2014 BRAZILIAN GP: NICO ROSBERG POLE KING

Nico Rosberg won a thrilling Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying battle with championship rival Lewis Hamilton to take his 10th pole position of the season, and F1’s new trophy for most pole positions in a season. Felipe Massa took third position in front of his ecstatic home crowd. Quickest in every session of the race weekend up to qualifying Rosberg continued that form in the opening two segments of the hour-long session and held the advantage after the first runs in Q3.

Hamilton, though, was determined to take the fight to the German and despite a lock up on his final flyer, a superb final sector earned him provisional pole position. Rosberg was midway through his own final lap, however, and running marginally quicker. His final sector was good too and he crossed the line three hundredths of a second ahead to claim his 10th pole and keep his championship hopes alive.

With forecasters saying the session would run under a 40 per cent chance of rain, the opening 18-minute segment saw most drivers take to the track on soft tyres, though a few including the Williams and McLaren cars began on mediums. As expected the pace was set was by the Mercedes drivers, with Hamilton and Rosberg swapping fastest times. The championship leader took P1 with a triplet of purple sector times but then was dislodged as Rosberg went event faster with his next run. By the time the final runs were being plotted Rosberg led from Hamilton with Alonso, who had earlier complained of starting the session with low battery power, in third place ahead of Massa and Bottas.

The quartet in the danger zone were Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, Pastor Maldonado in the second Lotus and Sebastian Vettel who had yet to set a time. The champion too complained of charging issues and his first timed lap left him rooted to the foot of the timesheet. His next lap was much better, the German jumping to safety in 12th place.

There was no escape for the others in the drop zone, however. Vergne slide wide on a first flyer and that chance was gone. He attempted a second quick lap but he could find no improvement, as he pulled into pit lane he told his team the car was “undriveable”. Grosjean and Maldonado were also eliminated, while the man who dropped back to fill the hole left by Vettel was Force India’s Sergio Perez, who is also facing a seven-place grid Q2 saw penalty tomorrow.

In Q2 the first runs saw Rosberg again head the table with a lap of 1:10.303, some four tenths of a second ahead of Hamilton. Bottas slotted into third, four hundredths of a second down on Hamilton, with Massa fourth ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button. In the drop zone after the first runs were Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez and the trio of Adrian Sutil in the second Sauber, Daniil Kvyat in the remaining Toro Rosso and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo yet to set a time.

In the end Kvyat chose not to run and with part of an engine replacement penalty still to take he’ll drop seven places further back than his P14 qualifying slot. Ahead of him Gutierrez also missed the cut qualifying in 11th place, with the Mexican being knocked out by Ricciardo, who eventually finished eighth. Also ruled out were Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg in P12 and Sutil in P13.

At the front Mercedes were confident enough of making the grade that neither Rosberg and Hamilton made a second run. Nobody could top Rosberg’s first-run time, however, though Massa closed to within five hundredths of a second of the German. Bottas went third ahead of Hamilton, Button and Vettel. Raikkonen was seventh ahead of Ricciardo, with the last two Q3 spots being taken by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Alonso. In Q3 the first runs saw Rosberg improve yet again, the German shaving 1500ths of a second off his Q2 best to hold P1. Hamilton was second, just three hundredths down, ahead of Massa who got to within a tenth of Rosberg’s time to send the crowd wild at his home race.

The final runs were incredibly close. Hamilton was the first to show his hand and despite a big lock-up into the Bico de Pato corner he claimed provisional pole position thanks to a superb final sector. Rosberg was out on track however and as he entered that final sector he was marginally inside Hamilton’s best. He managed to hold the advantage too to take his 10th pole position of the season by just three hundredths of a second. The result also earned him F1’s new pole position trophy as Hamilton, with eight poles to his credit, cannot now catch his team-mate. Behind them Massa took third ahead of Bottas with Button an excellent fifth for McLaren ahead of Vettel. Magnussen qualified in sixth position ahead of Alonso, Ricciardo and Raikkonen.

2014 Brazilian Grand Prix – Qualifying
 P.     DRIVER             TEAM          TIME        GAP  
 1. Nico Rosberg        Mercedes AMG   1:10.023
 2. Lewis Hamilton      Mercedes AMG   1:10.056  +  0.033
 3. Felipe Massa        Williams       1:10.247  +  0.224
 4. Valtteri Bottas     Williams       1:10.305  +  0.282
 5. Jenson Button       McLaren        1:10.930  +  0.907
 6. Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull       1:10.938  +  0.915
 7. Kevin Magnussen     McLaren        1:10.969  +  0.946
 8. Fernando Alonso     Ferrari        1:10.977  +  0.954
 9. Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull       1:11.075  +  1.052
10. КKimi Räikkönen     Ferrari        1:11.099  +  1.076
    Q2 Fastest time: Nico Rosberg 1:10.303               
11. Esteban Gutierrez   Sauber         1:11.591  +  1.288
12. Nico Hulkenberg     Force India    1:11.976  +  1.673
13. Adrian Sutil        Sauber         1:12.099  +  1.796
14. Daniil Kvyat        Toro Rosso        no time set
    Q1 Fastest time: Nico Rosberg 1:10.347               
15. Romain Grosjean     Lotus          1:12.037  +  1.690
16. Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso     1:12.040  +  1.693
17. Sergio Perez        Force India    1:12.076  +  1.729
18. Pastor Maldonado    Lotus          1:12.233  +  1.886
    107% time: 1:15.271