2014 CHINESE GP: LEWIS HAMILTON SECURED HIS 34-TH POLE IN F1

For the third time in four races, qualifying was held in rainy conditions, making this one of the wettest starts to a season in recent memory. Rain man, Lewis Hamilton, claimed a dominant Pole position at the Shanghai International Circuit, finishing six tenths clear of Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, who third time beat team-mate Sebastian Vettel by half a second. It is Lewis’ 8th pole for the Mercedes AMG and his 34th in Formula One, which is a new record for a British driver and fourth on the all-time list.

With rain persisting throughout the day, the drivers used the final free practice session in the morning to assess the wet conditions. However, with no set-up changes allowed after qualifying, most drivers were using a compromise setting today – in order to be ready for a dry race tomorrow, which is as equally likely as more rain. The top 10 drivers all used Pirelli’s Cinturato intermediate tyre to set their fastest times for the pole position shoot-out, the only tyre in the range that has not changed compared to last year.

With wet conditions today, but only a 50% chance of rain tomorrow, strategy is going to have to be reactive. However, if conditions stay dry, theoretically the fastest way of tackling the 56-lap race, with the best compromise between performance and track position, acording to Pirelli is as follows: start on soft, change to soft again on lap 14 and then to medium on lap 28. An alternative two-stop strategy is: start on soft, change to medium on lap 12, then medium again on lap 34.

Lewis Hamilton: "It was a tough session today, but I really enjoyed it. It’s definitely the most satisfying feeling to come away with pole position in these wet conditions because the track is so slippery and you need to find the grip to put the lap together. The car felt great and the team have done a fantastic job this weekend. Our rivals look closer in the wet conditions, so we’ll be hoping it’s a dry race to take advantage of the position we’re in. We go into the race with a little bit of an unknown because after I struggled in practice on Friday. We made a lot of changes to the car and I haven’t yet had a chance to try them in the dry. It felt pretty good in the wet, though, so I’m hopeful that we can convert our pole position into a strong race performance tomorrow."

Daniel Ricciardo: "I couldn’t have got anything extra out of the car on that last lap, I got everything I could out of it; for that I’m pleased and I got rewarded with a front row place for tomorrow. It took a while to get going in the session today, I didn’t have the comfort or pace that I was aiming for, but I got it at the end. I feel like I’m ready to get a good result, I know it’s never going to be easy but I’m prepared for the fight tomorrow and I’ll embrace it. I couldn’t have settled into the team any better to be honest, they made me feel at home very quickly and it’s helping me. I’m really enjoying the driving and it seems to be showing with the results. I’m really pleased. The team is closing the gap to the front and we’re getting better each race."

Sebastian Vettel: "In wet conditions, we have a bit more of a chance against Mercedes than in the dry. I think the conditions for tomorrow are forecast to be dry, but for sure we will try and do what we can. I think we are in the best position to try and give them a hard time in the race, so let’s see. We made some improvements with the car this weekend and I think the test in Bahrain helped, but we still have some work to do. I would like to be first of course, but I have a good position to start the race. Well done to Daniel today, he’s doing very well I have to say."

 P.    DRIVER             TEAM         TIME         GAP  
 1. Lewis Hamilton     Mercedes AMG   1:53.860
 2. Daniel Ricciardo   Red Bull       1:54.455   +  0.595
 3. Sebastian Vettel   Red Bull       1:54.960   +  1.100
 4. Nico Rosberg       Mercedes AMG   1:55.143   +  1.283
 5. Fernando Alonso    Ferrari        1:55.637   +  1.777
 6. Felipe Massa       Williams       1:56.147   +  2.287
 7. Valtteri Bottas    Williams       1:56.282   +  2.422
 8. Nico Hulkenberg    Force India    1:56.366   +  2.506
 9. Jean-Eric Vergne   Toro Rosso     1:56.773   +  2.913
10. Romain Grosjean    Lotus          1:57.079   +  3.219
    Q2 Fastest time: Lewis Hamilton 1:54.029             
11. Kimi Raikkonen     Ferrari        1:56.860   +  2.831
12. Jenson Button      McLaren        1:56.963   +  2.934
13. Daniil Kvyat       Toro Rosso     1:57.289   +  3.260
14. Adrian Sutil       Sauber         1:57.393   +  3.364
15. Kevin Magnussen    McLaren        1:57.675   +  3.646
16. Sergio Perez       Force India    1:58.264   +  4.235
    Q1 Fastest time: Lewis Hamilton 1:55.516             
17. Esteban Gutierrez  Sauber         1:58.988   +  3.472
18. Kamui Kobayashi    Caterham       1:59.260   +  3.744
19. Jules Bianchi      Marussia       1:59.326   +  3.810
20. Marcus Ericsson    Caterham       2:00.646   +  5.130
21. Max Chilton        Marussia       2:00.865   +  5.349
22. Pastor Maldonado   Lotus          No Time
    107% time: 2:03.602