Nico Rosberg has led the Mercedes team to its third pole position on the trot – and his second in a row – with the Silver Arrows locking out the front row in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.
The German beat teammate Lewis Hamilton, fastest in both preliminary stages of qualifying, to top spot by 0.254 seconds, while Sebastian Vettel was third-quickest.
As track temperatures steadily climbed over the course of the session at the Circuit de Catalunya, it was Hamilton who looked the favourite to claim pole position as the ten-quickest qualifiers set out for their shootout at pole position glory. But the Englishman was unable to match two stunning lap times from his teammate and will have to settle for a starting position from the dirty side of the front row instead.
Hamilton led the charge of the world champions on the timesheets, with Vettel qualifying third-fastest ahead of 2007 title winner Kimi Räikkönen. Local hero Fernando Alonso could only manage the fifth-fastest time, and the Ferrari team will ultimately be disappointed with the result after showing excellent pace in each of the three practice sessions beforehand.
His teammate Felipe Massa, who topped the timesheets in the final practice session, was only sixth-fastest, but he will start from ninth place after the FIA Stewards hit him with a three-place grid penalty for impeding Mark Webber in Q2.
That penalty will promote Romain Grosjean to sixth, Webber to seventh and Sergio Pérez – who led the McLaren charge – into eighth place. Paul di Resta made it into the top-ten, but qualified slowest of the Q3 runners.
The Toro Rosso team has shown improved pace this weekend and narrowly missed out on a Q3 berth for both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne, who will share the sixth row of the grid in their Ferrari-powered cars.
Row 7 will be occupied by Adrian Sutil’s Force India and the second McLaren of Jenson Button, who doesn’t seem to have made any headway with the raft of upgrades the Woking squad has applied to the MP4-28.
The Sauber pairing of Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Gutiérrez were the slowest of the Q2 runners and qualified fifteenth- and sixteenth-fastest respectively, although Gutiérrez’s nightmare start to his Formula 1 career continues with his own three-place grid penalty for blocking Kimi Räikkönen at the end of Q1.
The bottom six places on the grid were comprised of the three teams who are yet to register a score this season. Having managed a front row start at this very circuit a year ago, Williams endured its first double-elimination from Q1 since the 2009 Italian Grand Prix.
Caterham led the charge for ‘wooden spoon’ honours in its ongoing battle with Marussia, with Giedo van der Garde enjoying a clean Q1 session to qualify fastest of the quartet, ahead of the Marussia pairing of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton. Charles Pic was the slowest qualifier in the second Caterham, which sported extensive revisions including a new front wing assembly that does away with the unsightly ‘stepped nose’.
There will be plenty of eyes on all of the battles through the field, but of particular interest will be how Mercedes’ tyres manage to hold up in race conditions. The team achieved almost identical qualifying performances at the preceding rounds in China and Bahrain, only to find their Pirelli tyres unable to cope in the heavy fuel conditions.
2013 Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:20.718|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:20.972||+ 0.254|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:21.054||+ 0.336|
|4.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:21.177||+ 0.459|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:21.218||+ 0.500|
|6.||Felipe Massa^||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:21.219||+ 0.501|
|7.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:21.308||+ 0.590|
|8.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:21.570||+ 0.852|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:22.069||+ 1.351|
|10.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:22.233||+ 1.515|
|Q3 Cut-Off – 1:22.019||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:22.127||+ 1.126|
|12.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:22.166||+ 1.165|
|13.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:22.346||+ 1.345|
|14.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:22.355||+ 1.354|
|15.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:22.389||+ 1.388|
|16.||Esteban Gutiérrez^||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:22.793||+ 1.792|
|Q2 Cut-Off – 1:23.218||Time||Gap**|
|17.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:23.260||+ 1.532|
|18.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:23.318||+ 1.590|
|19.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:24.661||+ 2.933|
|20.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:24.713||+ 2.985|
|21.||Max Chilton||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:24.996||+ 3.268|
|22.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||1:25.070||+ 3.342|
* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:21.728 by Lewis Hamilton
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:21.001 by Lewis Hamilton
^ Massa and Gutiérrez will incur a 3- place grid penalty each after being found guilty of impeding another driver during qualifying