Rosberg grabs Shanghai pole from Schumacher
14 April 2012 – Nico Rosberg has achieved his first Formula 1 pole position in China. The son of 1982 Champion Keke will start ahead of Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher, with Kamui Kobayashi and Kimi Räikkönen third and fourth for Sauber and Lotus. Lewis Hamilton, with his five-place drop applied, starts seventh. Missing Q3 for the first time since 2009, Sebastian Vettel could only manage 11th.
Continuing a dramatic start to the 2012 season, Rosberg’s pole comes on his 111th attempt after an F1 debut in 2006. The unexpected result also marks Mercedes’ first pole position since Juan Manuel Fangio claimed the top spot at Monza in 1955.
On a dry day at the Shanghai International Circuit, there were no major surprises in Q1. Toro Rosso newcomer Jean-Éric Vergne dropped out at the first hurdle for the second consecutive race, a worrying eight tenths of a second adrift of Daniel Ricciardo in the same car. The Frenchman will start 18th ahead of Caterham, Marussia and HRT.
The drama of Q2 was undoubtedly Vettel’s early exit from the session. The World Champion, who had been in the top ten shootout at every race since Abu Dhabi 2009, constantly checked with his team whether he had done enough but was knocked out when the Saubers performed strongly; incidentally, Vettel is running the original specification Red Bull exhaust, unlike team-mate Mark Webber who starts sixth.
Felipe Massa briefly sat in tenth place, but was also eliminated in Q2 and will share the sixth row with Vettel. Row 7 is all-Williams, with Maldonado leading Senna, as the grid symmetry continues with Force India’s Paul di Resta and Nico Hülkenberg. With Ricciardo 17th, Rows 7 to 12 of the grid are all filled with pairs of team-mates; and with the Mercedes duo at the front, seven of the 12 rows are all occupied by same-liveried cars.
Straight out of the box, Rosberg made his presence known immediately in Q3 by setting a very impressive lap time of 1:35.121. In fact, so confident that it would not be beaten, the 26-year-old had managed to climb out of his car and walk down the pit lane to be weighed long before his rivals crossed the finish line on their final runs. Hamilton could not better the Mercedes, with his penalty meaning he also cannot share the front row with his former karting team-mate.
Having amusingly stated ‘not bad’ about Rosberg’s effort over a team radio communication, Schumacher’s second position is his best starting place since returning to F1, at the same track on which he last won for Ferrari six years ago. Kobayashi’s third is a career-best result and continues Sauber’s highly impressive form of late, with Räikkönen promising much for Lotus. Jenson Button, a favourite for pole with many in the media centre, not only failed to capitalise on Hamilton’s penalty but will set off from only fifth place, ahead of Webber.
Sergio Pérez may have been unable to match Kobayashi, but is again locked together with Fernando Alonso after their thrilling scrap in Malaysia; the Ferrari driver and World Championship leader starts ninth but, by virtue of the team’s distinct lack of raw pace, had to use up more sets of tyres that he would have liked. Romain Grosjean narrowly moved into the shootout before aborting his final run and settling for tenth.
26 years after father Keke led McLaren team-mate Alain Prost in qualifying for the German Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg claims his first pole position ahead of seven-time title winner Michael Schumacher. His previous best, also for Mercedes, was second on the grid alongside Mark Webber for Malaysia 2010.
The 2012 Chinese Grand Prix begins at 3pm local time (BST +7) on Sunday and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report