#F1 Qualifying Review: Rosberg make it 11-7 under the Abu Dhabi lights

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55

2014 Abu Dhabi GP - Nico Rosberg

 

Like well trained actors prowling the footlights, the main players took the stage today for the last Qualifying session of 2014, providing a distraction for the real story fiercely percolating in the background; the political coup of the midfield and the shape of F1 going forward. With their backs against the wall, the spectre of the EU has been raised as the stakes are literally life and death for the trio of Sauber, Lotus and Force India and the gloves have come off in the press as well.

On track the roles are well rehearsed however, and it will be no surprise to learn that once again it was Rosberg who would provide the fastest lap in Q3, with Hamilton not getting as close being the only wrinkle this time out. Williams managed a second row lockout with Bottas getting the better of his more experienced teammate. Further down the grid it would be the battle between Ferrari’s and the battle for P10 that would steal focus away from the swirling drama of the driver’s championship as less than 0.2s covered the runners between 10th and 14th, setting the stage for some real racing tomorrow. Button too got more drama than he bargained for in his potential swan song, but with his troubles yesterday already hanging over his weekend, it’s not a real revelation that they echoed into today’s session.

Even further down the field it was Will Stevens managing to come good and finish within 0.5s of Kobayashi in the recently revived Caterham but no real surprises, other than it was the bottom 5 being dropped instead of the bottom 4 since overall numbers were up to 20 this weekend.

As it has been all season, the battle of the teammates dominated the session with the storylines set and the audience awaiting only tomorrow’s denouement to cap off a fascinating season both on and off track.

Q1

Sunny and warm, no other real way to describe the weather at Abu Dhabi, with the ambient temperature at 26°C and the track 33°C, a drop of 12°C from FP3. Many stories echoed through the paddock as the main focus remained the battle between the two Mercedes men for the Drivers’ Championship. Given that Hamilton needs only P2 and the Mercedes look to be a second clear of the field at least it is likely that the story of tomorrow’s race will be found further down the field.

As the lights went green there was a moment of breathless anticipation before Magnussen rolled calmly out of his box and headed toward pit exit, to be neatly edged as a rather eager Stevens jumped out of the Caterham garage just in front of him, claiming the glory of being first on track.

Following that dynamic duo was Button, then Kobayashi, Massa, Raikkonen and finally Rosberg, advancing the clock toward the 16 minute mark. Interestingly, Rosberg started on the Super Softs, meaning they will favor the Prime tyre and feel their advantage lies there, but the McLarens were out on the Softs, suggesting they could extract some performance there. Or, possibly they just hadn’t thought it through properly.

As the minutes ticked past 16:00 Hamilton emerged from his slumber and Perez got his first timed effort underway. Lotus and Sauber threw their lot in as well with the Option tyres, making for interesting bedfellows in the tyre department.

Perez cracked across in a 1:43.856 followed by Stevens in a 1:45.781. Magnussen followed up with a 1:43.171 and as the 13th minute ticked by it was the Williams of Bottas that took P1, upping the ante with a 1:42.344 and Massa unable to better it. To the surprise of no one, Quali darling and recent BAMBI winner Rosberg (it’s a German sporting award, seriously) stamped his authority all over P1 dropping the times into the 1:41’s.

But it was a surprising Hamilton that came through half a minute later and 0.1s faster to claim first honours, both of the Mercedes men with lockups aplenty in their first efforts.

Early days at the 11 minute mark and the leaderboard featured some unusual names as many of the midfield ventured forth on the Options whilst much of the sharp end had tried the Prime for their first efforts. Hamilton, Rosberg, Bottas, Hulkenberg and Massa were the top but as the teams reset for second efforts there were clearly going to be changes in the final wave as everyone went to the Options to ensure making Q2.

As the track settled, a lonely Bottas pulled a P3 as Rosberg rolled into the garage and the track began to empty, with only the Red Bulls yet to set a time and Kvyat was well into S3 on his first lap. Ferrari hovered suspiciously around the drop zone as their car appeared to not enjoy the Primes at all, setting the stage for some interesting moments for the tifosi at the close of Q1. Although, one could be forgiven for thinking they were getting used to it at this point of the season.

Kvyat jumped into the mix splitting the Williams at 8 minutes to go with the Mercedes firmly parked in the garage. Red Bull decided to get on with it, with both their cars on track as 7 minutes came and went.

Bottas and Massa finally joined the rest of the sharp end in the pits as Red Bull began to dial it in, with Ricciardo having the early advantage on his teammate. Vettel crossed first in P4 and not surprisingly, the Colgate Kid took P3 dropping Seb to P5 as the rest of the field began to circulate in anticipation of the showdown for P15.

3 minutes to go and both McLarens were down near the bottom of the time charts, along with usual stalwarts Gutierrez, Sutil, Kobayashi and newcomer Stevens. Button got on with it and leaped up to P4.

As Magnussen got on with it the Ferraris improved, Raikkonen far more than Alonso, P5 compared to P11. But neither was as good as Magnussen who came through in P3 with less than a minute left.

Down at the desperation ditch, it was Lotus looking for a way out with Maldonado, Gutierrez, Sutil, Kobayashi and Stevens all on the outside looking in as the seconds ticked by.

Ricciardo and the Mercs stayed in the garage as Massa attempted an uncharacteristic late effort.

Alonso came through in P11 with Perez behind him in 14th. Maldonado improved to 16th temporarily however it would not be enough to keep him in with a chance. Gutierrez slotted into P15 however he was hard done by Perez jumping to P14 and putting him right back out. Sutil then leapt over Grosjean to take P15 and stick the knife firmly in, once again denying the unlucky Frenchman Q2. Massa’s late effort was good enough for P3. Grosjean, Gutierrez, Maldonado, Kobayashi and Stevens were headed to the showers early as the rest went on their merry way preparing for Q2.

Q2

Sky quick off the draw to tantalize the tifosi with tales of the return of St. Ross to the scarlet fields of Maranello, where clearly the winds of change are blowing cold and hard, though they are quick to use the word rumour liberally.

As the session starts, it is Sergio Perez first on track followed by Hulkenberg and Raikkonen. Rosberg shuts his visor and follows, not far behind and no doubt looking to reverse the outcome of Q1. Sutil then went and Hamilton trailed behind and then the exodus was truly on. By the 12th minute only Button was left in the pits as twilight descended in the desert and Perez looped towards the conclusion of his first lap – a 1:42.467 to set the bar. His teammate was the first to get a crack at it and failed, coming just behind, but before anyone else could have a go, it was Rosberg off the track into T11 with big lock up. This left the door wide open for Hamilton, who promptly took advantage and laid down a 1:40.920, well clear of the rest of the field.

Nico gathered himself for a second go as the rest of the field plowed through; Massa, Alonso, Perez and Raikkonen rounding out the top 5 with 8:30 left to play.

Conditions continued to get trickier as the sun dropped, bringing increased wind and cooler temperatures to the track. Rosberg’s second effort showed the degradation of the tyres as he finished almost 0.5 down on Hamilton, good enough for P2. Bottas took P3 as the field retired to the pits to ready for their second run. Massa and Ricciardo rounded out the top 5 and at the bottom it was the 2 McLarens having set no time with Sutil and Raikkonen in front of them.

As the clock wound toward 4 minutes it was Hulkenberg and Magnussen first out with Button following closely. Soon the rest would follow but it was Button who seized center stage. In the middle of his out lap the team radioed him with a desperate message to cool the car and box as they had incorrectly fueled the car, in tribute to Sam Michael no doubt. Replying with utter disbelief “Are you serious”, Jenson nonetheless brought the car back into the pits as the precious seconds dripped off the clock.

By the 2 minute mark it was clear that only Danny Boy and the mighty Mercedes would stay put in their garages. Interesting choice for Rosberg, as he would now be starting the race on a set of flat spotted tyres that were also one lap older than Hamilton’s. But clearly he felt pole was more important and saved an extra set of tyres for Q3.

On track, with Button still not having set a time, the bottom of the time sheets featured Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Sutil as well as the now properly fuelled Briton and his teammate Magnussen.

Magnussen was the first McLaren up, taking P8 and demoting Hulkenberg to P9. Button was next through, claiming P6 despite his team’s wobbles and yet again demonstrating the depth of choice for McLaren in terms of drivers. The carnage continued for Force India as Vergne ruthlessly seized P10 as the checkers fell.

But the session doesn’t end until the last car crosses the line and it was Kvyat with a stellar lap to put K-Mag out and himself into P8, ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen, who had barely crawled into P10 after the flag dropped. As they headed for the pits it was Magnussen, Vergne, Perez, Hulkenberg and Sutil in that order who headed for the lounge, but with nary 0.2s between P10-14 there should be some good battles in the midfield tomorrow.

Q3

Bottas was first out of the pits but after only a minute gone he was followed by Massa, Vettel, Rosberg, Kvyat, Button and Ricciardo. Hamilton was the tail of the snake momentarily however Alonso followed him up with only Raikkonen left sat in his garage. The latter having decided to only give it one shot in the final session.

As the sun dropped into the desert, Massa was given one timed lap on his tyres and Hamilton complained of a vibrations in his tyres, not the first time he’s had that complaint. Bottas was first to get underway and as he came round, Massa was already setting faster sector times behind him.

It was Rosberg who was on fire though, going purple behind Felipe as he chased the wily Brazilian through the twisty bits of the track.

Hamilton was even faster and looked to be set to maintain his advantage as first Bottas and Massa took P1, before Rosberg crossed the line with a 1:40.697. It was not to be for Lewis though. A scruffy exit of T20 cost him his chance and a decent chunk of time as well, leaving him 0.3s off his teammate and only 0.1 ahead of Massa. Behind them it was Bottas and Ricciardo whilst Alonso ran off track at T1 somewhat spoiling his efforts with 7 minutes left to go.

By time the field were all back in the pits there was a scant 4 minutes left and certainly much for Lewis to think on.

The field began trickling back out round the 3:30 mark and it was the points leader last of all, departing with just 2:35 left in the session and everything on the line.

Vettel was on it as Lewis began his out lap and Bottas was warned not to hold up Kimi as the Elder Finn was on a hot lap. Ricciardo immediately had the better of Vettel but Bottas had the measure of them both and even Rosberg was unable to top his S1 time as he tried to buy himself a little insurance with his second effort.

S2 saw their fortunes reverse as Nico went 42 dead and Valterri languished 0.2 behind. Hamilton had a massive lockup into T1 thoroughly putting him on the back foot with nearly 0.2 lost in just that one moment.

The tripartite contest continued, with Hamilton making up some time on Bottas through S2 but still losing out to Rosberg.

The last sector was tragic for Bottas, even though he was fastest of the chasers. He was just unable to take Hamilton for provisional P2, the aero might of the Silver Arrows being too much for the Williams in the end.

As it stood, Bottas was 0.004s adrift of Lewis and as he continued to carve away at Bottas, Rosberg finished his lap by improving on his already stellar effort with a 1:40.480.

Hamilton kept his head in it and managed to improve as well, to a 1:40.866, plenty of margin over the Williams but farther than usual from his teammate.

Behind it was the rest of the field, marching two by two, Massa trailing Bottas, Vettel trailing Ricciardo, and then the odd couple of Button and Kvyat. The last pair were Raikkonen and Alonso, the Finn having upset the Catalan in his last appearance for the Maranello marque, only the third time this year that Kimi has topped Fernando.

Of course, as with all good things it was not to stay that way as Grosjean was being forced to start from the back due to his component usage (things must be tight at Lotus as it would have been simpler and less damaging just to replace the PU and start from the pitlane) whilst Red Bull (quelle surprise!) failed post race scrutineering as their wings flexed too much under load.

That fact had been evident for years on the World Feed,  it appears that the FIA had finally got round to designing a proper test and have trotted it out for the last race. As a result, Red Bull will start from the back of the grid with “modified” cars and a butthurt Christian Horner took to Twitter to defend the team and “accept” the official ruling.

At the front tomorrow’s race looks to be fought primarily round the pit stops as in Brazil. A poor start for Lewis could see the Williams get involved and with a top speed of 341 kph they could prove tricky to pass, as Mercedes lag them nearly 10 kph through the DRS zones. Behind them, however, there is an amazing lot of cars that are very close on pace and the battle for those last 2 points could be epic in the closing laps, especially with the Bulls being relegated.

Happy watching and it has been a real pleasure covering qualifying for you all this season.

Qualifying Results:

# Driver Ctry Team
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams
4 Felipe Massa Williams
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
7 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
8 Jenson Button McLaren
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
13 Sergio Perez Force India
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
15 Adrian Sutil Sauber
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus
18 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham
19 Will Stevens Caterham
20 Romain Grosjean Lotus
Romain Grosjean – Four place penalty as part of 20-place penalty for power unit changes
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68 responses to “#F1 Qualifying Review: Rosberg make it 11-7 under the Abu Dhabi lights

        • Earlier in the year, Rosberg’s car got pulled to check that the gear ratios matched the submitted ratios. Pretty sure that wasn’t an accident either, but they passed scrutineering. Part of the game and TBH not like Red Bull making many friends in paddock.

    • Because now that they’re not winning and are not Bernie’s fav team, rules can at last apply about their flex wings and been thrown out, simples!

    • RBR’s statement pretty much says “…but everyone else is doing it too”.
      If they have the courage of their convictions, I look forward to a protest from them on other designs post-race. That’ll be air to take the shine off any apres-race celebrations.

        • I don’t see anything there about four other teams being tested, just RBR whinging about being singled out. Maybe the stewards papers from the weekend will tell more.
          Interestingly, as part of the world TV feed I’m sure there was a super slo-mo shot of an RB10 sparking up a floppy front wing tip through a slow corner under the influence of the ripple kerbing.
          So was that a lucky cameraman, a prescient cameraman or a directly influential cameraman??

          • Lol, in FP2 or FP3 they already showed a Williams with a similar shot; a sparking front wing. Same with Ferrari except their front wing didnt hit the floor. Quit the conspiracies….

          • There was even a live shot during one of the Sky broadcast, showing Bauer overseeing a floor test on Rosberg’s car.

    • The new favourite team needed to get the only competition removed from the front lines that they don’t control, else they could have interferred with stage-managing the result. Or does anyone really believe RB ran an ‘illegal wing’ for the last race only when literally nothing’s to win anymore for them?
      Everybody knows how devastating it would be for F1 if ROS wins due to double points, so it is not only Merc, who have a vested interest in interferring with the result if neccessary and RB would have been an unpredictable parameter in that equation. Well, they aren’t any longer and STR/Ferrari are slow enough to no interfere.

      • Did you have on your tin foil hat when you typed that nonsense?

        How many times has a Redbull finished in front of a Merc when it hasn’t had a mechanical problem or interfered by a safety car?

          • Answering a question with a question…….ok

            No a safety car is not improbable, so even if the Bulls started where they were, the Mercs would’ve been so far up the road that they’d still pit and still come out in front. Even if they didn’t, they’d still catch and pass both Redbulls.

          • So just because Hungary was a singular event, means it cannot happen again? If the SC comes out early enough after the start, all bets are off.

      • Still standing by this conspiracy talk now Red Bull have been found to have used a sprung element in their front wing? No doubt everyone else is doing it too and it’s just RBR who have been singled out 😉

  1. 1. Although a big Hamilton supporter, I have to admit that he has been beaten resoundingly this year by Rosberg, even if you take into account Monaco and the two races he had problems with in qualifying.

    2. Maybe Hamilton is not as ‘thick’ as one McLaren engineer had described him. For years I have been saying that he’s one of the most intelligent drivers. Maybe he’s always setting up his car for the race rather than qualifying and then he pushes in Q3 and makes mistakes. I still believe he’s the fastest driver out there.

    3. Nevertheless, one’s thing’s for sure. He’s the deserving champion, I don’t buy the arguments of Rosberg being the worthy champions because of consistency, he’s been completely outclassed by Lewis at races and Lewis has had more reliability issues (2 retirements versus 3 retirements + 2 qualifying issues).

    Roll on tomorrow!

    • “I don’t buy the arguments of Rosberg being the worthy champions ”

      Buy it or not – Despite being “outclassed” Nico has only 17 points less than Lewis, so if he wins the title, he’s just as worthy. If you accept it or not, doesn’t matter in the slightest.

      • He’s only 17 points behind and has a chance for the title because of 3 less reliability issues and the double points. It’s all about the ‘worthy champion’ argument. Let’s not get back to 2012, shall we?

        • Can remind me why 2012 is relevant to this discussion. Is it because Vettel won the title because Alonso had more bad luck?

          • No in 2012 this site – shortly after its creation – was overrun by people writing that Vettel was unworthy of the championship, because his car was too good.

          • It wasn’t ‘overrun’ most days we have 20-30 comments at best back then. It was mostly just expressing that Alonso was the class of that year, and Vettel had a machinery advantage, which I think was fair. What stands out here is the contrast between the rivals machinery, Vettel vs Alonso had a machinery difference to be debated, whereas in the ROS/HAM scenarios, you are all having to get more creative with your tin foil hats to explain why its unfair to the guy you like the least.

            Also, my first comment (I had been reading for a while before it) was this:

            “Voted for you, good luck, and keep up the good work! Lets hope your site stays ‘troll’ commenter free, but I suspect they will arrive soon. Its usually the signs of real higher level success, when the flames wars and antagonistic posters arrive in the comments section, lets hope not though eh! Adam said this on December 1, 2012 at 00:07 ”

            Can I just say… Told you so. 😀

      • The DNF’s early in the season played a part in the pressure applied to lewis, and he has had suffered more failures, the points don’t tell the whole story. But he’s made mistakes in qualy too and Rosberg has been supreme. No points for quaily though.

        • The fact that the DNF’s played such a big role though is rooted in the fact that Merc is so superior. With their guaranteed 1-2 finishes, it takes four wins to make up for one DNF, hence Lewis’s little gap despite so many wins.
          His real bad luck is that he hasn’t got a past-his-prime team mate. Fact of the matter is, even if Rosberg wins, he won’t be an unworthy champion.

          • if the car was less superior, there is no way rosberg would be that close to hamilton. remember him qualifying in the front and then being nowhere in the race, finishing fifth or six in the last couple of seasons.

    • I think it’s really this season that we’ve seen that side of Hamilton, i.e. setting up the car for Sunday rather than Saturday. 2nd is hardly a catastrophe and it’s actually better that he lets Rosberg go away with a win, at least he won’t try to harpoon him off the track or something.

      Hamilton just needs to focus on his race and forget about the rest. And I think his race engineer is the one guy who can get him to focus in that sort of situation.

  2. Really telling interviews with Ron today. With BBC he said “tomorrow will determine our final decision” and with Sky he said “there are 4 people for our 2 positions”, i.e. not just 3 as in Alonso, Button and K-Mag. Could this be Vandoorne? Could this even be Lewis if he doesn’t win the title?

    • Vandoorne has been the class of the field this year…. recently, a record 4 poles in a row. It could be worth putting him alongside Alonso, and giving Kevin that year of GP2 that he never had. He’s young enough to polish himself off and then come back stronger, like Grosjean did.

    • I have warmed to Hamilton this season. I think there’s beauty in his development and he is genuine – even in his awkward moments. To me, he will be the deserving champion.

      Please don’t let double points make Nico his father’s son. Have a go next year, girl.

  3. Epic race lined up tomorrow I think. I said I was torn between him getting pole or being behind Nico, so hopefully now we can sign off the season with a great race. Nico’s got more mileage on his tyres that he starts with tomorrow due to his mistake in Q2, so Lewis has a real advantage in that first stint – The first pitstop may be pivotal if Lewis can pull off a quick lap if he is still behind Nico while Nico’s in the pits. Both red bulls at the back should be very interesting indeed.

    Nico’s trying to pull off every mind game in the book by referring to the mistakes that Lewis has made – he’d do well to remember the crucial times he’s binned it. Looking more and more like a desperate man – laughable actually.

    My heart rate’s going to be through the roof before the race tomorrow….

    • Let’s just let the both of them do their respectives races. I would actually rather Rosberg is in front because I suspect he won’t mind trying to harpoon Hamilton off in an innocent looking “Not me” move, get him to DNF and take the title this way. Better let him race in front and just follow him around as that way Rosberg will have no other option but to go for the win. Positional defence : let the guy be in front as then he cannot attack you.

    • It was just an extra lap that Nico had to do on the Q2 tires … it’s something, but it’s not major. Did he flat-spot them? I doubt it.

      Both are using their ICE #5 this weekend, which was first used for both in Japan. I’m not sure which engine they used at the other events, though in Brazil it was either ICE #4 or #5 for both (as they put in new MGU-K drivelines for each ICE, for each driver).

      Lewis has a new gearbox, while Nico’s is on its 5th race, but with all new gear ratio pairs and dog rings.

      I think if he goes for the overcut, it will have to be at least an extra two laps that he stays out, or even more. It depends on what the difference in times are at the point, between old-supersoft and new-soft’s.

      It’s motor racing, and anything can happen. Hopefully reliability doesn’t play a factor. I’m not at all confident that it won’t.

    • “it has been a real pleasure covering qualifying for you all this season”
      And, I’m sure, for many of us, a real pleasure to read. Thanks mate.

  4. it has been a real pleasure covering qualifying for you all this season.

    Been a real pleasure reading them.

    As usual, I have a small quibble…
    I don’t think Rosberg flat spotted his tyres very much at all in Q2, as he was noticeably willing to let his car leave the track to prevent damage.

    • I have to say, that’s smart thinking… those Q2 tyres need to be in best shape for the opening stint, and Mercedes have enough time in hand to make sure that is so. Lewis is definitely racing for 2nd tomorrow, but that’s all he needs.

    • I saw lockup, smoke and it was FR. If the damage wasn’t bad they will rebalance the tyres and it should be OK, though the extra lap may cost NR coming up to the first set of stops, as HAM should be able to extract an extra lap out of his tyres.

      Should make it fun…

  5. This has to be one of the better new tracks on the calendar.. my guess is rosberg wins. Lewis takes the Titel.

    • Ha. It’s like they reacted to criticisms of tracks with walls everywhere by making a track with painted lines and curbs everywhere. Joke track.

  6. Dear Matt,
    It certainly has been a season of surprises.
    Señor Alonso must be surprised to be out qualified by his teammate, also to find out after all this time that he is from Catalan.

    • I think Fernando is Asturian, he’s won the Prince of Asturias award. Northern coast of Spain, between Portugal and Basque Country 🙂

        • @Mattp55, He is from Oviedo, capital city of the province of Asturias, whose biggest town is Gijon, only 20 miles away one from the other. While there is a certain (local) proudness in being from Oviedo or Gijon (football related, with two teams that used to play the top spanish football league), I think Alonso prefers to position himself as from Asturias. Next time you come to Gijon I will pay a drink in exchange for all the nice writing you have provided.

  7. Nice piece Matt.

    We may as well cut to the chase tho’. This is how it’s going to pan out tomorrow…..

    Sutil’s out of a job. And considers Hamilton owes him. Big time. For China.

    So, Sutil to take out Hamilton. Rosberg for WDC.

    Any takers? 🙂

    • It could be Sutil while lapping, Massa banzai attempt at T1 (Senna-like revenge for 2008, 6 years later!), or simply tripping over Stevens who is in his debut F1 race, in a car miles off the pace.. who else has a possible axe to grind?

      • Well it wouldn’t be with Sutil, battling for position! I guess it’s possible, after the first stops. Not likely though. Sutil would make a name for himself, but he also then would not likely race again in any motorsports series.

        Massa and Bottas have been pretty smart when they’ve been racing with the championship contenders. I’m thinking of Lewis passing Massa at Monza, or Bottas going wide in Sochi instead of clattering into Rosberg. They’re an effective 22 pts up on Ferrari (44 halved), so as long as one of them finishes, I think they’re safe from Ferrari.

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