It was going to be the first dry qualifying encountered by Ferrari since taking two successive poles and where Redbull would exploit their full potential pace since their last pole at Montreal. An hour-long final practice was headed by Mark Webber but only just from the Mclaren of Lewis Hamilton. As the track temperature rose from 37 to 45 deg at the start of Q1, a closely contested tussle for pole was on the cards.
Q1: The struggling Romain Grosjean took to the track first and he again went off on a corner reporting the issue of brake balance on mediums. He carried his bad run of form from Germany and didn’t look on the right window throughout the weekend. Then came the championship topper Alonso followed by the Redbulls of Vettel and Webber.
Kimi Raikkonen earlier said to have found the breakthrough performance from his Lotus and certainly a crowd favourite to take the pole on the track where overtaking was traditionally hard but in the last 26 races held there only 11 winners started on pole. Raikkonen wasted no time to set a fastest lap ahead of Hulkenberg and Perez. While Kimi improved on his time with 1:22.689, Alonso went fifth fastest.
Lewis Hamilton’s flying lap edged Raikkonen by three tenths to take the lead and team-mate Jenson Button stepped down the order to tenth at the end as he suffered from understeer. Vettel had been staying quite for sometime but unusually saw himself in the bottom-zone at eighteenth. He climbed up to fifth on his fast lap. Bruno Senna arguably having the best Saturday in his Williams as he was consistent throughout the practice and soon leapt up to second behind Hamilton who yet again improved on his time to 1:21.794.
Fernando visited his garage to bolt a new set of softs to make a progress into Q2 while running at sixteenth. Paul di Resta had a last chance to get out of Q1 which he used it to perfection and stormed back to second. Just over a minute to go when Kamui Kobayashi was threatened to dropout but it was Daniel Ricciardo that fell victim along with the bottom three teams. Vergne was able to up his pace to line-up fourteenth. Impressive Charles Pic again out-qualified Timo Glock for Marussia.
Eliminations: 18. Ricciardo 19. Kovalainen 20. Petrov 21. Pic 22. Glock 23. De La Rosa 24. Karthikeyan
Q2: The Mercedes cars and the Ferrari of Felipe Massa headed out with the fastest timing of Massa being displaced by Nico Hulkenberg. Right after him Button had delivered the fastest time before both lotuses swapped the fastest times of the session. With six minutes left to play Hamilton went fastest with a whopping half a second quicker to Kimi Raikkonen and then he reported on radio to have held up by a Sauber.
Mark Webber lapped fourth best time but it was not enough as he had to go for it again. Massa used another set of soft tyres for saving his Q3 berth and went quicker than his team-mate Alonso for second position. But at the end, Webber could only manage out of top ten as he line-up eleventh for the race. But the fastest man on the picture was Lewis Hamilton with both Mercedeses out of the final fight. Schumacher hadn’t discovered any improvement on his MGP W03 causing a dismal seventeenth on the grid.
Eliminations: 11. Webber 12. Di Resta 13. Rosberg 14. Perez 15. Kobayashi 16. Vergne 17. Schumacher
Q3: The ten minute decider was clearly up against Redbull, Mclaren and Lotus then. For the first time Maldonado and Senna both made it into Q3 and Hulkenberg once more out-paced his team mate. He went out first to the track and Hamilton as well. Raikkonen had set the early pace to beat after clocking 1:22.717. Hamilton lost his back end a bit while posting a fast lap but few moments later he topped the timing sheets.
Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest middle sector but his slower final sector meant that he could only be the second fastest. Grosjean pulled out a superb lap to start on the front row and relegated Vettel to third. Much was expected from Raikkonen who could only see himself on fifth. After clinching 22nd career pole Lewis said:
“It is great to finally see the upgrades working and I have been able to put the car where I want to this weekend. We are not saying we are relaxed. We know we have a lot of work to do, starting this weekend.”