Rosberg ready to stop the rot after claiming pole

2015 Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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On the face of it, Nico Rosberg has brought Lewis Hamilton’s run of pole positions to an end at exactly the right track.

The Circuit de Catalunya has always been renowned as a track where overtaking is difficult, and the starting at the very front of the grid is all-but essential if you’re going to win it. Out of the last 14 races at this track, 12 have been won from pole position – a higher ratio than any other circuit.

“It’s very, very difficult to overtake I think, as it’s shown and proved over the years,” said Hamilton as he contemplated his chances from second on the grid.

But perhaps things aren’t quite as straightforward as that. Push-button DRS passes and ‘designed to degrade’ tyres has made the Spanish track less of a no-passing zone. In the four Spanish Grands Prix since those controversial overtaking aids were introduced, two were won by someone other than the pole sitter.

Rosberg will be well aware of that, as he is one of only two drivers to have taken pole position at this track yet never won at it (the other, Gerhard Berger, took pole for the Circuit de Catalunya’s first race). Beating Hamilton to turn one will be the first and most important part of his race – providing he does that he can expect to get first call on pit stops which should allow him to cover any attack from his team mate.

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Then there’s also the intriguing question of how the Ferraris will factor in the fight. Or ‘Ferrari’, for while Sebastian Vettel lines up third on the grid Kimi Raikkonen is down in seventh and will have to clear both Toro Rossos and Valtteri Bottas’s Williams to get into the mix.

Unlike Raikkonen, Vettel is running the full complement of Ferrari’s upgraded parts after Friday’s running left the team unsure how best to proceed. “We didn’t have the best day yesterday,” said Vettel after qualifying. “We both were not entirely happy with how the car felt.”

“It was probably tricky conditions this weekend, quite windy, I think the tyres are not working for us as they maybe used to. So, we were not sure about where we were and we decided to split the cars for today.”

Despite their new hardware Vettel admitted Ferrari’s deficit to Mercedes is “probably a little bit bigger than it was the last couple of races”. But they can expect to be a lot closer in the race – especially as the forecast promises another day of uninterrupted sunshine.

According to Pirelli a three-stop strategy is quicker on paper but the threat of falling into traffic will dissuade the front-runners from attempting it. Those who start further back may find it pays off for them.

Having failed to reach Q3 for the first time this year, Romain Grosjean knows he will at least have the benefit of more fresh tyres for tomorrow’s race which could help him make progress. “P11 is quite a good position to be in, on a clean side of the grid and we’ll have plenty of new tyres for tomorrow’s race.”

Keep an eye out for the Red Bull drivers making aggressively early pit stops as they know they have the downforce to be able to protect their tyres over a long stint, and they need to use the benefit of the undercut to make up places as they don’t have the straight-line speed to do so.

Superb qualifying performance by both Toro Rosso drivers have put them on the third row of the grid. However they are likely to come under immediate attack from the more powerful Ferrari of Raikkonen and Mercedes-powered Williams of Felipe Massa on the run to turn one.

That long sprint to the first corner has seen several dramas in the past, and the scrap between the Mercedes pair with Vettel and Bottas poised to capitalise should make for a riveting start to tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’26.490 1’25.166 (-1.324) 1’24.681 (-0.485)
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’26.382 1’25.740 (-0.642) 1’24.948 (-0.792)
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’27.534 1’26.167 (-1.367) 1’25.458 (-0.709)
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’27.262 1’26.197 (-1.065) 1’25.694 (-0.503)
5 Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso 1’26.773 1’26.475 (-0.298) 1’26.136 (-0.339)
6 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1’27.393 1’26.441 (-0.952) 1’26.249 (-0.192)
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’26.637 1’26.016 (-0.621) 1’26.414 (+0.398)
8 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1’27.833 1’26.889 (-0.944) 1’26.629 (-0.260)
9 Felipe Massa Williams 1’27.165 1’26.147 (-1.018) 1’26.757 (+0.610)
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’27.611 1’26.692 (-0.919) 1’26.770 (+0.078)
11 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’27.383 1’27.375 (-0.008)
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1’27.281 1’27.450 (+0.169)
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1’27.941 1’27.760 (-0.181)
14 Jenson Button McLaren 1’27.813 1’27.854 (+0.041)
15 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1’27.625 1’28.005 (+0.380)
16 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’28.112
17 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’28.365
18 Sergio Perez Force India 1’28.442
19 Will Stevens Manor 1’31.200
20 Roberto Merhi Manor 1’32.038

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Nico Rosberg 23.111 (1) 31.894 (2) 29.547 (1)
Lewis Hamilton 23.214 (2) 31.883 (1) 29.689 (2)
Sebastian Vettel 23.271 (3) 32.090 (3) 30.009 (3)
Valtteri Bottas 23.288 (4) 32.243 (4) 30.049 (5)
Carlos Sainz Jnr 23.523 (8) 32.357 (5) 30.256 (8)
Max Verstappen 23.502 (7) 32.425 (6) 30.322 (9)
Kimi Raikkonen 23.441 (6) 32.443 (7) 30.120 (6)
Daniil Kvyat 23.664 (11) 32.542 (9) 30.345 (10)
Felipe Massa 23.328 (5) 32.534 (8) 30.161 (7)
Daniel Ricciardo 23.766 (12) 32.609 (10) 30.022 (4)
Romain Grosjean 23.533 (9) 32.806 (11) 30.692 (15)
Pastor Maldonado 23.586 (10) 32.956 (12) 30.583 (13)
Fernando Alonso 23.901 (17) 33.172 (14) 30.476 (11)
Jenson Button 24.026 (18) 33.020 (13) 30.646 (14)
Felipe Nasr 23.872 (15) 33.194 (15) 30.559 (12)
Marcus Ericsson 23.862 (14) 33.457 (17) 30.793 (16)
Nico Hulkenberg 23.883 (16) 33.282 (16) 31.200 (18)
Sergio Perez 23.848 (13) 33.502 (18) 30.980 (17)
Will Stevens 24.844 (19) 34.524 (19) 31.774 (19)
Roberto Merhi 25.261 (20) 34.747 (20) 32.030 (20)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Engine Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 334.2 (207.7)
2 Romain Grosjean Lotus Mercedes 333.5 (207.2) -0.7
3 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Mercedes 332.8 (206.8) -1.4
4 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 332.4 (206.5) -1.8
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 331.6 (206.0) -2.6
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 331.2 (205.8) -3.0
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 331.1 (205.7) -3.1
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 330.8 (205.5) -3.4
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 330.1 (205.1) -4.1
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 330.1 (205.1) -4.1
11 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari 329.3 (204.6) -4.9
12 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 329.2 (204.6) -5.0
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 326.9 (203.1) -7.3
14 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 325.8 (202.4) -8.4
15 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Renault 322.3 (200.3) -11.9
16 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault 320.4 (199.1) -13.8
17 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso Renault 320.3 (199.0) -13.9
18 Will Stevens Manor Ferrari 320.0 (198.8) -14.2
19 Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso Renault 319.5 (198.5) -14.7
20 Roberto Merhi Manor Ferrari 317.9 (197.5) -16.3

Over to you

Is this win Rosberg’s for the taking? What is Hamilton’s best chance of beating him? And will the Ferraris be in the hunt for victory?

Share your views on the Spanish Grand Prix in the comments.

2015 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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36 comments on “Rosberg ready to stop the rot after claiming pole”

  1. Duc Pham (@ducpham2708)
    9th May 2015, 18:50

    Vettel’s Ferrari is nearly 1 second off the pace in today qualifying. Without much tyre strategies (I think both Ferrari and Mercedes will go for a 2-stopper), there isn’t much chance Ferrari’s going to take the win.

    Or perhaps Ferrari will risk it, pushing the tyres hard to go 3-stop. If things work well maybe they can get higher than a 3rd.

    1. When the Mercedes guys put the harder compound on their cars, Vettel will only see their backs.

      1. It will be same story as Chinese gp. Mercs are way faster on harder tyres from Ferrari. One can only hope Rosberg to hold Hamilton in first stint and if Vettel is within 1.5-2 secs of the pair, he can try to undercut them and make race much more exciting for the podium places, otherwise it will be a processional race

  2. Aqib (@aqibqadeer)
    9th May 2015, 19:09

    if you look at the last sector ricciardo pretty much matched seb which is all about mechanical grip and traction that might be good signs for monaco and the renault situation looks quite worse now with honda powered mclaren better on the straights than the renault powered cars makes you wonder if renault have made any progress since last year if anything its even worse than last year

  3. The Renault engine must be very bad given RB got beaten by the two Toro Rossos …

    1. But they use the same engine? It more likely shows how bad a chassis the Red Bull is…

      1. @jmc200 I think he meant it sarcastically.

        1. Ahh, yes

          1. Introduction to sarcasm 101 :-)

      2. Maybe it’s not the chassisl, but how Red Bull packs the PU. They have tightest rear from all, maybe this compromises the engine more than what Toro Rosso does.

        Cuz, even if this isn’t a 100% Newey design anymore, they could not have done a chassis worst than Toro Rosso. It cannot be!!

    2. Ivan B (@njoydesign)
      9th May 2015, 21:31

      Who cares when only one and a half of them are getting to see the chequered flag =)

    3. And the Hondas in the speed traps??!!!

    4. @paeschli, Oh come on, please stop that Red Bull hating. Whatever team, Redbull or Toro Rosso is quickest of the both is a whole other topic. It’s clear for everyone to see the Renault PU is terrible at the moment. Don’t pretent Red Bull is incorrect to complain, Renault have let both of the teams down massivly.

      1. @me4me

        Not a Red Bull hater (I’m a big fan of Vettel and Verstappen) but after having to listen Horner complaining about the PU the first 4 races, I’m a bit fed up.

        The 4 Renault cars are in the top 10 and managed to beat the two Lotuses and the two Force Indias who have a Mercedes engine. The Renault engine isn’t slow, it’s just unreliable. If Red Bull had built a correct chassis, they would be fighting for podiums but instead, their chassis is worse than Toro Rosso who don’t have a quarter of their budget.

        (@Edgar: Badly implementing your PU is the definition of building a bad chassis by the way.)

  4. Rosberg getting the pole has made the race much more interesting otherwise Hamilton would have again raced to victory without being much in trouble.

    Ferrari will be there or thereabouts in Mediums with the Mercedes. Hopefully Rosberg can keep Hamilton behind him in the opening stint which may provide an opportunity to Vettel to undercut one of the Mercedes or even both. Otherwise I dont see much change in podium places – 2 Mercedes and 3rd place for Ferrari.

    1. Which sounds like a snore-fest and another reason LH isn’t proving himself to be ‘one of the best’ when his car has an obscene advantage two years running.

      1. Let’s face it Johanness, LH proved himself as one of the best by beating the best guy in F1 in the same car in his rookie season! All this domination is just conformation

        1. Exactly, it is embarrassing that anyone by now could unable to appreciate LH’s driving talent, even if they don’t like the gold chains………:)

        2. Lol. Ok. I’ll let Stirling Moss know. If it’s not obvious – I share his opinion.

    2. Didn’t Vettel do just 1 run in last quali sessions with RBR? I get why he cannot do that now, but why does Hamilton need 2 runs? Can’t he just go out and do the perfect lap on first try? I mean isn’t the difference between Hamilton-Rosberg similar to Vettel-Webber? Why isn’t Hamilton more superior? He gets to pole with banker laps, his last laps were all worse and he is lucky Rosberg didn’t get better at his seconds too. He could have lost the pole in Bahrain if he wasn’t better in 2nd try!
      I don’t know… Sometimes I think Vettel might have been faster in those Mercs.

      1. And I find it weird that I think like this, but there it is.

      2. I think that Vettel is more consistent than Hamilton in qualifying (as Rosberg was in 2014).

        However, other than Alonso, there are few drivers as good as Hamilton in the race. He makes overtaking opportunities! (Remember Monza 2014, after his atrocious start?). Other than in 2011, he has never been beaten by a team-mate in the championship.

        The thing that has been unusual in 2015 is that Hamilton has generally outperformed Rosberg in qualifying – which makes this GP a little more interesting, now that Rosberg has returned to form.

      3. @ghmt Hamilton has always been very good in qualifying – he previously out-qualified Alonso 9-8 in his rookie season, then Kovalainen 26-9 across 2008-2009, then Button 44-14 across 2010-2012 (including being ahead 17-3 in 2012). So far he is up 22-21 vs Rosberg in qualifying (22-19 when we exclude Germany and Hungary 2014 due to Hamilton Q1 mechanical failures).
        I think this is more of an indication of Rosberg also being a very good qualifier than it is of Hamilton being “slower than Vettel”. Rosberg has previously out-qualified Alex Wurz 15-1, Nakajima 27-9, and Schumacher 41-17.

        To the above poster, I wouldn’t call it “unusual” that Hamilton has out-qualified Rosberg so far this season. Hamilton out-qualified Rosberg in 2013 after all. Hamilton wasn’t very consistent in qualifying last year, but generally in the past he has been.

        Though Hamilton was out-qualified in 2014, this was largely due to his regular Q3 mistakes. In terms of FP1 – Q2, Hamilton topped 47 sessions to Rosberg’s 33, and the two drivers were actually far closer than the 12-7 (actually 10-7 due to Germany/Hungary) qualifying result suggested: in the 57 track sectors, Hamilton’s best time was quicker in 29 and Rosberg’s was quicker in 28, with a mean advantage of 0.011 seconds to Hamilton. This is despite Hamilton compromising several of his best sectors with mistakes, as they were usually set in Q3.

        Patrick O’Brien’s timing model (which has gained approval from not only Peter Windsor, but also from such F1 drivers as Stirling Moss, John Surtees and Jackie Stewart) has previously rated Hamilton as being a pace-setter in the majority of his years in F1, usually shared with Alonso and occasionally with Vettel. The model separates driver speed from car speed and rates driver speed relative to the fastest driver each season, with a value of 100.0 indicating the driver is the pace-setter, or joint pace-setter. There are obviously limitations with this, but I find it interesting nonetheless.
        It rates Vettel’s performances as: 2007: 100.7, 2008: 100.5, 2009: 100.3, 2010: 100.2, 2011: 100.0, 2012: 100.1, 2013: 100.0 (he hasn’t published the results for 2014 yet).
        Hamilton meanwhile goes: 2007: 100.2, 2008: 100.0, 2009: 100.0, 2010: 100.0, 2011: 100.0, 2012: 100.0, 2013: 100.1. (Hamilton’s speed in his rookie season is rated as the best rookie performance [relative to the pace-setting driver] in F1 history, with most great drivers debuting at around 1.07).
        The thing I find interesting about this website is that, back in 2012, it correctly predicted that Rosberg is one of the quickest drivers of his generation and would match up well against Hamilton, Alonso, or Vettel.
        “He debuted in 2006 at a driver rating of 100.7, measured against Webber’s 100.5. This was the same ‘gap’ from the front, the top-rating of 100.0, as were Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher in their debut seasons. I reckon Nico has improved each season since and is now driving very close to the best drivers.”
        “Evidence of Nico Rosberg’s standing as driver: ahead of Webber and Button and close to Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel?”
        He rated Nico at 100.1 in 2012, and as Nico has generally got faster with every season it’s likely he was a pace-setter in 2014.

        1. Also, I should say that all drivers should be forgiven for the occasional bad season of qualifying. In 2004, Alonso was beaten 9-8 by Trulli in qualifying (and was run very close in points, despite dominating Trulli in 2003), and Vettel suffered a bad year in qualifying himself in 2014, being beaten 12-7 by Daniel Ricciardo.

          Since Vettel hit his stride in 2011, I would rate Hamilton and Vettel as being the two best qualifiers. And depending on how well Rosberg can maintain the kind of form he had in 2014, I would put Rosberg up with them as well. Alonso and Ricciardo are hard to read, but I think they may some of the best qualifiers also.

        2. Shishir (@)
          10th May 2015, 5:43

          very interesting, some nice analysis there
          keep up the good work

      4. Yeah but what I meant wasn’t necessarily “Hamilton is slower”. It’s about something like knowing what to do to get the best result and just going out and doing it at the first try in the last minute. It was all the more impressive with Vettel because he started doing it in 2009 in his first year at RBR.

        1. Ah ok, I understand. I agree then, Vettel is very very good at delivering a fast lap under pressure.

  5. At last we have a race on between the Mercedes pair. Let’s see if Hammertime can be applied successfully or will Rosberg hold off.

    1. It very telling that we need Hamilton to start in second to feel like we have a race between the Mercedes cars.

      1. You’re right there! Otherwise it would be rather boring if Hamilton runs off into the distance every time from the front. At least this way we know Hammy will give it all and then some

  6. Interesting to note that the Mercedes drivers quite simply obliterated the opposition in sector 3. Sounds terribly ominous for Monaco with both being all about low-speed cornering, mechanical grip and traction.

  7. lockup (@)
    9th May 2015, 23:12

    Alan Permane was talking about degradation of 0.2s per lap, so I’m thinking it should be a pretty mixed-up race, like GP2.

  8. Daniel (@dstaplet13)
    9th May 2015, 23:45

    Just goes to show you that top speed is meaningless at this track when Sainz and Verstappen have 2 of the worst speed trap speeds and yet they qualified 5th and 6th.

    1. Did you never analyze RBRs performance during the years they won everything, top speed may not make for the fastest lap but it sure helps when you’re overtaking down the straight, and it does provide some indication of total power, it’s all swings and roundabouts.

      1. Daniel (@dstaplet13)
        10th May 2015, 2:13

        Yep, if I recall correctly they were always near the bottom of the speed trap table (team with the slowest top speed).

    2. JohnnyFive
      10th May 2015, 8:16

      @Hohum, @dstaplet13:
      And if I recall correctly, Michael Schumacher was often thought to have preferred setting up his Ferrari for higher straightline speed at the expense of cornering speed and best overall laptime, to give himself better overtaking opportunities during a race. Of course, that was in the days before the dismal deployment of DRS.

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