F1 China Quali Results & Report: Vettel Wins Pole Again, Webber KO’d in Q1

What Happens When Something is Wrong

3:22am EST — Sebastian Vettel dominated his way to pole for the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix, with Jenson Button joining him on the front row. Shockingly, Mark Webber was unable to make it out of Q1, qualifying only eighteenth without KERS and on hard tires. Lewis Hamilton will start on the second row, qualifying just four hundredths off his teammate’s time and joined by Nico Rosberg on the second row. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa complete the third starting row, with Jaime Alguersuari, Paul di Resta, and Sebastien Buemi starting in the top ten. Just after going fourth fastest on his only Q2 run, Vitaly Petrov stopped on track, bringing out a red flag that left a two minute shootout to move on to Q3. Felipe Massa did, but Michael Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld did not. Though Petrov’s time put him into Q3, he was unable to compete and qualified tenth. All drivers qualified to start Sunday’s race.

Vettel ran away with the headlines in all three practice sessions, ending all three quickest, and with the fastest lap of the weekend. There seemed no limit to the Red Bull’s pace, so long as technical gremlins weren’t attacking Webber’s Red Bull. He was second quickest Friday morning, but drifted farther back as the weekend progressed, ending the Saturday morning session fifteenth and without an opportunity to run on soft tires before qualifying. Meanwhile, the only other cars or drivers able to come close to Vettel were Hamilton and Button, or Rosberg and Schumacher, all running under Mercedes power. Though the Ferrari duo of Massa and Alonso continued their slow-Friday-quicker-Saturday running, Alonso missed valuable track time with a hydraulic issue Friday afternoon. In heartening news, all times set during the final practice session were within 107% of Vettel’s quickest time (1:34.968), indicating that all drivers should qualify for Sunday’s race. “With less than 20 mins to go to the start of Q1 Webber’s car still on high stands in garage. Mechanics working flat out,” tweeted Anthony Davidson from China. He would make it out for Q1, but without KERS, again.

The day was still cool as the first, twenty-minute qualifying session began in Shanghai. Perez was the first out, quickly followed by birthday boy di Resta. Other drivers began trickling out of their garages, though there was no mass exodus. Perez’s first time was a respectable 1:38.295, followed by di Resta, nearly seven tenths slower. Five minutes in, and only Vettel, Webber, Buemi, and Kobayashi were still in the box, though the former two would be on track just a minute or so later. There were no more times at that point.

Button’s first lap (1:36.778) took him to the top, seven minutes in, while Hamilton’s first lap was over three seconds slower. Both Toro Rossos also jumped to the top, only to be eclipsed by Hamilton, at nearly a 1:36 dead. At the halfway point of Q1, Hamilton led Alguersuari, Buemi, Rosberg, Vettel, Button, Schumacher, Massa, Sutil, and Perez as the top ten. Vettel soon was fastest, while Webber was seventh on his first lap. Kobayashi had not set a time, while Barrichello joined the “new” teams in the knockout zone. He quickly hauled himself out to thirteenth. All drivers were within the 107% time, even as Vettel bettered the fastest time to 1:35.674.

Meanwhile, Ferrari tweeted, “After the first run Felipe is 10th Fernando 8th. It looks like we need the soft tyres to be safe for Q2.” With six minutes left, Kobayashi posted his first lap, going straight to fifth fastest. Surprisingly, Heidfeld was down in the knockout zone. Perez also moved up, going third fastest at the five minute mark. On his next lap, Heidfeld took himself up to second fastest, dropping teammate Petrov to the relegation zone. With three minutes left, Vettel led di Resta, Heidfeld, Button, Perez, Hamilton, Alguersuari, Kobayashi, Rosberg, and Buemi as the fastest ten. Petrov was in the knockout zone with Kovalainen, Trulli, D’Ambrosio, Glock, Liuzzi, and Karthikeyan. Alonso and Massa were thirteenth and fifteenth, though Alonso’s next lap (1:35.389) put him in the top spot on the soft tires.

Massa, also on the soft tires, went second fastest, keeping the Ferrari drivers safe for Q2, though Barrichello was in the drop zone, with Schumacher in seventeenth. Petrov, who had been in the drop zone, then went fastest, only to be eclipsed by Rosberg. The seconds ticked away with Schumacher about to be knocked out, Maldonado on the bubble, and Webber in sixteenth. Schumacher went to fifth after the flag, as Maldonado hauled himself up as well. Webber was then knocked out, unable to better his previous time. Rosberg (1:35.272) led Petrov, Alonso, Massa, Schumacher, Vettel, di Resta, Heidfeld, Barrichello, and Button as the fastest ten in Q1. All drivers were within the 107% time of 1:41.941.

Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Webber
19. Kovalainen
20. Trulli
21. D’Ambrosio
22. Glock
23. Liuzzi
24. Karthikeyan

Both Toro Rosso drivers were right out for the fifteen minute Q2 session, with Vettel quickly joining them, then Button and di Resta. Alguersuari’s first time was 1:35.888. Five minutes into the session, Button led di resta, Alguersuari, Buemi, and Vettel as the only drivers with times. Hamilton joined them, going straight to the top (1:34.486). Alonso joined the frontrunners with a fourth fastest first lap as all by the Renault drivers had times with less than nine minutes remaining.

At the halfway point, Barrichello, Buemi, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Maldonado, and the timeless Renaults were in the knockout zone, while Hamilton led Button, Vettel, Alonso, Massa, di Resta, Sutil, Alguersuari, Perez, and Rosberg as the top ten. All but Petrov and the Toro Rosso drvers were on the track with five minutes remaining to make it to the fight for pole.

Other drivers began to return to the track, as Petrov went fastest of all in the first sector, going fourth fastest over Alonso on his first lap. Buemi was attempting to make it to Q3 as well, with he and teammate Alguersuari sixth and seventh fastest. The top three remained in the garage with two minutes left, but everyone else was lapping as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Petrov was stopped in the middle of the track just before Turn 6, leading to a red flag with 2:02 left. He radioed the team, “something wrong with the gears!” Heidfeld remained without a time.

At the time of the stoppage, Hamilton led Button, Vettel, Petrov, Alonso, Buemi, Alguersuari, Massa, di Resta, and Sutil as the top ten, with Perez, Rosberg, Barrichello, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Maldonado, and Heidfeld in the knockout zone. All but the top three and Toro Rosso drivers were queued for a long time for the pit exit to open. It was a free for all on one lap for all ten cars to try to make Q3. Perez did not improve, nor Kobayashi, though Massa moved up to sixth. Petrov kept his fourth, with Alonso, Massa, Buemi, Alguersuari, Rosberg, and di Resta moving on.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Sutil
12. Perez
13. Kobayashi
14. Schumacher
15. Barrichello
16. Heidfeld
17. Maldonado

There was no dash to begin Q3, though Button was the first out, followed by Vettel. Alguersuari soon joined them, as did Buemi, in the team’s first Q3 since 2008. Vettel’s first two sectors were three tenths faster than Button’s at the same time, plus another three tenths in the third sector alone, to post a fast lap of 1:33.706 from the German. They were the only two men with times when Q3 was half gone, and only five minutes remained. Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Rosberg, and di Resta remained in the garage.

Alonso finally left the garage with three minutes left, followed by Rosberg, Massa, and Hamilton. Vettel and Button also rejoined, with Vettel the final man out yet again. Both Toro Rosso drivers stayed in the garage. Massa was quicker than his teammate in the first sector, though Hamilton was quicker than both. Massa lost the tenth in the second sector, but Hamilton was again two tenths quicker. Alonso was third fastest, only to be beaten by Rosberg, only to have the favor returned by Hamilton slotting into third. Massa managed sixth, while di Resta split the Toro Rossos. Both Vettel and Button aborted their final laps.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix:

Driver Team Time Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:33.706 14
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1:34.421 13
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:34.463 11
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:34.670 19
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.119 18
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:35.145 18
7. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:36.158 16
8. Paul di Resta Force India 1:36.190 17
9. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:36.203 16
10. Vitaly Petrov Renault no Q3 time 11
11. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:35.874 14
12. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:36.053 16
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:36.236 11
14. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:36.457 16
15. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:36.465 15
16. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:36.611 11
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:36.956 17
18. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:36.468 8
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:37.894 7
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:38.318 10
21. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing 1:39.119 8
22. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:39.708 8
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1:40.212 9
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:40.445 9

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