Sunday, 22 May 2011

Qualifying - Spain 2011

The Formula 1 circus is in Barcelona, Spain this weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya for what is the first race of the 2011 season on European soil (the Turkish race is held on the Asian side of Istanbul).

The Spanish fans are fanatical supporters of Fernando Alonso, and with Alonso announcing an extension of his contract with Ferrari to 2016, the Ferrari merchandise stands should sell plenty this weekend.

Pirelli have brought a revised hard tyre and the soft tyre this weekend, with a greater gap in performance between these two tyres.

Heidfeld was the first casualty in Q1, failing to get out of the garage following a fire in Practice 3 earlier in the day.  Quick Nick sat in the car through Q3 waiting for the signal to head out, but the damage could not be fixed in time.  It is probably worth starting from the pit lane so the team can continue working on the car before the race, avoiding any 1st lap bingles and using the DRS and KERS to push through the field heading to a top 10 finish in the race.

Barrichello was the other big loser in Q1 with a gearbox issue with his Williams, adding to the heartache of the team for 2011.  At least Maldonado in the other Williams comfortably made it through to Q2.

As expected, the HRT and Virgin cars did not progress to Q2, however both HRT cars were quicker than D'Ambrosio in the Virgin.  Trulli was the other driver left in Q1 in his Lotus, being comprehensively out-qualified by his team mate.

The Ferrari and Mercedes drivers all used a set of the soft tyres in Q1 to ensure their progress to Q2, however with Heidfeld not setting a time and Barrichello having mechanical trouble, this seems to have been a waste of 1 of their 3 available sets of soft tyres for qualifying and the race.

All bar the Force India cars used a set of the soft tyres for their Q2 qualifying run and as a result, Di Resta and Sutil qualified 15th and 16th respectively.  Sutil has had a tough week with some off track drama and being consistently outperformed by his rookie team mate will not be doing any favours for his prospects for a race seat in 2012.

Qualifying in 15th was Kovalainen in the Lotus, taking their best qualifying finish to date.  Although the team will be eyeing a top 10 finish from the Finn, a lot of luck needs to fall their way for that dream to come true this weekend.

The Saubers of Perez and Kobayashi qualified 12th and 14th respectively, splitting the Toro Rosso cars of Buemi and Alguersuari in 11th and 13th.  This is a good result for Buemi who is looking more and more likely to retain his seat in the Red Bull junior team.  It is also a good result for Perez, qualifying faster than his slightly more experienced team mate.

In Q3, Schumacher saved a set of the soft tyres, going out on a set of hard tyres but not setting a time.  He seemed happy enough to make it to the top 10 and after already using 2 sets of the soft compound Pirelli tyres he settled for a start from grid position 10.

Maldonado in the Williams qualified 9th, a great performance for the struggling Williams team who desperately need a good result.

Massa qualified in 8th, 0.9 sec slower than his team mate as the Brazilian's lacklustre season continues.  Rosberg ended up in a solid 7th while Petrov finished the session in 6th giving the Renault team something to smile about. 

Hamilton in P3, Alonso in P4 and Button in P5 were separated by 0.035 sec with only 0.003 separating Hamilton and Alonso.  Alonso and Ferrari were very happy with their qualifying position, perhaps not surprisingly given that the rear wing that they used in Friday Practice was deemed illegal, limiting their on-track setup time to 1 hour of Practice this morning and the early qualifying sessions.  It is no wonder that they decided to use a set of soft tyres to ensure their progress beyond Q1, however they are likely to feel the consequences tomorrow with no new soft tyres available for the race.

This just leaves the Red Bull cars to the top 2 positions and for the first time this year, Sebastian Vettel did not qualify on pole, with both Vettel and Webber only doing 1 early run on the soft tyres, Webber managed to stop the clock 0.2 sec quicker than his team mate to take a well deserved pole position.  Vettel had his turn with KERS problems and did not have the extra boost available for qualifying.  In the post race press conference he said that the team should  have the problem fixed for the race.

Webber won at Catalunya in 2010 and given how much of a run Vettel has on him so far this season, the Australian will be gagging to beat his team mate to take the top step for the first time this year.

Qualifying Times - Spain 2011
1Mark Webber1:23.6191:21.7731:20.981
2Sebastian Vettel1:24.1421:21.5401:21.181
3Lewis Hamilton1:24.3701:22.1481:21.961
4Fernando Alonso1:23.4851:22.8131:21.964
5Jenson Button1:24.4281:22.0501:21.996
6Vitaly Petrov1:23.0691:22.9481:22.471
7Nico Rosberg1:23.5071:22.5691:22.599
8Felipe Massa1:23.5061:23.0261:22.888
9Pastor Maldonado1:23.4061:22.8541:22.952
10Michael Schumacher1:22.9601:22.671-
11Sebastian Buemi1:23.9621:23.231
12Sergio Perez1:24.2091:23.367
13Jaimie Alguersuari1:24.0491:23.694
14Kamui Kobayashi1:23.6561:23.702
15Heikki Kovalainen1:25.8741:25.403
16Paul Di Resta1:24.3321:26.126
17Adrian Sutil1:24.6481:26.571
18Jarno Trulli1:26.521
19Rubens Barrichello1:26.910
20Timo Glock1:27.315
21Tonio Liuzzi1:27.809
22Narain Karthikeyan1:27.908
23Jerome D'Ambrosio1:28.556
24Nick Heidfeld-
107% time1:28.767

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