Rosberg Secures Pole Position with Fuel to Spare

Nico Rosberg secured pole position in Q3 today, pulling out a tenth over Lewis Hamilton who was much closer in Qualifying than he had been in Practice. What makes Rosberg’s lap more impressive is that he was carrying an extra-lap of fuel on-board, which is an expected 0.15s-0.2s lap time deficit.

Rosberg had to duck out of his first run in Q3 with an electrical issue; this put the pressure on the German massively as Hamilton clocked the quickest time on the first run. But Nico pulled off a masterful lap at the end to keep the Brit at bay. A 1.14.363 lap was Rosberg’s best. Hamilton did have a lock-up into the turn-4 hairpin that connects Hockenheim’s big straights and that cost the Brit around two-tenths – such are the margins under immense pressure.

The electrical issue that Rosberg suffered was a daunting one, as Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe explains,

 “He had a couple of problems concurrently just at the end of that lap which caused the engine to cut out. It lost sync on all the gears and it corresponded with a warning about the throttle pedal, which was actually not to do with it, but I think that gave him a scare – nobody likes to lose control of their throttle pedal.

He aborted the lap, which is a disturbance to your pattern in Q3. We were just particularly impressed that he went out there and got the pole time with that sort of stress, and with two laps of fuel on board. We gave him two chances, so a great lap, good job.

We found a way of shutting it down into a safe mode, and then sent him again.”

– Paddy Lowe

Following the Mercedes, Red Bull caused an upset in the Ferrari garage and secured the second row with Ricciardo 3rd and only three-tenths off of the pole lap. He beat Verstappen in 4th, but the Aussie will start the race on 5-lap-old tyres after some fairly odd strategy calls. It suggests that Ricciardo is stuck with a three-stop strategy for the race.

Ferrari won’t be happy with a third-row lockout after showing the better one-lap pace throughout practice. Raikkonen managed to out-qualify Vettel significantly and lines up 5th. The Scuderia German  looked really out of touch in Q3, his Ferrari appeared to be an unbalanced beast, especially out of the final sequence of corners.

That’s the big theme that seems constant in the Red Bull/Ferrari battle. Whilst the Ferrari seems to have more speed on the straights, the Red Bull is countering this with effectiveness in the low-speed cornering. It means that Ricciardo and Verstappen can line the car up more quickly going out of the corner and get a better exit.

Nico Hulkenberg looked to be back to his best in front of his home crowd. A 7th place with a 1.15.510 lap that puts him only 2 tenths off of Vettel. He will be satisfied with what he’s achieved today, but knows he’s got to convert with a solid finish on Sunday. The German needs to remind his team and Checo of his presence.

Where the top six lined up as if going into Noah’s ark, 6th to 10th is a Force India/Williams mash-up, which only makes the fight for 4th in the constructors standings even more tantalizing. Bottas lines up 8th on a weekend where Williams need to score decent points to stop the rot. Perez secures 9th and Massa rounds out the top ten.

Elsewhere, Gutierrez had an impressive session with 11th (he must be getting sick of being 11th) in which he out-qualified Grosjean who finished a lowly 15th and confirmed a poor session for Haas. To add insult to injury, Grosjean’s FP3 gearbox change puts him in 20th for tomorrow’s race…

McLaren have nothing to sing and dance about, even if it is Alonso’s birthday weekend. Put the cake down and start analyzing the data ladies and gents, 12th for Button and 14th for Alonso at a time when we were just starting to feel that a McLaren renaissance was on the horizon. Pah!

Pascal Wehrlein and Jolyon Palmer were the highlights at the back. Palmer was happy with 16th because he got into Q2 ahead of Kevin Magnussen. Pascal Wehrlein came very close to getting into Q2 also, with a minute to go, the young German was 0.001s off of getting through, just for Renault to turn up the engine and pull away.

The start of the race tomorrow will be interesting in that it’s a very short run to turn-1. Rosberg starts on the inside, so unless Hamilton gets a significantly better start, the German will lead into turn-1. Really, it’s the following sequence of corners that are always the most chaotic at the start in Hockenheim. The turn-2/turn-3 chicane will be where Hamilton attacks, a clean exit out of 3 sets up the overtake on the long straight afterwards.



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