Rosberg conquers Chinese GP qualifying with stellar late pole run

By Steve Aibel, Senior F1 Writer

Excitement at the end of a qualifying session!

Flying laps that count!

Old qualifying was back and it felt so sweet (and a little damp).

Nico Rosberg grabbed his first pole of the season besting Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen. Teammate Lewis Hamilton suffered more turmoil as his car experienced a power unit issue which relegated him to the back of the grid and will cause him to use his second engine of the 2016 season.

It’s an unbelievable start for Hamilton and should help Rosberg if the race goes as planned for Mercedes.  Even better forRosberg, he set his Q2 time on soft tires, which will allow him to start the race on the soft compound while most of the others will be starting on supersofts.

This should allow Rosberg to grab an early advantage.

The surprise of qualifying was the strong showing of Daniel Ricciardo.   Red Bull Racing has quietly strung together a pretty good start to the season with Ricciardo sitting in 3rd position in the Drivers Standings, only 3 points behind Ferrari in the Constructors Championship.  Daniil Kvyat also qualified strongly taking 6th position behind the two Ferrari cars.

Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel took the 3rd and 4th positions, both having made small mistakes at the turn 14 hairpin on their final attempt at besting Rosberg.  With Hamilton having to move through the field, this is a golden opportunity for Ferrari to bring both cars home ahead of Hamilton and perhaps begin the long, long road toward catching Mercedes.

Sergio Perez took 7th spot and teammate Nico Hulkenberg looked slated to make a strong run in Q3. Hulkenberg, however, lost his front, left wheel toward the end of Q2 causing a red flag and ending the session early.  Hulkenberg was assigned a 3 place grid penalty for an unsafe release which will move him back to position 13 for the race start.

The Toro Rosso bunch again showed their speed as Carlos Sainz bested Max Verstappen, taking positions 8 and 9.

Both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were caught by the Hulkenberg wheel problem and never got the final chance to turn a quick lap in Q2.   Both felt snake bit as they praised the car, stating that it has the pace to make it into Q3.  Slowly, but surely, things are moving forward for McLaren and Honda.

Williams again had a bit of a mixed bag with Valtteri Bottas claiming 5th position while Felipe Massa landed a disappointing 11th.

Sauber did well to place both cars into Q2 which is a good result for the team which is rumored to be swirling in monetary problems.

Finally, Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein caused an early red flag in Q1, going off after hitting water on the front straight and hitting the wall.

Overall an exciting qualifying session, setting up some interesting stories to follow on race day.

Makes ya think!  What were they doing ever changing qualifying in the first place!

Qualifying Results with Q3 Times

Pos Driver Team Time
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.402
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:35.917
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:35.972
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:36.246
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:36.296
6 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:36.399
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:36.865
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:36.881
9 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:37.194
10 Felipe Massa Williams 1:37.347
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren  1:38.826
12 Jenson Button McLaren  1:39.093
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India  No Time Set in Q3
14 Romain Grosjean Haas  1:39.830
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber  1:40.742
16 Felipe Nasr Sauber  1:42.430
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault  1:38.763
18 Esteban Gutierrez Haas  1:38.770
19 Jolyon Palmer Renault  1:39.528
20 Rio Haryanto Manor  1:40.264
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor
22 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes

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Growing up in a racing family, Steve Aibel was surrounded by Allards, Crosleys and Corvettes! A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Steve was drawn to the automobile magazines strewn throughout the house and Formula 1 in particular. With go karts, motorcycles and vintage race cars in the garage, it was inevitable that the torch would be carried by Steve. Lime Rock Park was his own personal playground while still keeping an eye on the pinnacle of motorsports overseas called Formula 1. Now, in the shadows of Circuit of the Americas, Steve is able to not only follow F1, he makes it the object of this racing stories. This passion for Formula 1 is shared weekly writing original articles for both Tribute Racing and Drafting the Circuits. He also participates in two weekly radio shows. Drafting The Circuits, (http://whoobazoo.com/draftingthecircuits), which airs Tuesday evening at 7 pm CST and Formula 1 Racing Plus (https://www.facebook.com/Formula1RacingPLUS), which broadcasts throughout the week on Performance Motorsports Network. Steve's motorsports photography can be found at www.littleorcasports.com

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