But heading into Qualifying, it would seem that Mercedes and Ferrari are looking like the teams to beat heading into the session that look set to gain Pole Position ahead of the race on Sunday. But Renault, Toro Rosso or Force India may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions.
Also the 2015 qualifying format is officially back into the sport after it was signed off last week by the FIA and the World Motorsport Council.
Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
In Q1, Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheets with a time of 1.37.001, Kimi Raikkonen was second, Valtteri Bottas was third, Jenson Button was fourth and Carlos Sainz Jr was fifth. Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez managed to get 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th places for their teams. At the end of Q1, we lose Kevin Magnussen, Esteban Gutierrez, Jolyon Palmer, Rio Haryanto, Pascal Wehrlein and Lewis Hamilton.
During Q1, Manor F1 driver Pascal Wehrlein lost control of his slick-shod car over a wet patch on the start/finish straight and glanced the barriers in the early stages of Q1. His accident caused a lengthy delay to the session as marshals attempted to dry out this part of the circuit with a track sweeper.
With a grid penalty for reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton meant he was never going to start on pole, but his Mercedes failed to even figure in the fight thanks to an ERS problem that meant he failed to escape Q1 and was the biggest surprise of the session.
In Q2, Raikkonen tops the timesheets with a time of 1.36.118, Vettel was second, Rosberg was third, Ricciardo was fourth and Bottas was fifth. Kvyat, Perez, Sainz Jr, Verstappen and Hulkenberg managed to get 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th places for their teams. At the end of Q2, we lose Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Romain Grosjean, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.
All were denied new-tyre second runs thanks to the Nico Hulkenberg incident and therefore had to rely on the ‘banker’ times they set on used rubber at the start of Q2. A loose wheel on Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India brought an early end to Q2 and means he qualified tenth.
The wheel came off after exiting Turn 10 and bounced along the wall of the circuit before coming to a safe halt. An investigation into the incident will be conducted after qualifying and could result in a penalty.
Meanwhile during Q2, Fernando Alonso groaned repeatedly with exasperation when told over McLaren’s radio that he would have to abort his second run, while team-mate Button’s response was “are you kidding me?! One day we’ll show our true pace”.
The battle for Pole Position is on…
In Q3, Rosberg tops the timesheets and claims Pole Position for the Chinese GP with a time of 1.35.402, Ricciardo was second and was 0.515 seconds behind Rosberg, Raikkonen was third and was 0.570 seconds behind Rosberg. Vettel was fourth 0.844 seconds behind, Bottas was fifth 0.894 seconds behind, Kvyat was sixth 0.997 seconds behind, Perez was seventh 1.463 seconds behind, Sainz Jr was in eighth 1.479 seconds behind, Verstappen was in ninth 1.792 seconds behind and Hulkenberg rounded off the top ten finishers of the session.
It would seem that Mercedes genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend despite their form in Qualifying. Both of the Mercedes drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this and have been consistent and fast throughout every session so far this weekend.
You cannot discount Raikkonen, Vettel or Ricciardo even to be challenging also for the race win and could also be the dark horses to take the win away from Mercedes (and also Ferrari in Mercedes’ case) that could see gaining some points on their rivals to kick start their Constructors Championship.
Kvyat Hulkenberg, Bottas, Verstappen or Sainz Jr could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for their respective teams. Will it rain tomorrow? I do not know. Who will win the Grand Prix on Sunday? I really don’t know.
Let’s see what happens tomorrow on the Shanghai circuit on race day tomorrow…