McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton has finally ended Red Bull’s complete stranglehold of pole positions since last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with the under-fire driver posting a brilliant lap to claim pole position for tomorrow’s Korean Grand Prix.
Upon stepping out of car, the 2008 World Champion couldn’t have looked less thrilled at the milestone, no doubt knowing he’ll now face the might of tabloid journalists now wanting to worship his every footstep, having only spent the last couple of months slagging him off at every turn…
A turnaround for the Englishman was always on the cards, and he looked absolutely hooked up around the Yeongyam circuit to deliver his first pole position since last year’s Canadian Grand Prix.
Quickest in all three phases of qualifying, his first flying lap in Q3 was good enough for provisional pole by just 0.03 seconds over Vettel, meaning fans would be salivating at the prospect of another gripping battle for pole position, and the realistic chance that Red Bull could finally be toppled.
Perhaps the pole owed as much to Red Bull’s unusual qualifying strategy as it no doubt did to McLaren’s ever-improving pace. Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber (who qualified fourth-fastest, behind Jenson Button in the sister McLaren) opted to run the entire qualifying session on Pirelli’s ‘super-soft’ option tyres, bucking the trend of running the slower ‘soft’ compound in Q1, a session in which they were a dead cert to ease through.
The end result was the the Red Bull drivers each have an extra set of the more durable ‘soft’ tyre compounds at their disposal for tomorrow’s race, which could prove decisive when the chequered flag falls. As everyone knows, there are no points for Saturday’s antics…
Fifth-fastest was Felipe Massa, who outpaced Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso for just the fourth time this season, despite the Brazilian’s Ferrari being fitted with an older-spec front wing. It was a solid performance from the 2008 championship runner-up, but the scarlet cars are well off the pace, and will need a miracle just to challenge for a podium.
The top-ten was completed by Nico Rosberg, Vitaly Petrov, Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, with the Force India drivers electing not to post flying laps in Q3 to save some all-important race rubber for tomorrow.
Rosberg was the sole Mercedes GP driver in Q3 after Michael Schumacher was a surprise elimination in Q2, the seven-time World Champion seemingly affected by a tyre vibration stemming from a wheel imbalance. Struggling with an ill-handling car, he lapped only half-a-second off Rosberg’s Q2 pace, but it was enough to see him bundled out of proceedings. He will start from 12th place, sandwiched by the Toro Rosso pairing of Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi.
A disappointing 14th and 17th places were the end results for the Sauber drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez, who sandwich Bruno Senna’s Renault and Pastor Maldonado’s Williams on the grid.
Maldonado actually knocked the under-fire Rubens Barrichello out of proceedings in the first phase of qualifying, with the Brazilian veteran not opting for another run as the Grove squad continues its appalling season; the former race-winner will start the race from 18th.
It was the usual Noah’s Ark formation at the back of the grid, with the Lotus pairing of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli comfortably outpacing the Virgin and HRT runners – Daniel Ricciardo was unable to post a lap-time in Q1 courtesy of the water leak his HRT car suffered in the final practice session earlier today.
2011 Korean Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:37.525||1:36.526||1:35.820|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:39.093||1:37.285||1:36.042|
|3.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes||1:37.929||1:37.302||1:36.126|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:39.071||1:37.292||1:36.468|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||1:38.426||1:37.892||1:37.754|
|9.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes||1:38.549||1:38.254||no time|
|10.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes||1:38.789||1:38.219||no time|
|12.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:39.392||1:38.315|
|12.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:38.502||1:38.354|
|13.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:39.352||1:38.508|
|14.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari||1:39.464||1:38.775|
|16.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth||1:39.436||1:39.189|
|17.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari||1:39.097||1:39.443|
|18.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth||1:39.538|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus Renault||1:40.522|
|20.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus Renault||1:41.101|
|21.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:42.091|
|22.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:43.483|
|23.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:43.758|
|DNQ.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Cosworth||no time|