS-equipped car vs one without the KERS unit.

I'll be honest, I'm not so surprised about who is in the top 10 as who isn't.  This is like the first time Vettel didn't make it to Q3 in what, a couple of years?  That's without wrecking or otherwise having the car fail on him, of course.  In this case, the car worked perfectly well, he just didn't go fast enough.  I wonder if the sticky brake from P3 had something to do with it?

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 14, 2012 05:03 PM (PVVuW)

5 If Kobayashi wins, I'll buy his moe-moe nendroid figurine.

Posted by: Pete at April 14, 2012 05:58 PM (5OBKC)

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