May 11th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Mercedes have now secured three pole positions in a row - in China for Lewis Hamilton and then Bahrain and Spain for Nico Rosberg - but the team has yet to make a strong challenge to win a race this season. And the expectation for tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix is that Rosberg and Hamilton will struggle to stay at the front, as Mercedes' race pace is not quite where they want to be just yet.
Ross Brawn said after qualifying that the early pagrt of the race, before the first pitstop, would be crucial for delivering a good result. And that is largely due to the tendency of this year's Mercedes to be hard on its rear tyres. After qualifying on the softer medium compound tyres today, Rosberg and Hamilton must use those same sets of tyres in the first stint of the race. That is the period of the race when the cars will be full of fuel and therefore at their heaviest. Mercedes are therefore likely to struggle with tyre degradation.
What has typically happened in the early part of the season is Hamilton and Rosberg have been quick later on in the races, as the fuel loads have come down and they have been able to put on the harder compound tyres. The challenge for tomorrow is therefore to survive the early, heavy part of the race, and then push for strong results late on.
Quotes from Mercedes after qualifying:
Nico Rosberg: "It’s a great feeling to be on pole again. So far this weekend has been very positive and it’s a pleasure to see that the team is improving and fighting through the problems together. I know everyone back at the factory and at home will have been watching this afternoon and it’s a great feeling for all of us. However, we know that this is only half of the job completed and have the painful memory of what happened in Bahrain to prove that. We’ve worked very hard on our race pace but this track is tough for the tyres, particularly with graining. So it will be a big challenge tomorrow and our goal is to make the most of the opportunity we have from starting at the front and get a strong result for the team."
Lewis Hamilton: "A great job by the team and I’m so happy that we got a one-two qualifying result today. It’s a real bonus for us to be so high up, and that’s all down to the hard work that the team have put into this car, I can’t thank them enough. Of course, I’d like to be one place higher but Nico did an awesome job and really nailed his lap. I’ve not been totally happy with the balance of my car all weekend, even today, so we need to look at it this evening and see what we can do for the race. Limiting the degradation is going to be my major challenge as the general pace isn’t too bad. It’s going to be tough to keep these positions tomorrow but we’ll give it our best shot."
Ross Brawn: "A great job by the team and both of our drivers today: I believe we have the strongest driver pairing in Formula One this year and they demonstrated it today. However, we know that it’s tomorrow afternoon that counts and we have worked diligently this weekend to find the right solutions to improve our performance and consistency in race conditions. I don’t think we will be the strongest team in the race but we are starting from the best possible position. Now we need to get through the first stint, which will certainly be interesting on the option tyre, and then see how our race develops."
Toto Wolff: "It was a nice surprise for us to see both cars at the top of the times this afternoon but we know that Sunday afternoon is a more complicated challenge for us. We have worked all weekend with the race in mind but it is clear that we are harder on the tyres than some of our rivals. Tomorrow will show us what progress we have made on improving this situation and our pace in the race."