Despite getting off to a very promising start in practice yesterday, things did not run quite so smoothly in today's Formula One qualifying session, for the Red Bull drivers as they saw Fernando Alonso pip them to pole position in his ...
Despite getting off to a very promising start in practice yesterday, things did not run quite so smoothly in today's Formula One qualifying session, for the Red Bull drivers as they saw Fernando Alonso pip them to pole position in his Ferrari.
It was in the dying seconds of Q3 when the Spaniard took the top spot from the grasp of Sebastian Vettel, who in turn held off Lewis Hamilton for second position. Defending World Champion, Jenson Button, made it an all-McLaren second row, as he secured fourth place next to his team mate.
As well as managing to fight off his closest Championship rivals, Alonso also made it a back-to-back pole position this season. However, his teammate Felipe Massa's session was a totally different story, as he suffered a gearbox problem, which sees him at the opposite end of the starting line up in twenty-fourth place. The Brazilian was the first surprise exit from Q1.
"I had a problem with the gearbox which seized unexpectedly, without giving any warning and so I had to stop out on the track: now we have to understand exactly what happened. We will change the engine as a precaution, also taking into account the fact I am last on the grid."
Ferrari has already used its 2010 allotment of engines for Massa, so each fresh engine will incur a grid penalty -- unless you were already at the back of the grid, like Massa tomorrow.
Other drivers who joined Massa to bow out early, included Timo Glock in his Virgin Racing car. The German driver qualified in eighteenth position for the team, and ahead of the other new ones this season, as it still remains that Lotus, have been the team on top form among the back markers.
It was Heikki Kovalainen who lined up next in nineteenth place for the current leading new team, the other Virgin Racing driver, Lucas Di Grassi followed closely behind in twentieth position. Kovalainen's Italian team mate, Jarno Trulli took twenty-first place. The two Hispania cars were left trailing, but Christian Klien, the temporary replacement for Sakon Yamamoto, was surprisingly in front of team mate Bruno Senna.
Initially as the clock was ticking down to the end of Q3, Sebastian Vettel looked as though he may run away with first place, for the start of the race tomorrow. He had a slight wobble earlier on, and dropped to seventh position, before he began his final qualifying lap, but managed to redeem himself and was motoring round the track. The German beat Alonso's first and middle sector times, but lost out in the later stages when it mattered the most. Tomorrow's polesitter grabbed pole position from his Red Bull rival, with an impressive lap time of 1:45.390s.
Alonso seemed quite satisfied with how today's qualifying went in his favour.
"Every pole position is important, but clearly, starting from the front in a race like this and at this point in the season is very important and gives one hope of being able to bring down the gap in the classification even more. Setting two pole positions in a row, at circuits as different as Monza and Singapore is a real boost, because it means that the car can be really competitive at every type of track."
Even so, he had reported over the radio to his team in Q2, and complained that the settings were affecting his lap times and speed. After a few adjustments, the former World Champion seemed to be back on track, but this setback only left him with two final laps to take pole from Vettel.
The current leader in the Drivers' Championship, Mark Webber failed to fight for the top spots, especially after looking good in practice yesterday. The Australian only managed fifth position in the sister Red Bull, ahead of Rubens Barrichello in his Williams.
Robert Kubica found himself sandwiched between the Mercedes drivers, but it was Nico Rosberg of the two, who qualified into a higher grid slot. The German driver outshone his fellow team mate, and countryman to secure seventh position, in front of Michael Schumacher, in ninth place. It was the first time since the British Grand Prix, that the seven-time World Champion had qualified into the top ten shootout.
While Kamui Kobayashi impressed for Sauber, by taking the last top ten position, ahead of the Toro Rosso driver, Jaime Alguersuari. Nico Hulkenberg in the other Williams came next in twelfth position, as he just missed out on getting into Q1.
Vitaly Petrov had a disappointing session compared to Kubica, his Renault team mate. The Russian spun his car at Turn five in Q2, causing his right rear suspension to break. As a result of this incident, he will start from thirteenth place, and just ahead of Sebastian Buemi in his Toro Rosso.
Christian Klien has returned to race in Formula One this weekend, to step in for Hispania Racing's Sakon Yamamoto who is unwell. Klien was not the only one to get back into the driving seat, with a driver change for Sauber as well. Nick Heidfeld accompanies Kamui Kobayashi, but the German could not out perform the Japanese driver in qualifying.
It has certainly been interesting to see how the change in drivers for these teams has had the opposite impact. Heidfeld only managed to grab fifteenth position for tomorrow's grid, as he sits just ahead of both Force India drivers, the German, Adrian Sutil in sixteenth, and Vitantonio Liuzzi in seventeenth. The Italian got slightly out of shape during Q2, which hampered the rest of the session for him.
Today's qualifying result already proves that the race round the Marina Bay Circuit will be an exciting prospect, with all of the top five drivers in contention for the Drivers' title, all lining up at the front of the grid. This situation alone means that the top step of the podium, could feature any one of them.