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GP Week : Issue 218
QUALIFYING backed now with what is a far stronger engine while has allowed both Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson to challenge for points at the first two races of the season. To see them ahead of the Toro Rosso's though was unexpected. The junior Red Bull team has typically shown itself to stand shoulder to shoulder with its bigger brother so far this season but in qualifying the best Verstappen could manage was still two tenths off the unaccpetably slow time set by Kvyat. Mercedes is fast over a single lap but less so over a full race distance. It still has margin but certainly not the better part of a second Hamilton enjoyed over Vettel in qualifying. It's expected to be in the region of two or three tenths of a second, and with Ferrari much kinder to its tyres on long runs could make for some sweaty palms on the Mercedes pitwall towards the end of each stint. At Mercedes, it appears Rosberg is back on form. That could well prove critical for the German team as it looks to fend off a resurgent Ferrari - if not in qualifying then certainly when it comes to race pace. 2015 FORMULA 1TM CHINESE GRAND PRIX 56 LAPS ROUND 3/19 << Last Race – Malaysia Two Weeks Ago 1 Next Race – Bahrain >> Next Weekend 2015 FORMULA 1TM CHINESE GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING CLASSIFICATION 1 – Lewis Hamilton joins Michael Schumacher, Juan-Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna as the only men to take 5 pole positions at a single circuit, in taking his 41st career pole and 75th front row start this weekend. It is also his 3rd consecutive pole in Shanghai. That said, it is the 2nd straight pole this season in which Hamilton has been on pole by less than a tenth of a second – he was ahead by just 0.074s over Vettel in Malaysia, and here it is Nico Rosberg that got within 0.042s. 2 – For Rosberg this is only his 2nd time starting in the top-3 on the grid in China (after his pole in 2012). There is a gap of 0.863s separating the Mercedes drivers from the rest of the field, the largest for any team in a dry qualifying session since they managed a gap of 0.885s at last year’s Spanish GP, a race in which they finished 1-2, 49 seconds ahead of the field. Malaysia GP winner Sebastian Vettel starts 3rd, just as he did here last year. Believe it or not, Vettel has a run of 3 consecutive top-4 starts for the first time since he won the 2013 world championship. 3 – Felipe Massa’s 4th place is his best in China since 2008, and he and Valtteri Bottas have put Williams in the top-5 on the grid in Shanghai for the first time since the inaugural race here back in 2004. Sixth-placed Kimi Raikkonen has won more Grands Prix from outside the top-5 on the grid than any F1 driver in history (6), while Daniel Ricciardo has his worst start of 2015 in 7th place. 4 – Romain Grosjean has reached Q3 at every race this year but is still pointless since Monaco last May, while Sauber were able to celebrate getting both cars into Q3 for the first time since the 2013 United States GP. While Pastor Maldonado hasn’t qualified as well as Grosjean this year, he’s still not started lower than 12th in 2015, whereas last year he only qualified 12th or higher once (Austin). 5 – Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat was knocked out in Q2 for the 2nd time in 3 races this year, matching his record from last year with Toro Rosso, while Max Verstappen has his worst start so far in 13th, albeit outqualifying Carlos Sainz. Force India haven’t been present in Q3 at the last 9 races, and Nico Hulkenberg suffered a Q1 elimination, something that had only happened to him once in the previous 2 seasons combined (Belgium 2014). 6 – Mclaren are yet to progress from Q1 this year, which is highly embarrassing considering that by this stage last season even Caterham had managed it. Jenson Button was 15.4km/h (9.6mph) slower than Hamilton in the speed traps, but he edged the intra-team battle with Fernando Alonso by just 0.004s. For Alonso, this is the first time he’s started outside the top-10 here, and he looks certain to lose his distinction of completing every scheduled lap of ever Chinese GP ever held. 7 – At the back, Manor Marussia were not only within 107%, but Will Stevens’ Q1 time of 1:42.091 was 0.236s quicker than the team’s best laptime from the 2014 weekend, set using the same chassis and engine. 20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> CHINA PARTNERS: