April 13, 2013

F1 Quals: China 2013

As I mentioned yesterday, Friday Practice sessions for Formula 1 almost always consists of two things: cars turning lots of laps, and cars turning lots of laps.  Not to be outdone, Saturday Quals almost always consists of a decreasing number of cars turning lots of laps.  Here's the grid for the 2013 Grand Prix of China:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.793 1:35.078 1:34.484
2 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:37.046 1:35.659 1:34.761
3 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:36.253 1:35.148 1:34.788
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.959 1:35.537 1:34.861
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:35.972 1:35.403 1:34.933
6 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:36.929 1:36.065 1:35.364
7 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:36.993 1:36.258 1:35.998
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.667 1:35.784 2:05.673
9 Hannibal Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.537 1:35.343 No time
10 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.985 1:36.261 No time
11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:37.478 1:36.287
12 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.952 1:36.314
13 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:37.349 1:36.405
DSQ Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.148 1:36.679
15 Pirate Captain Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:37.281 1:37.139
16 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:37.508 1:37.199
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:37.769

18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.990

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:38.780

20 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.537

21 Charles ToothPic Caterham-Renault 1:39.614

22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:39.660


Q1 107% Time
1:42.498

In the 20-minute long Q1 session, we didn't see a car on track until nearly the half-way point.  See, here's the problem... the tires Pirelli has brought to China are the Medium and the Soft compounds.  We already know that the Mediums last forever, but we haven't seen the Softs until this weekend... and HOOBOY, do the teams have a conundrum.  See, they have nearly a 1.5 second time difference over the Mediums... but they last for about two hot laps before they die screaming, and that's when the cars are light on fuel.  With a full 300lbs of gas on board?  They might make it to the end of the pit lane before they fall off... it depends on where your pit box is located.  Since the teams know that they've got to use a set of these jelly-filled donuts during the race... well, you can see why they weren't out there, pounding out the laps.  Almost nobody bothered taking the covers off the Mediums in Q1... what's the point?  Kill off the Softs in Q1, maybe you'll get to Q2. 

In the 15-minute Q2 session, again people didn't come out until the session clock had been going for a while.  Again, the jelly-donuts were the rule of the day, and everything looked to be as boring as Q1 until we saw this sight:

While he had managed to set a time, Mark Webber couldn't make it back to the pits.  The team called it a "fuel pickup problem."  Yes, the problem was that there was no fuel for the fuel pickup to pick up.  A problem with the fueling rig left him about six pounds of gas short of the planned amount.  A dumb mistake, but it happens.  However, the Stewards take a dim view of that during quals, as cars have to present one liter of fuel to scruitineering after the session.  Webber wasn't able to do so: no fuel left.  So the Stewards DQ'd him from Quals.  While he was 14th, he'll be starting from the back of the grid on Sunday.  I'm absolutely sure that there aren't any conspiracy theories flying around about how Red Bull  "accidentally" shorted Webber for his anger after the last race.  None whatsoever.

Then came Q3.  Hannibal Vettel was first out, but didn't set a time and never moved from the garage again.  McLaren's Jenson Button went out and drove the entire lap with his turn signal blinking... a 2:05.673 was the result, as he tiptoed around, taking care of the rubber.  Those two will be starting on the Mediums; everybody else is on the Soft rubber.

So the race is going to be one of alternating tire strategies: most will go Soft Medium Medium.  Most will be going Medium Medium Soft.  From where I sit, that seems to be the best plan... but that's why they race the race, isn't it?  It's supposed to be dry and warm on Sunday, we'll see you then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 05:32 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 Mercedes sure is turning out to be a pleasant surprise. They seem to have gotten the cars right, and they have good drivers. Certainly they're going to be competetive this year!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 13, 2013 07:03 PM (+rSRq)

2 A-yup.  Last year, they moved into the Big Leagues, but I never really thought of them as a serious contender for anything more than podiums and the very occasional win.  Fourth or fifth of the big five teams, depending on how well Lotus did that race, y'know?

Not this year.  This year, any of the Big Five (Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, Lotus) could win the Constructor's title.  I think it's going to be a fight between Ferrari and Red Bull, but it wouldn't surprise me if any of them won it. 

Well, maybe Lotus.  I'm not sure I really take them seriously yet.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 13, 2013 09:30 PM (9jITs)

3 There's some adversity that one just cannot overcome.

Posted by: Pete at April 13, 2013 09:36 PM (RqRa5)

4 The question with Mercedes isn't how they start the season, it's how they manage the development race over the course of the season.  In the past, midseason development has been their weakness, throughout the last 3 years as Mercedes and even back to 2009 as Brawn GP.  They started that year in dominating fashion, but ended up just barely clinching the championships because they did poorly at developing the car.  I'm withholding judgement on their true form until at least half way through the season.

Posted by: flatdarkmars at April 14, 2013 12:08 AM (I55Es)

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