For the first time since the 1950s, the front row of a grid has been locked out by a Mercedes works team.
Nico Rosberg scored a dominant pole in Shanghai, and because Lewis Hamilton's second-placed McLaren must move back five places, the sister W03 of Michael Schumacher will race teammate Rosberg to the first corner on Sunday.
"I feel sorry for Lewis but it's good for us," smiled Schumacher.
The Brackley based team, however, is not getting carried away, after the 'double-DRS'-assisted car fell away in the races in Australia and Malaysia, collecting just a single point for the German squad.
Team boss Ross Brawn spoke therefore of caution, with Schumacher agreeing: "There's certainly a question mark over whether we can keep our positions from qualifying but we'll try our best."
Meanwhile, it is the first time a Rosberg has been on pole since the 26-year-old's Finnish father Keke started from the front of the grid in the 80s.
"It was an exceptional lap from Nico — he's not had a great first couple of races," Brawn told the BBC. "We saw today what he can do."
Hamilton's penalty will also move Kamui Kobayashi up to third place, as the Japanese driver emphasized Sauber's progress by setting the fourth quickest time.
Sebastian Vettel was a long shot for a fourth consecutive Shanghai pole, but the double champion, running a different exhaust specification on his Red Bull to Mark Webber, was 0.3s slower than his teammate in Q2, but that was the difference between first and 11th on the close grid this session.
Mark Webber (7th, 1:36.290): "The Q2 lap wasn't bad, but I didn't get the Q3 lap together as I would have liked. It's a bit all over the place with pulling a lap time together on the soft tire, but I would have liked to have finished a row further up. The 1m35.7 in Q2 was a good lap, but I maybe tried to eek a bit too much out in Q3. It's frustrating. We know we have a good race car, so it will be interesting to see how it unfolds tomorrow. It's very close and we'll keep pushing."
Sebastian Vettel (11th, 1:36.031): "There was no problem with the car, but I couldn't get the final few tenths. I was happy with the laps I did in Q2, but they weren't quick enough and we couldn't make it in to Q3. We have a long race ahead of us tomorrow and the car did feel good, so in terms of race pace we should do better tomorrow. We weren't fast enough and we have to accept it. We start from P11 tomorrow and see what we can do from there."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "An ultimately disappointing qualifying. Having looked quick and competitive on the hard tire, it was a shame for Sebastian to miss Q3 by a very small margin. Mark topped the times in Q2, but then unfortunately he couldn't repeat that lap in Q3, so we are P6 and P11 on the grid tomorrow, after Lewis' penalty. It wasn't our expectation, but the top ten has quite a different shape to it here, so it should make an interesting race."
Cyril Dumont, Renault: "Of course disappointing today, we saw that in Q2 it was pretty tight, we had eleven cars separated by three tenths. Unfortunately we were eleventh with Sebastian, who missed out on Q3 by only about 500ths I guess , so it's disappointing. I also think it's a disappointing for Mark, as he couldn't repeat his Q2 lap in Q3. So, Mark will start in P6 with Hamilton's penalty. We have the two Mercedes in front of us, which don't always have the best race pace, so we can still have a good race tomorrow, as we normally have good race pace."
Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 1:35.626) * Hamilton will demoted five grid positions for a gearbox change: "Very big congratulations to Nico [Rosberg] today. We first met back in 1997 and were team-mates in 2000. We've been good friends ever since. When we were team-mates, we always dreamed of qualifying first and second together in Formula 1 – and it's crazy that we did that today. Looking at the race, we've got a good car but I'm going to have to work my way up through the field tomorrow. But as long as I move forward in the race, I'll be happy. I've set my car up to be at its strongest in the race. So, although Jenson and I are a little bit further back than we'd like, and we've got a bit of work to do, we can still make it. There's a good group of drivers ahead of us on the grid, but we're right with them in terms of race pace. This is a track where you can overtake, and we've got DRS too – so I'm massively excited about tomorrow."
Jenson Button (6th, 1:36.191): "In Q1, we went out on the softer tire and put a lap on it when most of the other teams didn't. In Q2, I felt I had too much understeer, so we made a few adjustments for Q3. However, I could feel the temperature dropping in that final session: I think we just went out a little too late. Of course, that's a little bit disappointing, but our race pace seems to be very good. It's going to be tricky to get heat into the front tires if it's cold tomorrow though – but then that's not unusual for me. But that's the way it is and I hope we can have a good race from fifth on the grid. Our aim will be to go for victory. That won't be easy, but we ought to be as quick or quicker than most of the cars in front of us in the race. The unusual one is Kamui [Kobayashi], who seems to have very good long-run pace."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "First of all, I'd like to offer our congratulations to Mercedes AMG, for whom Nico took his first ever Grand Prix pole position this afternoon. It was a peculiar qualifying session, in which the to-ing and fro-ing of grip levels was abnormally unpredictable. During Q3, the air and track temperatures cooled rapidly as the sky overhead became suddenly overcast, and the circuit became appreciably slower as a result. Nico, who had already cut a very good lap early in the session, was therefore unassailable. Jenson, who went out later, found that the track surface had become much less grippy than it had been beforehand, and the inevitable result was a slower-than-expected lap time from him. But that wasn't his fault; pretty much everyone who was on track at the end of Q3 either recorded a slower lap-time than they'd hoped for, or indeed aborted it, as Lewis did. Tomorrow, though, we're confident that we'll have two competitive race cars, and, from fifth and seventh on the grid respectively, Jenson and Lewis will be approaching the race with their customary controlled combativeness."
Fernando Alonso (9th, 1:36.622): "We knew this would be a difficult qualifying and that's how it turned out. We managed to get into Q3, staying ahead of Vettel by a few thousandths. Then, from Q2 to Q3, the wind changed direction and that was penalizing. The car is what it is and the improvements we brought here are not sufficient to produce a jump in performance and so this position corresponds more or less to our current potential. Sure, we cannot be happy to be a second off pole position, but all we can do is work to try and close this gap. If we do enough of a good job then we can think about winning, otherwise not. But I remain optimistic: even in 2010, we were significantly behind the best, but all the same, we got to the final race leading the World Championship…The starting grid is very exciting and curious, with two Mercedes, one Sauber and a Lotus in front of the rest. We cannot permit ourselves to make any mistakes because we certainly don't have the best car: if we manage to operate perfectly, as we did in Australia and Malaysia, then we can think about bringing home valuable points."
Felipe Massa (12th, 1:36.255): "On the one hand I am obviously unhappy not to have made it through to Q3 but, on the other, I have to be pleased with my position if I consider where we were this morning at the end of FP3. In the afternoon, the situation improved, the car had much more grip and I managed to be more competitive, but I couldn't say exactly why. Probably the track conditions changed in a way that suited us. We hope to continue like this tomorrow afternoon and to bring home a good result: it's really needed right now! I so much want a normal race, a calm one in which I manage to do my job well and pick up some points. I still don't have any and the moment has come to remove this zero from the classification."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "Whoever understands that is very clever! I challenge anyone to produce a rational explanation of how this afternoon's qualifying went, not just for ourselves, but also as far as almost all the other cars are concerned. We went from having very small gaps in Q2, with eleven drivers in around three tenths of one another, to much bigger differences in Q3, with very strong fluctuations in some cases. Given our current situation and above all, the fact that at this track, the major weaknesses of the F2012 seem to be particularly marked, this result is an accurate reflection of where we are in terms of outright performance, even if we have seen that later, in the race, things can change. Sure, it's not what we were looking for at the start of the season, but today we have to make a virtue of necessity. With a grid like tomorrow's we can expect an even more open race than we might have done going into the weekend. Our aim is clear: to get both cars home in the points and make the most of any opportunity that comes along during the race."
Pat Fry: "This result is in line with our potential in this initial part of the season, but the way we got there was rather surprising. I am struggling to remember the last time Q2 was as close as this afternoon's, with eleven drivers all within less than four tenths and then, a few minutes later, significant gaps reappearing between the top and the bottom in Q3. From what we can understand after a quick first analysis, the optimum usage window for the tires Pirelli has brought here is so tight that it only takes equally small changes in temperature to significantly change car behavior. After a third free practice session that was particularly difficult, we made some changes to the set-up on Felipe's car, however, they alone cannot explain the improvement we saw in qualifying. Having said that, now we must think only of preparing as well as possible for a race that will be long and stressful, especially for the tires. No rain is forecast for the afternoon, therefore it will be difficult to repeat the amazing result from Sepang, but all the same, we must be always ready to exploit every opportunity, which is the norm with a team that does not have the most competitive package in the field. We have the possibility of getting both drivers into the points and this must be our target: we will gladly take anything extra that might come our way!"
Nico Rosberg (1st, 1:35.121): "It's a very special day for me because this is my first pole in Formula One, and the first for a Silver Arrow since 1955. Firstly it was a strange feeling because I was watching the end of Q3 from the FIA garage as we decided to save a set of option tires for the race, and I couldn't do anything but watch! Seeing that I finished at the top of the timesheets and with half a second in hand made me the happiest man today. Thanks to the team, everyone here and in the factories, who have done a great job to develop and improve our Silver Arrow. We don't know what will happen in the race tomorrow, and it will be a challenge to stay in front, but for the moment, I will enjoy starting next to Michael from the front row which is also very special to me."
Michael Schumacher (3rd, 1:35.691): "This really is a special day for our Mercedes-Benz team, having two Silver Arrows starting from the front row of the Chinese Grand Prix. It's a great result, and I am very happy for everybody. Congratulations to Nico, he achieved his first pole position with a just fabulous lap. I can easily respect he did the better job today, and I am happy for him. I am equally happy for Norbert, Ross and all the guys here at the track and in Brackley and Brixworth, who had to wait quite some time and have been so patient. We can only compliment their hard work. A big thank you to Daimler for always supporting us; we are doing all we can to bring the Mercedes-Benz name to the front, where it belongs. As for me, I am happy too, and obviously my ambition for the race is to stay where we are now. But tomorrow is another story, even if in terms of set-up we have prepared the car mainly for the race. We will definitely try and show a good performance, and I am looking forward to it."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "It was an exceptional qualifying session for us and I am very pleased with the way the whole team worked to achieve it. Congratulations to both drivers, but especially Nico on a stunning lap which earned him his first pole position. It is a great boost for everyone, and gives lots of encouragement to the team here at the track, in Brackley and Brixworth. We hope it will prove to be a step on the way to achieving our ambitions; however, we know it is only a small step and that what really counts is the race. That's what we have been working on, to start delivering similar levels of performance on Sunday afternoon."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "What a fantastic lap from Nico for pole position – in his single attempt in Q3, he was half a second quicker than anybody else, which speaks both for him and the team. A big thank you to everybody from MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS for a great job and for all the relentless work that they are putting in to continuously improve our performance. The three fastest cars today are powered by the Mercedes V8 so well done to all our guys in Brixworth at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains. Michael missed P2 today by less than a tenth of a second, but as Lewis will have a grid penalty, Michael will start next to Nico on the front row tomorrow. A Silver Arrows front row last happened at Monza in 1955; now, after two years in the modern era of the Silver Arrows works team, we have achieved our first one-two on the grid. Although we are in the best possible positions today, we certainly do not think that we are already winners tomorrow. So far, our long runs on high fuel and our tire usage didn't look bad according to Pirelli, so we all will do our best for tomorrow. Hats off to Nico again – this was a great lap, my friend, which you will remember for a very long time."
Kimi Raikkonen (5th, 1:35.898): "The grid position is okay but when you look at the times, I'm disappointed with the pace of the car today. We've gained a position after Lewis's penalty but the speed wasn't where it should have been, especially when you look at the pole time. We've tried some updates this weekend, but they haven't worked as we wanted so we've gone back to how the car was before. We go into the race less confident in the car than in the last two races, but knowing that we start from a higher position on the grid. Let's see what we can do tomorrow, we'll try to do the best we can and hopefully we can be higher up than we are on the grid, and that means a podium."
Romain Grosjean (10th, No Time): "I have mixed feelings after today's session. After struggling a bit yesterday it's great to have both cars in Q3, but unfortunately after a terrible first run in Q2 we were forced to use up all our new sets of soft tires before the final session. This meant there was no point trying to set a competitive time in the pole position shoot out which is a real shame, as our pace in Q2 was good. I feel much more comfortable with the car and I think that shows in the lap times today. The team did a great job to turn things around and get us back towards the top where we should be. I still have some fine tuning to do but 56 laps in tomorrow's race will certainly help that!"
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "It should be interesting… Kimi is where the car should be and I think he's reasonably happy with his performance. He did an excellent job through qualifying and considering the buildup of this weekend I think we can be reasonably happy. Romain's absolute pace is very similar to Kimi's but qualifying is hungry for tires if you can't get the pace straight away. Kimi got through to Q3 with just one set of soft tires, but Romain required three sets, meaning he then didn't have a fresh set for his Q3 lap. Romain's got the pace, we just need to unlock that pace on the hard tire in a qualifying situation. As he didn't have a new set of soft tires, it was always going to be a tough ask to get a blinding lap in the final session, especially as everyone else who got through to Q3 did have a new set. It was unrealistic to expect Romain to qualify higher than tenth in this scenario, but we sent him out anyway. We soon saw from the split times that there was no possibility we brought him in to save a lap on the tires for the race. We brought a new update package for the car and we weren't convinced by a large part of it yesterday. This meant we reverted almost entirely to our Malaysia specification which is why we have missed out on potential pace from the car. We hope to get all the new elements working soon. We have to take every race as it comes, but we've certainly seen that we've raced more strongly so far than the two Mercedes ahead of us, but that said we were a long way off the pole time, so they are clearly looking very strong. I'd like to think we can take the race to the other cars around us. We're confident in our starts and our tire wear and race pace. It should be interesting."
Paul di Resta (15th, 1:36.317): "It was a very close qualifying session, especially Q2 where finding a few tenths could have gained us another five places on the grid. My Q2 lap was good and I think I got the maximum from the car, but it only puts me P15, six tenths off the fastest time of the session. I'm still optimistic for the race because the car seems dialed in to the track and we looked strong during the long runs yesterday so I think we can race with the teams ahead of us."
Nico Hulkenberg (16th, 1:36.745): "It was quite a tough qualifying session for us, but I think the conditions had changed since free practice and I didn't feel as comfortable with the car. My final lap in Q2 was a little compromised by some traffic coming out of the pits, but I guess P16 reflects the pace we have at the moment and the fact that all the teams around us are very close in terms of one-lap performance. We will think hard about the strategy tonight and try our best to move forward in the race. I started P16 in Malaysia and ended up in the points so I will look for a repeat performance."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "We always knew that reaching Q3 would be an ambitious target for China, but at the same time we have shown that the developments we brought to the car this week are already paying off and closing the gap. I think we are in good shape for tomorrow and I believe we can be up there battling for points in the race. We were pleased with our performance during the long runs on Friday and the tires are lasting well, so hopefully we can build on that in the race."
Kamui Kobayashi (4th, 1:35.784): "I am very happy, the team did a great job. For quite a while we have kept saying we need to improve our qualifying performance, and I think this was a clear improvement today. Apparently I will be starting from third position tomorrow because Lewis Hamilton had to change his gearbox. This grid position obviously means a lot of chances. However, I am not a dreamer and the target remains the same: score as many points as you can. We have a strong car, normally it is also good on tires and I am looking forward to the race full of confidence."
Sergio Perez (8th, 1:35.524): "It is obviously a good qualifying result for our team. Personally I must admit I even hoped for more than P8. After the previous runs had been very promising, on the final lap in Q3, when I was on a fresh set of soft tires, I suddenly had understeer. I don't know where this came from. In any case it will be a tough race tomorrow and I will give it my best."
Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO: "What a fantastic performance from both of our drivers! This has been the best qualifying result for a long time and a great achievement for the whole team. Finally we are in a position after qualifying to exploit the full potential of the Sauber C31-Ferrari in the race, as we can start from much better positions than in previous races. Congratulations to the whole team!"
Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering: "We are obviously happy with this qualifying result. It has been our goal for some time to put both cars into the top ten, which we finally managed to do. Almost everything went well apart from Sergio's final run in which he complained about too much untersteer. This is something we have to look into. Kamui did a fantastic job and his result is beyond our expectations. Taking into consideration Lewis Hamilton's penalty, he will start third and, looking at our recent race performance, we can be very optimistic for tomorrow."
Daniel Ricciardo (17th, 1:36.956): "P17 is not going to put a smile on my face, as I had expected to do better today. I drove as hard as I could, but that did not produce a good enough lap time. With the package we had, I don't think I could have got much more out of it. Hopefully tomorrow will be better and then we must look at trying to improve our qualifying performance for the next race. We are not where we want to be, especially as before the weekend, we had expected to be closer to the top ten. At the moment we don't have the answers to what happened. This weekend, we had a few small updates but we also tried a few drastic measures in a way that required me to drive differently, so either we can make it work in Bahrain or we could go back to something we understand a bit better."
Jean-Eric Vergne (18th, 1:37.714): "I am not feeling good after that. I'm not really sure what happened this afternoon, but we lacked speed. My lap was not exceptional, but nor was it bad, so we have to try and understand why it was so slow. All we can do is try and have a good afternoon tomorrow and then improve the car for the coming races, because what happened this afternoon was simply bizarre. It's true that I got a good result starting low down the grid in Malaysia, but it would be nice to at least start higher up the order quite soon. I will feel better tomorrow morning and will look forward to seeing what the race might bring."
Laurent Mekies, Chief Engineer: "Obviously, this was a disappointing qualifying for us and today we clearly lacked the pace we needed to be in the fight. We now have to look at where we lost this performance. We made quite a few changes to the cars from yesterday and during this morning's free practice and we must assess where we did not go in the right direction. So far this weekend, we explored a quite different direction in terms of set-up and maybe it cost something in terms of ultimate pace in qualifying. However, it was a job that needed to be done and we must work out how to improve it for tomorrow. However, I believe the situation for the race is still very much open for us to get a reasonable result, as the gaps are in fact relatively small."
Pastor Maldonado (13th, 1:36.283): "We knew it would be difficult to get into the top 10 today but we were very close. I feel that our car will be stronger in the race so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We are in a good position to fight for points so it will be important to get a clean start and to have a good pace throughout the race."
Bruno Senna (14th, 1:36.289): "It was the best qualifying session of the year so far for me. The grid is so tight that the smallest difference in time can make a big difference in position, so it was tough. Our race simulation yesterday was good so I feel we are looking stronger for tomorrow. Of course I would like to be further up the grid, but I couldn't be closer to Pastor so it was a good team effort."
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: "Track conditions were good this morning and the car balance was better, with both drivers feeling their cars much improved from Friday's running. We went through the first session of qualifying without too much difficulty but unfortunately both cars didn't manage to get into the final session, with Pastor and Bruno finishing 13th and 14th respectively. Despite the disappointment of not getting the cars in the top 10, we are looking forward to tomorrow's race as we believe that our race pace will be strong."
Heikki Kovalainen (19th, 1:38.463): "I pretty much got as much as I could out of the car today. I made a small mistake in the final corner on my second run that maybe cost me a couple of tenths, but the car felt well balanced and there probably wasn't any more to come in Q1. On my first run I was blocked by Maldonado on the back straight, so we'll see what happens with that, but overall I'm pretty pleased with my performance so we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Vitaly Petrov (20th, 1:38.677): "I've had a couple of issues today with finding the right balance, but on the second run in Q1 I had a pretty good lap and I think it all came together to put that time in. We know from the first two races we can fight on Sundays and we've looked relatively easy on the tires, so with a good plan and a bit of luck maybe tomorrow can bring us something good."
Mark Smith, Technical Director: "The team here in China and back at the factory have been working hard on some specific areas, particularly on ensuring we can get the most out of the tires when it matters. Today we saw positive results on both cars, and having tweaked the setups overnight we saw Heikki record a time just under 8/10ths from the car ahead, which is a step forward for us in qualifying. Last year we were almost 1.5 seconds behind the car in front in Q1 so that shows we are progressing. Now we turn our focus to the race and the clear aim is to keep up the race pace we showed in Australia and Malaysia and make sure both cars cross the finish line."
Thierry Salvi, Renault: "From the engine perspective the conditions today obviously suit us better and we saw that the strategies we were running worked. Today it was about maximizing outright top speed over the two straights whilst giving the drivers the engine characteristics they look for in the slower corners and we can be reasonably pleased that we have achieved both objectives."
Pedro de la Rosa (23rd, 1:40.411): "I think it was, by far, our best qualifying session to date. I've already said many times that we've got a lot of room for improvement, but the important thing is that we've cut down the distance with regards to pole position considerably, some four seconds from first, and that's very positive for us. We're bringing the difference down and, although we're not going to stop here, we've taken a step forward, so I'm very happy. In this qualifying session we've made various changes to the set-up and the car responded well and, even though this morning there was no way of making the car turn well, in the afternoon, once I got in I felt the car was better. Tomorrow we hope to fight, as we did in Malaysia and if we can finish a little bit higher, then even better."
Narain Karthikeyan (24th, 1:41.000): "In the morning we had some trouble with the suspension but we got it fixed in time for the afternoon. In qualifying I got blocked on my first lap and didn't clock a good time on the first set of tires. On the second set I made a flat spot, so that's the reason I didn't do so well, but nevertheless we're comfortably inside the 107% and that's important. Tomorrow if it rains during the race that will benefit us, if not we'll have to try and do the best we can. The target once again is to achieve mileage and I'm confident that the car should be able to make it through the whole distance."
Toni Cuquerella, Technical Director: "We're satisfied with today's result and, in general, with the work the team and drivers put in which, added to the upgrades we've brought to this Grand Prix, have enabled us to qualify comfortably inside the 107%. In fact, the better of the two cars is at a 104.4%. We're functioning as a team, with normality and without major problems and that in itself is satisfying and proves that we're starting to be at the level which we should have been at the start of the season. From here we have to continue improving as our rivals aren't far away. Tomorrow's objective is to finish with both cars and for the performance shown in qualifying to translate into the race also."
Timo Glock (21st, 1:39.282):
Charles Pic (22nd, 1:39.717):
John Booth, Team Principal:
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Germany||Mercedes GP||1:35.121|
|3.||Michael Schumacher||Germany||Mercedes GP||1:35.691|
|7.||Mark Webber||Australia||Red Bull-Renault||1:36.290|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||France||Lotus-Renault||No Time|
|11.||Sebastian Vettel||Germany||Red Bull-Renault||1:36.031|
|15.||Paul di Resta||Britain||Force India-Mercedes||1:36.317|
|16.||Nico Hulkenberg||Germany||Force India-Mercedes||1:36.745|
|17.||Daniel Ricciardo||Australia||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:36.956|
|18.||Jean-Eric Vergne||France||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:37.714|
|23.||Pedro de la Rosa||Spain||HRT-Cosworth||1:40.411|