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Page last updated at 07:26 GMT, Saturday, 18 April 2009 08:26 UK

Chinese GP qualifying as it happened


By Caroline Cheese

To get involved text us on 81111 with FORMULA 1 before your message. (Not all contributions can be used; UK mobiles only; network rates apply)

0824: This F1 season just doesn't do predictable does it? If you missed that absorbing qualifying session, you can catch it again at 1300 BST on BBC1 , while extended highlights will be on demand on the BBC website (for UK users only). The race, I hardly need remind you, goes at 0800 BST tomorrow. See you then.

BBC pundit David Coulthard on his Red Bull team-mates: "They're delighted. A lot of these guys go back to Stewart Grand Prix. I suspect we'll find out tonight that a lot of the cars behind them have more fuel, but it's still a fantastic achievement."

Red Bull's Mark Webber: "It would have been nice to have both of us on the front row, but Fernando put in a good lap as well. We'll see how the fuel loads go tomorrow, but we went well in Q2. The car is behaving very well."

0813: Absolutely stunning performance by Fernando Alonso, whose Renault team fitted his new diffuser this weekend and were still tinkering with it during this morning's free practice. "It's been a strange weekend," said the Spaniard. "It was blind qualifying for us. We are extremely happy with the result for sure."

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel: "I'm very happy. Unbelievable. We had some little problems this morning. It seems the less I run in free practice, the better I am in qualifying."

Brawn's Jenson Button: "It's not as good as I expected. The Red Bulls are competitive. We didn't think they were quite that competitive. They'll be tough to beat. It's a pity they're ahead of us, it's very tough here to overtake."

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner: "Sebastian and the car has been on the pace all weekend. We took an aggressive strategy and it paid off. Obviously, it's the best place to be starting the race. Managing the tyres will be crucial in the race."

Anthony Davidson on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra: "I am speechless - that is utterly brilliant from Sebastian Vettel, it doesn't matter about fuel - that is just so good..."

0803: Renault's Fernando Alonso will sit alongside Vettel on the front row ahead of Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello, who out-qualifies Brawn team-mate Jenson Button for the first time.

0802: What a session. Sebastian Vettel sat out most of Q2 and 3 before storming to pole - Red Bull's first. "P1" comes the frantic call on Vettel's radio. "Yes, yes, yes, we made it. Thank you" is the reply.


0801: Sebastian Vettel is fastest...

0800: Mark Webber is fastest... but Button and Alonso are coming.

0759: Less than a minute... here comes Mark Webber...

0758: All 10 cars on the track. Lewis Hamilton struggling down in ninth.

0756: Red Bull's Seb Vettel will only make one run, which Ted Kravitz reckons means he's running light on fuel.

0755: Five minutes remaining in the shoot-out and Rubens Barrichello leads from Mark Webber. Button third.

0754: Nico Rosberg is quickly usurped by Kimi Raikkonen, who in turn is pipped by Fernando Alonso. Alonso's Renault is without Kers but has a hastily-installed interim diffuser.

0750: Off we go again. Can Red Bull stop Brawn?

BMW's Robert Kubica: "I have had problems with the tyres all weekend especially the soft tyres. I also had a problem at corner 12 with the braking and that cost me a lot of time. I don't think the car is as bad as the qualifying performance looked - but we are struggling."

0749: Just seeing some replays. Looks like Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel obstructed McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen during that last session. We may hear more about that...

Former F1 technical director Mike Gascoyne: "The BMW just doesn't have enough grip here."

0745: Red Bull's Seb Vettel left it late but he emerges quickest from Q2, ahead of team-mate Mark Webber. Brawns next. Top marks to Sebastien Buemi, who takes his Toro Rosso into the top-10 shoot-out. Also to Fernando Alonso, seventh quickest.

0743: We lose: Nick Heidfeld, Heikki Kovalainen, Felipe Massa, Timo Glock and Kazuki Nakajima. Glock also has a five-place grid penalty so he will start from 19th. Eek.

0743: Ferrari's Felipe Massa has gone out.

0741: Jenson Button moves up from eighth to first, as Sebastien Buemi sticks his Toro Rosso eighth. Seb Vettel, 15th at the moment, on a quick one...

0739: Kovalainen and Massa are hovering above the danger zone. Bottom five: Trulli, Glock, Nakajim, Buemi and Vettel.

0738: The BBC's Ted Kravitz reports that Seb Vettel will be out shortly but he'll have to nail it if he's going to squeeze into the top 10. Less than three minutes remaining.

0737: Seb Vettel is sitting patiently in his car as his team work on his Red Bull. With four minutes remaining, he is yet to set a time.

0735: Six minutes remaining and Nakajima, Buemi, Heidfeld, Kovalainen and Vettel are in the danger zone.

0732: But not for long. Rubens Barrichello takes over P1, before Mark Webber knocks him off. Heidfield, Kovalainen and Vettel yet to emerge.

0731: The Williams of Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima lead the way.

0729: A problem for Kimi Raikkonen? The former world champ slows his Ferrari to a crawl, but he's off again now. Odd.

0728: Another five cars will go after this 15-minute session.

0726: And Nelsinho's woes continue. Once again, Piquet Jr fails to qualify for Q2, which is now under way.

BBC pundit David Coulthard: "The fact that Heidfeld is so far in front would suggest Kubica is just not at one with this car."

0724: Jenson Button is quickest, ahead of Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Red Bull's Mark Webber. Lewis Hamilton is fourth with the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa sixth and seventh respectively. But it's all about poor old Robert Kubica.

0721: Bourdais, Piquet, Kubica, Sutil and Fisichella fail to make Q2.

0720: Time's up and Robert Kubica is out. Crikey...

0718: Felipe Massa lies third at the moment so no repeat of his Malaysia nightmare. Both BMWs in the bottom five at the moment...

0717: And now Rosberg goes under 1:36 to lead the times. Bottom five: Trulli, Heidfeld, Glock, Sutil, Fisichella.

0715: Williams' Nico Rosberg duly pops up in third. That means both Toyotas are in the bottom five. Blimey.

0714: Nico Rosberg was top a few moments ago. He's now in the danger zone with just over five minutes left. But with the super-softs on, he'll be out of there soon surely.

0712: Mark Webber gives the gravel trap at the entrance to the pits a spin. He emerges to take his car in.

0711: Nine minutes left, and only Heikki Kovalainen is yet to hit the track. He's joined in the bottom five by Bourdais, Kubica, Fisichella and Heidfield, who has only just gone out.

0709: Lewis Hamilton is in the bottom five... but not anymore. The McLaren driver does a 1:36.381 to go fastest.

0708: Jenson Button goes top for a nano-second before his time is beaten by Red Bull's Mark Webber. The Red Bulls hardly had any track time in third practice because of a drive shaft problem. Most of the cars are on super-soft tyres by the way.

0706: Jarno Trulli goes second behind Nico Rosberg. Watch out, though, the Brawns are about.

0705: Toyota's Timo Glock is out, along with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. Glock, remember, will take a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox.

0704: Sebastien Buemi goes top with a 1:38.394, but he's about to be beaten by Nico Rosberg.

0700: We're under way in this 20-minute session, at the end of which we'll lose five cars. The Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella are joined on the track by Sebastien Buemi in his Toro Rosso.

From anon via text on 81111: "Sarah (see 0655), try the panda punch tonight - no panda but dead lizard in vodka."

0655: Five minutes to go and David Coulthard doesn't think Jenson Button's going to have it all his own way. He's predicting a tight qualifying session.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Shanghai: "Anyone remember the ill-placed snake in the bathroom at Malaysia's Sepang circuit? Well, another snake has reared its head - well kind of - in Shanghai. On a trip to sample the local cuisine last night, I steered clear of the rabbit satay (in respect to my late pet bunny Starsky) and the chilli chicken claws but decided to give the snake beer a whirl. Siphoned from a vat with a decayed coiled snake at the bottom, it wasn't really beer at all and actually tasted more like stale, smoky whiskey. Could the fact that my voice has been reduced to a rattle be blamed on the snake beer? Yikes."

Last year's winner Lewis Hamilton: "Shanghai's a cool track. It's got a great combination of corners and good straights where you can overtake. I love driving it."

BBC F1 commentator Jonathan Legard: "The demands of the Shanghai circuit means the drivers have to strike a compromise to make the most of the long straights and the tight, snail-like turns. The turns at the end of the pit straight and the start of the back straight - Turns 13 and 14 - require a lot of grip and downforce to manage them. The drivers need to find enough grip to help launch them down the straight where they can press on especially down the back straight which is almost three quarters of a mile long. So, this track really is about finding a balance between engine pace and power and grip."

0641: With 19 minutes to go until Q1, a diffuser/Kers update for you: Renault have joined Ferrari in dumping Kers but have put an interim diffuser on Fernando Alonso's car - although it caused problems in practice today. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton also has an interim diffuser as well as a new front wing. Toyota's Robert Kubica has also abandoned his brief experiment with Kers, so only three cars (Hamilton, Kovalainen, Heidfeld) are still running with Kers.

Renault boss Flavio Briatore speaking to the BBC: "I never believe having two stars in the team is helpful. At the moment, Fernando is the best driver we have, but Nelson gets the same service as Fernando."

BBC pundit Mike Gascoyne and former F1 technical director: "In case you wondered, we analyse the lap times by looking at first lap performance and then long run performance, over several consecutive laps. That means we can judge fuel loads and figure out equivalent loads for each team. Some teams on Friday will run low fuel and others will run on race fuel so analysis of fastest laps alone can be misleading."

BBC pundit Mike Gascoyne and former F1 technical director: "From the analysis of Friday's lap-times from the two practice sessions, the Brawn Grand Prix cars of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello still looked very strong. The Toyotas looked extremely solid and the Red Bulls also looked very good. But the Red Bulls looked quick over one lap but perhaps not quite as consistent over race pace. Behind that group there is a gap to the McLarens, the Ferraris and the BMWs all of which seem to be struggling. The Renaults are also in that pack but Fernando Alonso is now running with a new diffuser so it will be interesting to see if he can move up the grid."

0627: Timo Glock has incurred a five-place grid penalty after his Toyota team were forced to put a new gearbox in. "We have to aggressive in qualifying," he said, although he wouldn't reveal if they'll drop the fuel load in Q3.

Mike Gascoyne on Nelson Piquet Jr: "Nelson has to make it out of Q1 today. The pressure is on him. His father is here supporting him and he needs it. He's so up and down, so inconsistent."

0620: But when you're sitting pretty at the top of the team and driver standings, comments like Briatore's are water off a duck's back. "I think that what he said is stupid. Really. What a comment," said Rubens Barrichello , while Jenson Button added: "The workforce we have at Brackley in England have worked very, very hard in very difficult circumstances and it is very, very unfair for Flavio to comment as he has just because he is a little bit bitter."

0617: And of course, yesterday Renault chief Flavio Briatore waded in with some spicy remarks about Brawn and their two drivers. "Our (McLaren, Ferrari and Renault) drivers have been, and are, world champions, while the championship is now fought between a driver who was almost retired and another one who is a good guy, but a paracarro (Italian saying for being slow)."

0612: There were handbags at last week's Paris hearing into the legality of the 'double-decker' diffuser. Ferrari's legal representative Nigel Tozzi called Ross Brawn "supremely arrogant" while Williams apparently questioned the legality of Ferrari's title-winning cars of recent years. "I was astonished to hear that - and surprised that Ross Brawn did not try to respond either," said Ferrari chief Stefano Domenicali.

Mike Gascoyne on the importance of the diffuser: "Talking to the engineers in the pit lane, it provides a 5% increase in downforce. On average, 1% is worth about one-tenth of a second, so in total that's half a second."

From anon via text on 81111: "Morning, I'm backing Vettel for top five qualy spot. Come on Red Bull! Button for first... Like usual."

0605: Mike Gascoyne , former technical director at Jordan, Renault, Toyota and Force India, has joined the BBC team this weekend. "It's the first time I've had to think about what to wear because I don't have a team uniform," he said.

0600: Ah, there you are. Welcome back. In one hour's time, qualifying for the sixth Chinese Grand Prix gets under way. In the meantime, get involved with a text to 81111 . I can't imagine you've got anything better to do...

0520: Right then folks, you have a little over an hour to get some caffeine-based products on board before we get to the real business of the day with qualifying. I'll be here at 0600 BST, with the session starting at 0700 BST. Don't be late.

0514: BMW's Robert Kubica will be a much happier bunny today after trailing for most of yesterday as he struggled with Kers. Without it, he has posted the 12th quickest time today, just shy of team-mate Nick Heideld's best.

0511: Renault's Fernando Alonso is back in 19th after problems with the new diffuser on his car. That means Nelson Piquet Jr - up in fifth - can lord it over his team-mate at least for now. Can the Brazilian do the impossible and out-qualify his team-mate later? In 20 races, he hasn't managed it yet.

0505: The Brawns of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are fourth and 10th respectively.

Mike Gascoyne on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra: "Jarno Trulli ran quite early on his super-soft tyres and he's still second so he's my tip for pole. The unknowns are Red Bull, who didn't run on super-softs."

0500: Quickest through the final sector, Lewis Hamilton squeezes in his fastest lap of the day to go third. Williams' Nico Rosberg recovers from his awful start to finish the session in P1 with a 1:36.133. Jarno Trulli is 0.139 back in second.

0457: 16 cars are on the track with three minutes left. Jenson Button sticks his Brawn up in second.

Red Bull sporting director Christian Horner: "We've got a problem with the drive shaft on both cars. The rubber boot has signs of damage so we're changing them as a precaution - but the gearbox is fine."

0452: Seven minutes remaining and Jarno Trulli leads the way in his Toyota, ahead of Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg. The other Toyota of Timo Glock brings up the rear, 2.8 seconds back after that gearbox failure.

0448: BBC pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz reckons the drive-shaft on Mark Webber's Red Bull has failed and he won't be returning this session.

0447: Lewis Hamilton radios back to see if he has a puncture. "No" is the answer. The world champion is lying in eighth.

Mike Gascoyne on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra: "The mechanics are working on the new diffuser on Fernando Alonso's car. It looks like they have a problem with it. They'll be struggling to get that back out."

0442: That didn't last long. Toyota's Jarno Trulli, on super-softs, goes half a second quicker than Massa.

0441: And Massa does indeed go top, ahead of Ferrari team-mates Kimi Raikkonen. Nico Rosberg is third, ahead of the two McLarens.

0439: Felipe Massa has some new hard (which are actually medium) tyres, so we should see him moving up from his current position of eighth.

Mike Gascoyne on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra: "Nico Rosberg, using a second set of hard tyres, has gone out when the track's warmed up and cleaned up. That explains why he's at the top of the time sheets."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Shanghai: "A source has rushed in to tell me that Nico Rosberg, who speared himself into the gravel trap during this practice session, suffered from a similarly poor sense of direction during the Australian GP weekend. All the German F1 drivers - Sebastian Vettel, Timo Glock, Adrian Sutil, Nick Heidfeld and Rosberg - were supposed to meet up in Melbourne for a photos shoot but Rosberg took the wrong turn and ended up en route to Sydney."

0430: After an inauspicious start, Nico Rosberg's practice session is looking a whole lot brighter. He's third quickest, with the fastest first sector.

0427: Kimi Raikkonen takes a turn at the top of the leaderboard, ahead of Red Bull's Seb Vettel and Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.

0424: Concerned faces in the Toyota garage and it looks like Timo Glock might need a new gearbox, which will mean a five-place grid penalty for him. Better news for another German. The Williams team have managed to clean up Nico Rosberg's car and he's back out on the track.

From a very tired Phil, Stockport, via text on 81111 "Fantastic, just been out for a night in Manchester and I return home for some F1. I think I will be staying up for hopefully a Jenson pole."

0418: Felipe Massa is up top at the moment, but only four flying laps have been posted. Toyota pair Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock seem to be having gearbox issues.

0412: Bit of a shame 'anon' (see below) didn't put a name on his/her text, because not only do I have an answer, but it's from BBC F1 commentary box producer Mark Hughes , who explains: "The only reason the McLarens were quick in FP1 was that they waited until the track had rubbered in before they put on fresh mediums. They did their opening runs on super-softs. Everyone else was still on the same set of tyres they'd had on since the start of the session, so they'd used the best of them when the track was around 1s slower. Quite simple really."

0411: Nico Rosberg is sitting rather sheepishly in his Williams as it is rolled back into the pits. Doesn't seem to be too much damage.

From anon via text on 81111: My texts never get published, but I'm wondering where you guys think McLaren are at this weekend? The practice one compared with practice two seem way apart, also do you think that it's possible that their car works the tyres better than the others which would explain why they seemed competitive on a green track?"

0403: That must be one of the shortest practice sessions in history. Williams' Nico Rosberg spins into the gravel trap at the pit lane entrance - exactly where Lewis Hamilton came to grief in 2007. "Nico, you need to turn your engine off," Rosberg is reminded by his engineer.

BBC Sport's pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "McLaren stayed at the circuit until 5am on Friday night/Saturday morning adapting their new diffuser and moving the kinetic energy recovery system (Kers). But after a trial on Friday, tall Pole Robert Kubica has decided to drop Kers from his BMW Sauber. Renault have also abandoned Kers for the Shanghai race. So from seven cars experimenting with the system this season, there are now only three drivers still sticking with it - the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen and Nick Heidfeld's BMW. The ban on in-season testing means there are no real opportunities to test the system outside of race weekends. I do still think we will see it deployed in future races because it will be more relevant at certain circuits."

0400: Off we go then with third and final practice.

From Alan via text on 81111: "It's the Chengdu weatherman here again. Now not to put a dampener on things... But if what passed over here last night is, as forecast, on its way to Shanghai for Sunday, I tip Noah to be the only finisher."

0355: BBC coverage is under way - on red button, online (UK only) and 5 Live Sports Extra. An option for everyone there.

From Elliot, Gloucester, via text on 81111: "Good morning Caroline. I've got a sneaking suspicion that Rosberg will spoil the Button party (sounds like an event for ex-tailors)."

0350: Bad times indeed if you, like Robin M (see below), are stuck in dissertation hell. Still, be thankful you haven't got to drive a Ferrari this weekend eh?! Here's Felipe Massa on his qualifying hopes: "I do not expect very much. It is difficult now. But I am a professional so I will do all I can and let's see where we can get to. We cannot go into Q1 and think we are going to be easily into Q2. We need to fight hard in Q1 to get into Q2, and we need to fight even harder in Q2 to be in Q3."

From Robin M, Durham, via text on 81111: "Re 0335: And some of us are just looking for a distraction from an absolute shambles of a dissertation."

0344: The world champion, of course, went quickest in yesterday's first session, enjoying the benefits of McLaren's interim diffuser and a new front wing. However, he only went four-tenths of a second quicker in the afternoon and was down in 13th. "We've made some small steps forward," Hamilton said later. "But we still have a long way to go."

From Ryan via text on 81111: "What's up! I'm still beavering away, eagerly anticipating the next practice to see if McLaren have any more up their sleeve."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Shanghai: "Ni hao from Shanghai where the sun is shining down as we await final practice and then qualifying for the sixth Chinese Grand Prix. We finally got to try our luck at a bit of haggling on the way to the track this morning. In the car park we were offered a Ferrari cap for 20 euros only for the next trader to lower his offer to $2 - which goes to show how Ferrari's stock has literally fallen. We also had to wave away binoculars, Finnish flags, Union Jacks and ear-plug sellers. The only thing I really need is some throat sweets (kindly now provided by efficient BBC colleague) as I have almost lost my voice (to the delight of most of said colleagues)."

0335: Now then, I know many of you in the UK will either be hitting the peak of an epic Friday night out or starting the long road downhill into the morning after, but don't let that stop you texting in on 81111 .

0330: Morning all. It's red-eye time in Britain, but Jenson Button's legion of fans will have a spring in their step nonetheless with their man looking odds on for a third straight pole. That comes later. First up, some fine tuning with the third practice session in half an hour's time.

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see also
Vettel on shock pole for Red Bull
18 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Button best as Hamilton improves
17 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Chinese GP practice as it happened
17 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
F1 diffuser row deciphered
18 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
The row that has split F1
17 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton not upset by Dennis exit
17 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
F1 Mole blog
27 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Renault & McLaren change diffuser
16 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari abandon Kers for China GP
16 Apr 09 |  Formula 1

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