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Hamilton takes convincing Shanghai pole

NEWS STORY
19/04/2014

Ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 14 degrees C, while the track temperature is 17 degrees.

If things weren't already a little confused following yesterday's two sessions - some claiming Mercedes were sandbagging - the waters were further muddied this morning when rain saw most drivers limit their running in an attempt to save wet and inters for this afternoon and tomorrow.

Yesterday, Mercedes - sandbagging or not - had the edge, with Red Bull and Ferrari in hot pursuit, the customer Mercedes outfits not as competitive as they were in previous races.

This morning it was Daniel Ricciardo who topped the sheets however, with the Mercedes duo and Fernando Alonso failing to post a time we are not quite sure what the true order really is.

While drivers were clearly saving inters and wets for the remainder of the weekend there was no mistaking the despondency in Sebastian Vettel's voice, the German uncharacteristically down.

Though Lewis Hamilton was quickest yesterday, there is the feeling that teammate Nico Rosberg has the edge, both previous winners here.

Tyre choices are medium (prime) and soft (option), while the DRS zones are on the start-finish straight and on the back straight leading to T14.

While there is a fairly big gap between the two dry compounds it is thought that this is due to the unusually cool temperatures.

Pirelli is expecting teams to get 20 laps from the options and 25 from the primes, with degradation on the primes about half of that on the options. So currently we're looking at between two and three stops on Sunday. However, if it remains like it was this morning, all bets are off.

Though it has stopped raining, the track remains wet, the situation not helped by the low temperatures.

With minutes to go, things are looking very bad for Maldonado who has had a nightmare weekend, much of it, to be honest, of his own making. However, today's problem is technical and not down to him. With minutes to go, there is no engine in his Lotus which means he will not be taking part, which means that as well as starting from the back (or pitlane) tomorrow, he will carry over his Bahrain penalty to Spain.

Bianchi leads the way when the lights go green, the Frenchman followed by Sutil, Chilton, Gutierrez and Kvyat. Most are on full wets though Vergne, Kobayashi and Ericsson opt for inters.

Rosberg (wets) runs wide in T6 as more and more drivers pour - literally - on to the track.

Asked about the conditions, Ricciardo replies: "I'd say extreme for now," referring to the tyre choice.

Just moments into the session all twenty-one drivers - with engines - are on track.

The first wave sees Rosberg go quickest (56.351) ahead of Hamilton (57.477), Vettel, Magnussen and Ricciardo. It is very wet and visibility is poor.

Alonso goes second with a 57.030 only to be demoted when Hamilton improves with a 56.450. Bottas takes fourth but is leapfrogged by Ricciardo and Vettel.

Vettel goes quickest in S2 as Ricciardo complains of "poor traction". Vettel posts 56.596 to go third, 0.245s down on Rosberg.

All but the Caterhams and Vergne are on full wets.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by JackTheCat, 19/04/2014 20:48

"Pity whoever was directing the TV footage didn't realise Hamilton was on the track. We saw him for about 5 seconds despite the fact he topped all three sessions. Pathetic!"

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2. Posted by Paul C, 19/04/2014 15:46

"Maybe Mercedes is sandbagging to keep engines in the cars all season. "

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