Contrary to usual practice in qualifying one, full use was made of the softer compound tyre, suggesting the teams will be favouring the harder compound in the race. Not wishing to use more tyres than necessary, teams chose not to make early appearances. Prior to the session, Stefano Domenicalli voiced his opinions about the importance of saving tyres over the need to reach the front row, and backed this opinion up by sending out his cars for a sole run. No more was necessary as Alonso went fourth fastest and Massa was twelfth.
With eight minutes left of the session, Adrian Sutil thumped in a 1.36.8 on medium tyres to go fastest, a time consequently not matched. Steaming out of the pits on medium tyres, Kimi Raikkonen slotted the Lotus in just behind the Force India.
Looking like he could fall victim to the dreaded drop zone, Webber put in a lap that saw him go ninth fastest, leaving Gutierrez with a fight on his hands, one he won to reach safety in eleventh, five places ahead of team mate Nico Hulkenberg who had earlier become agitated when blocked by Sergio Perez.
John Eric Vergne missed out on the second qualifying session while team mate Ricciardo cruised through four places ahead; a difference matching that between Valtteri Bottas in eighteenth and Maldonado in fourteenth. The remaining places in the drop zone were filled by Marussia and Caterham. Although missing out on Q2, Jules Bianchi was only half a second behind Hulkenberg which not only showcased his own talents, but also those of the developing Marussia.
|Bianchi shows promise in the Marussia. Photo: Skysports.com|
Qualifying saw most drivers out on new medium tyres. Adrian Sutil showed consistency as he matched his 1.36.8 time from the first qualifying session. Rosberg outperformed Lewis setting the fastest time, closely followed by Webber seven places ahead of Vettel, who was on a used set of medium tyres, a clever move to guard a crucial extra set, something that will be needed if they do end up on a four stopper as suggested in the third practice session.
Seven minutes in, and droplets of rain started to make the track slippery making it imperative that drivers get a timed lap completed before the elements truly turned against them. Massa and Alonso got out on track just in time, resulting in sixth and seventh positions, while Di Resta and Grosjean were caught out. Languishing in fifteenth, Paul di Resta was on a flyer that could have put him into the top ten but he slipped on moisture and lost it at turns 7 and 8 making another run necessary to avoid being locked out. Unfortunately for him, he endured another spin leaving him to start the race in eleventh. The other drivers to be locked out in this session were Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Gutierrez.
|Paul di Resta couldn't keep the car on track ending up 15th on the grid.|
The start of the third qualifying session saw a queue of drivers on intermediate tyres ready to be unleashed at sight of the green light. A queue of drivers itching to get an early lap in to pave the way for a later flying lap to ensnare pole position. The earlier laps ironed out teething problems as Lewis Hamilton struggled to keep his Mercedes on track, Vettel was passed round the outside and Sutil showed that he wasn’t as content in inclement conditions.
After initial timed laps were completed, but with no one quite brave enough to risk slicks, the drivers started to come in for new inters. A crucial move made by Vettel, Massa and Alonso who captured the top three positions on the grid. Despite lagging behind his team mate for most of the day, Hamilton finished the qualifying session two places ahead of Rosberg in fourth. Emerging late, Raikkonen only had enough time for one timed lap, and with the car squirming underneath him, he only managed fourth, pushed down to seventh by later laps from Rosberg, Alonso and Massa. A grid penalty for blocking Rosberg later pushed him down to tenth. Button and Perez showed there is some performance left in the McLaren qualifying eighth and tenth respectively.
It was a close qualifying. After third practice, it looked like Ferrari were so focused on the race, they were sacrificing pace over one lap. With qualifying over, they appeared to have focus for both. With Red Bull fastest again over one lap, we were left to wonder whether they can put together an effective race package.