But that’s not to detract from Webber, whose sensational final lap in the top-ten phase of qualifying was enough to secure the Australian his first pole position since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, as well as the key statistic on his side: the pole-sitter has won the Spanish Grand Prix on each of the previous ten occasions.
Having comfortably had the measure of their rivals this weekend, it was simply a case of which Red Bull driver would start from the prime position on the front row, and it was Webber who took advantage of a KERS problem for team-mate Vettel to pop into top spot this weekend.
With tyre management set to prove a crucial factor for tomorrow’s race, saving tyre sets was of paramount importance for all of the teams, and the top-ten runners all elected to go for a single run in the last ten-minute stage of play.
Lewis Hamilton didn’t make his life any easier with a heavy lock-up en route to taking third place on the grid. He shares the second row with Fernando Alonso, who pulled a rabbit out of the hat with an inspired hot lap to go fourth-fastest with an effort that certainly exceeded the Spaniard’s expectations.
Alonso’s hot lap displaced Jenson Button from the second row of the grid, consigning the Briton to fifth place, one spot ahead of Vitaly Petrov, whose sixth place equalled his career-best qualifying result at the season-opening race in Australia.
Both Mercedes GP drivers made it through into the top-ten as well. Nico Rosberg will line up from seventh place, while Michael Schumacher – who was quickest overall in Q1 – elected to run a gentle out-and-in-lap on the harder tyre compound in Q3 and will start from tenth place. This is a bold strategy gamble from Schumacher, who will aim to go against the grain by being the only driver to start the race on the harder-compound tyres tomorrow.
Felipe Massa finished up with the eighth-fastest time in Q3, while Pastor Maldonado drove very impressively to take his first top-ten berth and he will start from ninth.
Just missing out on a spot in the top-ten were the Toro Rossos and Saubers, who share the sixth and seventh rows of the grid, while the most impressive driver knocked out in Q2 would be Heikki Kovalainen, who qualified a brilliant 15th and beat the Force India drivers, although they played it conservatively by choosing to sacrifice grid position for a set of soft tyres by only running on the slower, hard-compound tyres in Q2.
On balance as well, it wasn’t outright pace that got Kovalainen’s Lotus into Q2 anyway, as his place was all but guaranteed with Nick Heidfeld failing to post a time in Q1 (a legacy of the repairs being carried out to his scorched Renault) and Rubens Barrichello struggling to 19th courtesy of a gearbox problem.
Contrary to initial expectations, all of the Virgin Racing and HRT drivers managed to qualify for tomorrow’s race, although Jérôme d’Ambrosio only just managed to scramble onto the grid with a time that was 0.2 seconds inside the 107% cut-off time.
2011 Spanish Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:23.619||1:21.773||1:20.981|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:24.142||1:21.540||1:21.181|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:24.370||1:22.148||1:21.961|
|5.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes||1:24.428||1:22.050||1:21.996|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||1:23.507||1:22.569||1:22.599|
|9.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth||1:23.406||1:22.854||1:22.952|
|10.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:22.960||1:22.671||no time|
|11.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:23.962||1:23.231|
|12.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari||1:24.209||1:23.367|
|13.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:24.049||1:23.694|
|14.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari||1:23.656||1:23.702|
|15.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus Renault||1:25.874||1:25.403|
|16.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes||1:24.332||1:26.126|
|17.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes||1:24.648||1:26.571|
|18.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus Renault||1:26.521|
|19.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth||1:26.910|
|20.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:27.315|
|21.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:27.809|
|22.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:27.908|
|23.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:28.556|
|24.||Nick Heidfeld||Renault||no time|
[Image via LAT]