Nico Rosberg records his and Mercedes' first pole position after its comeback to grand prix racing. With Lewis Hamilton's gear box change penalty pushing him down to seventh on the starting grid, Michael Schumacher will make it an all-Mercedes front row tomorrow at the Chinese Grand Prix.
It is quite a symbolic moment for the German team after buying out Ross Brawn's all conquering BrawnGP team at the end of the 2009 season. They signed up 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher and worked towards a three year plan. It is fantastic then that they have delivered at the start of year three.
It was a hazy Shanghai afternoon with low visibility when the Force India Mercedes of Paul Di Resta ventured out of the pit lane. The tyres were expected to experience a heavy load from the long sweeping bends, especially on the left side of the cars.
He was followed out by a nervous Felipe Massa. Di Resta quickly set a 1:38:1 timed lap. Lap times were set to tumble post his flying lap. Hamilton set a 1:36:763 and Webber bettered it further with a 1:36:682.
Ferrari switched to the super soft option tyres and soon, Massa was fastest! It seemed that this was the way to go for the mid fielders as they all soon switched too, in a desperate bid to make it into Q2. The Sauber went fastest as the usual suspects were relegated.
18 cars were within a second!
Jean Eric Vergne, Heikki Kovaleinen, Vitaly Petrov, Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Pedro De La Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan would play no further part in Qualifying.
Fernando Alonso set out first from the pit lane in a bid to make it into the top ten. He set a scorcher. Within four minutes of Q2 sixteen cars were out setting flying laps! There was a chance some top runners weren't going to make it.
Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus posted a competitive time. He was quickly knocked off by the Mercedes of Rosberg and Schumacher. Sebastian Vettel's car looked ragged and seemed to suffer from back-end grip. While Alonso put his F2012 on P6, Massa struggled in P16!
Helmet camera view footage from Di Resta made things exciting for the fans while Mark Webber took provisional Pole as the flag went out and the session was brought to a close. World Champion Sebastian Vettel did not make it into Q3!
He was followed out by Massa, Maldonado, Senna, Di Resta, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo.
Both Mercedes, McLarens, Saubers, Lotuses and one Ferrari and Red Bull were in the final fray.
The Ferrari crew were pondering over Felipe Massa's telemetry while a dejected Vettel was seen hovering around the drivers weigh-in area. Clearly the RB8 is favouring his teammate and not him. Are Red Bull suffering a huge blow with the blown diffusers being banned this season?
The session was underway with Mercedes engineers warning both their drivers that the track had grown two degrees cooler. They were advised to build heat into the tyres before setting a time. Nico Rosberg set a staggering 1:35:121 with a flawless flying lap. Mercedes' Norbert Haug and Ross Brawn sensed they've got pole and even called him back into the pits.
Rosberg got out of the car and headed to the weigh-in area! He's confident of his time.
Although Lewis Hamilton took P2 in his McLaren, the Englishman knows his fate tomorrow as far as the starting grid goes. The double DRS the German team are running has been in the news for the past week and it is now declared legal by the FIA.
It has given Nico Rosberg his maiden Pole in 110 GP starts. It has given Mercedes a dream starting grid position of a 1-2. Will it hold on to its advantage in the race tomorrow when everything counts?
Or, will the Japanese driver Kobayashi now emulate his teammate's stunning drive in Sepang with a fiery start into the first corner in Shanghai?
It's all about surprise in Shanghai tomorrow. Formula One 2012 is different.