Its safe to say that this was one of the most exciting Q1 sessions in years, and while the rest of qualifying was postponed in order to allow some track and weather improvements, we had plenty of excitement to talk about until Q2 and Q3 resumed.
The initial stages of the session were dominated by Nico Rosberg, the German finding his Mercedes very competitive in the changeable conditions. He was at the top of the time sheets by himself until Jean Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso joined him.
Lewis Hamilton did not enjoy as smooth a session as his teammate, Nico Rosberg. An early spin between turns one and two caused the Mercedes driver to nudge the barrier slightly with his rear wing. Part of the endplate was damaged but he was able to continue with relative ease. After Lewis’s off, the floodgates seemed to open for all the drivers as there seemed to be cars nudging the walls one after another. Giedo van der Garde lost his front wing after coming together with the wall and Felipe Massa endured more serious contact. At the exit of turn 12, the Brazilian lost control of his Ferrari and slammed into the wall on the righthand side, spinning the car multiple times. He was able to continue back to the pits and get back out.
The times continued to tumble on the full wets, with the switch-over to intermediate tires growing ever closer. Paul di Resta and Jenson Button were the first two to brave the switch. This move paid off as Jenson went to the top of the timesheets on his first lap. Paul had a slight off on his lap and would have to try again. With these results, the rest of the field put on their inters and the times once again began to tumble.
At the bottom of the timesheets, the Williams drivers were struggling massively with their car. They joined the Caterhams and Marussias with the slowest times for much of the session (Bottas put in a quick lap in the dying stages of the session to avoid the Q1 chop).
Q1 ended dramatically, as Sauber rookie Esteban Gutierrez hit the same wall as Felipe Massa and spun in the same manner. As there was only a minute left in the session, those on hot laps were left out to dry (no pun intended) as they could not improve their times under the yellow flag conditions. This was a sad way for Esteban to finish his first ever qualifying session, as the lap he was on would have comfortably put him into Q2.
Drivers out in Q1: GUT, MAL, BIA, CHI, VDG, PIC
After a long and frustrating wait, we returned to another soggy track for the resumption of qualifying 17 hours after the completion of Q1.
Everyone started on inters with both Mercedes drivers impressing with their speed, along with Vergne and Vettel. Regardless of these stars, all of the times were falling with every passing second and track time was at a premium. The cutoff time for the inters to slicks was supposedly around 1:37. Once Rosberg reached this time, Sergio Perez took the gamble to switch to the red-branded, Supersoft tires.
The going was slippery as the Mexican more than struggled for grip that just wasn’t there. A detected problem with the Supersoft tires prompted the team to change to new ones, though the situation after that was more or less the same. In the end, his gamble didn’t pay off and he was one of the drivers to miss the cut to the final qualifying session. Sergio’s Mclaren teammate, Jenson Button took a similar gamble on slick tires as well, though, after realizing their benefits were nonexistent, he reverted to inters and carried on with setting fast times.
Jean Eric Vergne, who has starred in the wet this weekend found himself in 13th place at the end of the session, his apparent pace deserting him when he needed it most.
With the track very close to a realistic slick tire conditions, the third qualifying session would be very exciting indeed.
Drivers out in Q2: HUL, SUT, VER, RIC, PER, BOT
The tension mounted for the final ten minutes of qualifying. The track was drying, but the conditions were still precariously-poised between inter and slick-tire conditions. To start out, all the drivers went out on inters, with Vettel and Rosberg setting the timing sheets alight.
Button, initially, waited in the garage, apparently gauging the conditions for the possibility of an outing on slicks. In the end, he made one run on the Supersoft tires. His first flying lap made it immediately apparent that slicks were the tires to be on. With everyone shuffled through the pits again and everyone on slicks, we really started to see the pace of the cars.
Sebastian was once again on the pace, setting almost insurmountable times in his first laps. It was clear that, on slick tires in real dry conditions, the Red Bull was the class of the field. With mere minutes to go and all the cars on track, Sebastian Vettel lit up the timesheets with a mega time. One by one, the rest of the drivers took their turns for a go at the time. In the end, the efforts of both the Lotus, Mercedes, Ferrari and the second Red Bull drivers were not enough to topple the German. As for Jenson, the promise of taking advantage of getting on slicks early was dashed, as the cold temperatures grained his tires.
Mark Webber managed to complete an all-Red Bull front row. Incredibly, Lewis Hamilton went third, followed by the two Ferraris and Lewis’s teammate, Nico Rosberg. The two Lotus cars were next up followed by Force India’s Paul di Resta and the struggling Jenson Button.
The race takes place later today, with a fascinating battle sure to commence when the lights go out. With the Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus cars very similar in race trim, the battle for the win will be fierce, indeed.
1 Sebastian Vettel
2 Mark Webber
3 Lewis Hamilton
4 Felipe Massa
5 Fernando Alonso
6 Nico Rosberg
7 Kimi Raikkonen
8 Romain Grosjean
9 Paul di Resta
10 Jenson Button
11 Nico Hulkenberg
12 Adrian Sutil
13 Jean Eric Vergne
14 Daniel Ricciardo
15 Sergio Perez
16 Valtteri Bottas
17 Pastor Maldonado
18 Esteban Gutierrez
19 Jules Bianchi
20 Max Chilton
21 Giedo van der Garde
22 Charles Pic