A sour-looking Hamilton didn't look like he was celebrating the end of Red Bull's consecutive run of pole positions...

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.

Red Bull elected for an unusual qualifying strategy, could it pay off in the race? 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:

Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes 1:37.525 1:36.526 1:35.820
2. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault 1:39.093 1:37.285 1:36.042
3. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes 1:37.929 1:37.302 1:36.126
4. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault 1:39.071 1:37.292 1:36.468
5. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari 1:38.670 1:37.313 1:36.831
6. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari 1:38.393 1:37.352 1:36.980
7. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP 1:38.426 1:37.892 1:37.754
8. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault 1:38.378 1:38.186 1:38.124
9. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes 1:38.549 1:38.254 no time
10. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes 1:38.789 1:38.219 no time
12. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:39.392 1:38.315  
12. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP 1:38.502 1:38.354  
13. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:39.352 1:38.508  
14. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari 1:39.464 1:38.775  
15. Bruno Senna BRZ Renault 1:39.316 1:38.791  
16. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth 1:39.436 1:39.189  
17. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari 1:39.097 1:39.443  
18. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth 1:39.538    
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Team Lotus Renault 1:40.522    
20. Jarno Trulli ITA Team Lotus Renault 1:41.101    
21. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth 1:42.091    
22. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth 1:43.483    
23. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Cosworth 1:43.758    
  OUTSIDE 107%     1:44.351    
DNQ. Daniel Ricciardo AUS HRT F1 Cosworth no time    

[Images via Sutton Images and LAT and Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.