Sebastian Vettel has beaten Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado to claim the 33rd pole position of his Formula 1 career ahead of the European Grand Prix at Valencia. The achievement moves Vettel to equal third on the all-time pole-winners’ list, tying him with the great Jim Clark ad Alain Prost.
Vettel surged through to claim top spot from provisional pole-sitter Pastor Maldonado by almost four-tenths of a second in the dying seconds of qualifying, while Hamilton moved into second place just seconds later with his flying lap attempt.
Despite showing plenty of promise as a possible pole-winner this weekend, Lotus wasn’t quite able to deliver when it counted. Romain Grosjean finished up fourth-fastest, while team-mate Kimi Räikkönen was fifth.
The top-ten was completed by Nico Rosberg, Kamui Kobayashi, Nico Hülkenberg, Jenson Button and Paul di Resta.
As has been the case in all three practice sessions, the earlier phases of qualifying delivered two closely fought sessions that saw a few higher profile drivers knocked out of the equation early on.
The first big surprise came in the form of Mark Webber, who was eliminated in the first phase of qualifying after his Red Bull RB8 was hit with a DRS problem that jammed his rear wing open. Stripped of valuable downforce, the Australian finished up a lowly 19th-fastest in the session, one spot behind Toro Rosso stablemate Jean-Éric Vergne, who continued his poor qualifying form with his fifth Q1 elimination of the season.
This meant that one of the usual suspects actually escaped Q1, and it was perhaps no surprise that it was Heikki Kovalainen who would enjoy that honour in his Caterham. The Finn drove brilliantly to beat Vergne to 17th in Q1, and then pulled out all stops to beat Daniel Ricciardo to 16th in the other Toro Rosso in Q2.
The second phase of qualifying was even more closely fought, with less than 0.3 seconds covering the fastest thirteen drivers in the session.
The big shocks in this session were the eliminations of both Ferraris and Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes, who missed out on a Q3 berth by less than eight hundredths of a second. Alonso will start a disappointing eleventh in his second home race, with he and team-mate Massa sandwiching Schumacher.
2012 European Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:38.086|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:38.410||+ 0.324|
|3.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||1:38.475||+ 0.389|
|4.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:38.505||+ 0.419|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:38.513||+ 0.427|
|6.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:38.623||+ 0.537|
|7.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:38.741||+ 0.655|
|8.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:38.752||+ 0.666|
|9.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:38.801||+ 0.715|
|10.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:38.992||+ 0.906|
|Q2 Cut-Off – 1:38.703||Time||Gap|
|11.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:38.707||+ 0.004|
|12.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:38.770||+ 0.067|
|13.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:38.780||+ 0.077|
|14.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||1:39.207||+ 0.504|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:39.358||+ 0.655|
|16.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||1:40.295||+ 1.592|
|17.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:40.358||+ 1.655|
|Q1 Cut-Off – 1:40.087||Time||Gap|
|18.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:40.203||+ 0.116|
|19.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:40.395||+ 0.308|
|20.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||1:40.457||+ 0.370|
|21.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:42.171||+ 2.084|
|22.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:42.527||+ 2.440|
|23.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:42.675||+ 2.588|
|107% Cut-Off – 1:45.742||Time||Gap|
|DNQ.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||no time|
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