Sebastian Vettel has won his 33rd career pole position

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.

Webber was beset by DRS problems and missed the Q1 cutThe 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:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:38.086  
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:38.410 + 0.324
3. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:38.475 + 0.389
4. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:38.505 + 0.419
5. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:38.513 + 0.427
6. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:38.623 + 0.537
7. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:38.741 + 0.655
8. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:38.752 + 0.666
9. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:38.801 + 0.715
10. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:38.992 + 0.906
  Q2 Cut-Off – 1:38.703   Time Gap
11. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:38.707 + 0.004
12. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:38.770 + 0.067
13. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:38.780 + 0.077
14. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:39.207 + 0.504
15. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:39.358 + 0.655
16. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:40.295 + 1.592
17. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:40.358 + 1.655
  Q1 Cut-Off – 1:40.087   Time Gap
18. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:40.203 + 0.116
19. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:40.395 + 0.308
20. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:40.457 + 0.370
21. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:42.171 + 2.084
22. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:42.527 + 2.440
23. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:42.675 + 2.588
  107% Cut-Off – 1:45.742   Time Gap
DNQ. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 no time  

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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.