Nico Rosberg has secured pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix while Lewis Hamilton exits qualifying in Q1. Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo qualified a season-best second while Kimi Raikkonen was third for Ferrari.
Raikkonen looked set to spoil Mercedes’ day grabbing provisional pole by a tenth of a second over Rosberg, but it wasn’t to be as the championship leader blew him out of the water by half a second.
Sebastian Vettel left it late in Q3 to head out and opted to complete only one flying lap, which cost the four-time world champion as he braked too late into the penultimate corner costing him a front row position.
Vettel qualified fourth just ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat.
Qualifying got underway under damp conditions, with drivers testing the limits of the track by choosing to run on the super soft tyre.
This proved very costly for Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, when the German rookie hit a bump on the main straight sending him into the side wall. The incident brought out the red flag which lasted for almost 20 minutes while track marshals attempted to dry out a large puddle on the main straight.
Mercedes made the risky strategic call to send Rosberg out on the soft compound tyre during Q2, as he would get to start the race on whatever tyre he sets his fastest time on during the session.
Rosberg’s first flying lap of 1:36.240 was good enough to go fastest, until Raikkonen surpassed him on the super soft tyres by a tenth of a second. However, Rosberg’s time was good enough to progress to Q3, which means he will start the race on the more durable soft compound tyre.
During the first session Hamilton was complaining of a lack of power in his Mercedes which the team addressed during the red flag period. Hamilton returned to the track with five minutes left to run, only to re-enter the pits with a confirmed ERS issue seeing him eliminated from Q1.
Due to his 5-place gearbox penalty, Hamilton will start the race in last position behind Wehrlein, despite the German crashing before the end of the session.
Sauber made it to Q2 for the first time this season, beating both Renault drivers in the process when Marcus Ericsson put a late lap in to demote Kevin Magnussen to the elimination zone. Ericsson will start the race in 15th while Nasr qualified 16th.
Nico Hulkenberg brought out the second red flag of qualifying with 1:17 left to run in Q2, when his front left tyre came loose and fell off on the exit of Turn Two. That brought the end to the session, eliminating both Saubers and McLarens, along with Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean.
Fernando Alonso was extremely dejected with the news that Q2 would not be restarted, as both the Spaniard and McLaren were confident of a Q3 appearance.
Although Hulkenberg made it to the top ten, he was unable to take part as his car stopped on track. The German also may face a penalty as the team failed to secure his tyre properly.
Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas