Barcelona Qualifying: Rosberg on pole as Mercedes annex front row

Nico Rosberg will start the Spanish GP from pole

Nico Rosberg will start the Spanish GP from pole

This was Mercedes’ third pole in succession and two-in-a-row for Rosberg as once again the team from Brackley demonstrated they are without peer over one lap. Sebastian Vettel, third for Red Bull Racing and Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen, fourth, will take comfort from the fact that Mercedes have consistently faded over longer stints this season, proving uncompetitive in the long runs.

No-one has ever won a grand prix from off the first two rows at the Circuit de Catalunya but the partisan crowd, a sea of Fernando Alonso-supporting red will hope to see that statistic overturned, with the home favourite starting from fifth. He lines up on row three alongside the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa qualified sixth but will take a three-place drop on the grid for impeding Red Bull’s Mark Webber. Webber himself will start seventh, alongside McLaren’s Sergio Pérez. Massa slots into ninth with Force India’s Paul di Resta tenth.

Rosberg dominated Q3. He went out on track as soon as the pitlane opened and was the second man across the line, taking P1 and eclipsing the early benchmark set by the much-fancied Räikkönen.

Nico Rosberg celebrates winning pole for the Spanish GP

Nico Rosberg celebrates winning pole for the Spanish GP

Thereafter, Rosberg was never bested. Vettel opted to do only one run in Q3 and for a time looked like he might snatch a first pole at the Circuit de Catalunya, setting times faster than Rosberg in sectors one and two before fading toward the end of the lap and slotting into P2. That would soon become P3 as Hamilton made it an all-Mercedes front row. Rosberg, meanwhile, improved his time by a tenth, setting 1:20.718 as the new standard but the other pole contenders, Massa, Alonso and Webber could not get close to the mark.

Mercedes’ clear pleasure at a front-row lockout was tempered by a slight air of unreality: while supreme over one lap, the evidence of the last two races suggests they will struggle to live with the cars behind over a race distance – a notion endorsed by Rosberg in the FIA press conference following the session.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m very confident that I can go for the win tomorrow,” said the German driver. “No, the target needs to be a little bit less than that I think – maybe a podium.”

Nico Rosberg with Lewis Hamilton in parc ferme after qualifying

Nico Rosberg with Lewis Hamilton in parc ferme after qualifying

He did, however, suggest that Mercedes would not struggle to the extent they had in Bahrain, where conditions exaggerated minor failings.

Despite this, Vettel will no doubt feel confident after his third place, which is strengthened by his decision to run the entire qualifying session on medium tyres, leaving him a full compliment of the preferred hard compound tyres for the race.

“We had a pretty smooth qualifying session,” said the world champion. “Again, a little bit of a different approach than the majority of people – using option tyres only. Whether that helps us tomorrow we’ll have to wait and see. I’m happy with today’s result.”

Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing RB9

Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing RB9

Räikkönen said fourth was about the best he could have done in qualifying and expressed a belief that his car could move up in the race, a view echoed by Alonso. “I think this is the maximum of what we have at the moment in our hands,” said the Spaniard. “We know that the race pace is maybe a little bit better for us, so we need to wait for our opportunities tomorrow. We need to have a clean start, a good first lap, and then a good strategy, because tyre degradation will again be very high. I feel confident. The car felt good yesterday, I felt competitive. Historically Sunday has been our best day of the weekend, so no reason not to be on the podium tomorrow.”

Behind the Q3 runners it is Toro Rosso who seem to have fared best in the upgrade battle. Having looked strong throughout practice, the team from Faenza qualified 11th and 12th, with Daniel Ricciardo in front of Jean-Eric Vergne.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138 leads Felipe Massa

Fernando Alonso leads Felipe Massa into the pits

A disappointed Adrian Sutil was 13th for Force India, having struggled to find clean air in the last minutes of Q2. He is joined on row seven by Jenson Button, the 2009 Spanish Grand Prix winner struggling to get the tyres of his McLaren working to his liking.

Nico Hülkenberg was 15th for Sauber, and would have been alongside team-mate Esteban Gutiérrez but the Mexican picked up a three-place penalty for impeding Räikkönen. That drops him behind the Williams, both of whom failed to get out of Q1 – though Valtteri Bottas has the consolation of out-pacing last year’s winner Pastor Maldonado – and Giedo van der Garde, who had an excellent day for Caterham. Jules Bianchi will line up 20th for Marussia, ahead of team-mate Chilton, with Charles Pic last after struggling to find balance in the upgraded Caterham.

Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying – 11 May 2013

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:21.913 1:21.776 1:20.718 12
2 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:21.728 1:21.001 1:20.972 12
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:22.158 1:21.602 1:21.054 12
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:22.210 1:21.676 1:21.177 17
5 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:22.264 1:21.646 1:21.218 12
6 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:22.492 1:21.978 1:21.219 12
7 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:22.613 1:21.998 1:21.308 16
8 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:22.342 1:21.718 1:21.570 12
9 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.116 1:21.790 1:22.069 13
10 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:22.663 1:22.019 1:22.233 17
11 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:22.905 1:22.127 14
12 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:22.775 1:22.166 12
13 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:22.952 1:22.346 12
14 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.166 1:22.355 9
15 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:23.058 1:22.389 13
16 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:23.218 1:22.793 15
17 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:23.260 9
18 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:23.318 9
19 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:24.661 6
20 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:24.713 6
21 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:24.996 6
22 20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:25.070 6
Q1 107% Time 1:27.448

 

  • stewy33

    Grats Mercedes, now you can be a moving chicane during the 1st stint in the race.

  • johnpierre

    this really should be be a great race. yes, history says that the front row is the place to be, but with the current tires and the top four teams so close i am willing to bet that this year we will see history not repeating itself. merc is fast, but will those tires last? will vettel not in clean air be as fast as he was in bahrain? kimi looks really fast. and fernando is always threat where ever he starts. amerf1can.com

  • Tamburello_1994

    How long will those tires last, Merc?

  • F1 Neutral

    It’s really nice to not see a comment from Alonso_is_slow

    He’she is usually spouting nonsense on here. I suppose he/she would look pretty stupid, as 5th isn’t slow …. really.

  • Alonso_is_slow

    Speak of the devil and he shall appear! Blazing before you in the fires of hell!
    5th! Ha! Pathetic!
    The Ferrari is by far the fastest car ever built, the problem is that Alonso couldn’t drive a golf cart if he tried.
    Excuse me I have to go, my boyfriend is calling me.