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Fans who are still trying to make head or tail of what has been a fascinating start to the season, would have expected some clarity after the teams took a mid-season break for testing in Mugello and left the happy Asian continent for the hard grind of the European summer. Well, the good news is that 2012 Formula 1 season just continues to get more exciting as 7 different teams will make their way onto the front four rows of the grid for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix after a thrilling qualifying session in Catalunya.
The McLaren of Lewis Hamilton was just uncatchable today as the Briton set the fastest lap of the day by almost six-tenths of a second, a 1:21.707 His teammate Jenson Button failed to share in his good fortune, failing to make it to Q3! Instead, it will be Pastor Maldonado in the Williams who will line-up alongside Hamilton, hoping to dent the Barcelona record of almost always guiding the pole man to a win (10 out of the last 11 and 16 out of 21 overall). In P3, hoping to get the jump on the lead duo will be local favourite Fernando Alonso, who somehow managed to find some extra speed from an otherwise lethargic Ferrari. Equally interestingly, Maldonado's teammate Bruno Senna failed to even make it into Q2, while Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa will start from 17th place.
Lotus had a good qualifying session with both of their cars in the top 5, while Sauber were the other team represented in full in the final session. Reigning double world champion Sebastian Vettel sneaked into Q3, but opted against setting a timed lap, meaning he will start tomorrow's race from 8th place, one spot ahead of legend Michael Schumacher, who also opted not to go out again.
Q1: The News in Q1 was that all the drivers were out on the soft tyres with none of the front runners willing to risk missing out on Q2 by taking a chance on the hard compound tyres. That manifested in some teams using two sets of soft tyres while others did two runs on a particular set. One of the exceptions to that was Red Bull Racing, who made just one visit to the track and made use of the opportunity to ensure they set a good enough time to make it to Q2. Lewis Hamilton was on top of the timesheets at the end of Q1, but had to go out twice. There were few surprises in terms of the teams failing to go through with the usual suspects from Caterham, Marusia and HRT booking 6 of the 7 slots, while Bruno Senna in the Williams was the unfortunate addition. Senna attempted a late dash to the flag in an attempt to improve his fortunes, but spun out onto the gravel to add salt to his wounds.
Narain Karthikeyan in the HRT was the only man to miss the 107% time and would need the kindness of the stewards to line-up in tomorrow's race. The fact that he had electrical issues in his practice run and the fact that this is the home race for Hispania might help his cause.
Exits: Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen, Charles Pic, Timo Glock, Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan.
Q2: was a ridiculously quick affair with the big teams getting their strategies wrong badly. Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his place in Q3 pretty early, while Jenson Button's struggles with oversteer suddenly reversed at the end of the session as he battled with understeer. He missed out on Q3, ending up in P11 The man who was in pole each of the last two seasons, Mark Webber, was left sitting in the pits while he dropped down the leaderboard staring in disbelief as the changing track conditions saw the other cars go faster and the Red Bull team was caught out in the process. World Champion Sebastian Vettel escaped a similar fate as he decided to go out just in time and managed to book his place in Q3. Pastor Maldonado in the sole surviving Williams was top of the charts, while both McLarens and both Lotuses made their way into Q3.
Exits:Â·Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg, Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Massa.
Q3: Lewis Hamilton set the early bar on a pair of used tyres, ensuring that he had top spot just in case the weather turned. Fernando Alonso snatched top spot temporarily as the cars went in for their flying last laps, and his P1 was met with wild approval from his adoring fans. That time didn't last long though as Pastor Maldonado relegated Alonso to second before Lewis Hamilton, blitzed the entire field by setting the only time of the day under 1 minute 22 seconds. The Lotuses of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen were fourth and fifth quickest at the end of an exciting session.
Top 10: Lewis Hamilton, Pastor Maldonado, Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean, Kimi Raikonnen, Sergio Perez, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Kamui Kobayashi.
Later on Saturday, Lewis Hamilton was stripped off his pole position and relegated to the back of the grid as McLaren had failed to put enough fuel in his car to be able to return to the pits and provide a sample. By only putting enough fuel for him to be able to complete qualifying and then effectively park the car shortly after the short-finish straight, Lewis had for all practical purposes driven a lighter car than anyone else and tried to get the beat the system. (read more)
Photo Courtesy: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
- 13/05/2012 19:11 - Spanish Grand Prix 2012: Maldonado wins maiden GP; Alonso, Kimi finish on podium
- 13/05/2012 09:15 - Lewis Hamilton stripped of Pole Position in Spanish Grand Prix
- 12/05/2012 19:46 - Lotus continue to impress with both Romain and Kimi qualifying in the top 5 in Spain