By Hannah Taylor, F1 Correspondent
For the eighth time of the Formula One 2011 season, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has charged to the front of the field. The German driver got back to normality and resumed his reign in qualifying, ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Vettel became polesitter for the 23rd time in his career to date, with a blistering lap time of 1:19.815secs.Vettel explained how he feels getting another pole position under his belt, and how he rates his progress over the weekend so far.
“We changed a lot on the car overnight and the boys were working pretty hard and didn’t get much sleep, but I think if we have a result like this it’s the best way to say thanks, so I’m very happy. I’ve got the confidence back, today I felt much more comfortable in the car and I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” commented Vettel.
The current World Champion surprised the field, as he snatched the top spot from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton with only a few seconds remaining on the clock. Hamilton’s team mate, Jenson Button achieved his third top three grid slot this season, to start just behind the 2008 World Champion.
Initially, as the first session was in the early stages, it looked like Vettel had the upper hand. He topped the timesheets ahead of the rest of the front-runners, with a lap time of 1:22.387secs.
With Vettel being the leader first of all, Webber came through in second place at the time. It was after this that the McLaren duo emerged. Button was the first of the two, which saw Webber slip to third place. Hamilton was next to put Vettel in his place, as he took the top spot temporarily. The change of leader meant the positions were as follows: Hamilton P1, Vettel P2, Button P3 and Webber P4.
Ferrari looked like the outsiders at first, but then Alonso soon made this the contrary. His track position changed from 18th to third place. The line up at the front then read as follows: Hamilton P1, Vettel P2, Alonso P3, Button P4 and Webber P5.
With less than seven minutes of the session remaining, there was a minor change to the line up of the front-runners. Hamilton was still leading, Vettel was P2, Button then snatched P3 from Alonso who went down a place, Massa took P5 and Webber was in sixth position.
At the point where there were less than two minutes to go until the end of Q1, the top six decided to retreat to the pits and not do a final flying lap. Their positions at the end of the session then read as follows: Alonso took the top spot from Hamilton who went down to second place. Vettel then slipped into third position ahead of Button. Massa was in fifth place ahead of Webber.
Elsewhere in the field and in particular concerning the midfield runners, there was close competition as the drivers took to the track for the first part of qualifying. In the mix trailing the front-runners included the Mercedes pair of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. The veteran racer of the two, Schumacher was ahead at the time. The German seemed to be running well, as he demonstrated his experience of the Hungaroring, having won at the circuit on seven occasions. In the past his extensive winning record also includes four pole positions that he has achieved there.
Rosberg and Schumacher were also up against the likes of F1 rookie, Force India driver, Paul di Resta. The Scotsman had impressed with his performance in free practice, and again in qualifying was no different. With less than four minutes to go he managed to get himself into eighth place. This early effort was on a par with his German team mate Adrian Sutil, who came through to go one better. Sutil slipped passed to grab seventh place at that moment.
Another rookie in the sport this season, who is making good progress, is Lotus Renault’s Vitaly Petrov. With the first stage of the session well underway, the Russian got himself into 10th place. Once again as with di Resta and Sutil’s scrap, a second in team battle formed, as Nick Heidfeld came to the forefront of the action. The German soon snatched 10th position from his newcomer team mate.
Two other teams that were battling with their midfield rivals, included Williams and Sauber. During Q1 it was a game of two halves, as Rubens Barrichello was initially ahead of his Venezuelan team mate Pastor Maldonado and rival team Sauber. Kamui Kobayashi experienced the same fate as the Brazilian driver. He was also ahead of his rookie team mate and the second driver of rival team Williams. The feisty Japanese driver managed to get ahead of his Mexican team mate, Sergio Perez in the line up as the Q1 battle was heating up.
Before the attention turned on the seven drivers who failed to make it through to Q2, it was reported that the Red Bull team were examining Vettel’s rear wing at the point where the DRS is situated. The initial concerns reported were soon over, when it was announced that there were no problems with the car after all. Webber also experienced similar issues between final practice and qualifying today. The Australian was reported to have changed his rear wing ahead of Q1.
Aside from the teams going head to head and battling for track position, there were no major dramas in Q1. The only risky moment came with less than seven minutes remaining, when a marshal took his life into his hands. A piece of Vitantonio Liuzzi’s car was seen at the exit of Turn three. The marshal safely rescued the bit of debris from the Hispania Racing car.
Finally, Heidfeld knocked Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi out at the end of Q1, but the pair have already had a battle, which caused Buemi to be the one to lose out on that occasion too. Following last week’s contact between the two drivers at the German Grand Prix, Buemi was issued with a five-place grid drop for this weekend’s race. In terms of the qualifying line up, the Swiss driver finished in 18th place, but with the penalty that he has incurred he will now start from 23rd position.
Team Lotus seem to be maintaining their usual high standard of the new teams. Heikki Kovalainen managed to pip his Italian team mate to the better position though. With Buemi’s penalty in mind, the pair will line up in 18th and 19th place respectively. Despite Jarno Trulli being behind his Finnish team mate, he will be feeling positive about being back in his racing seat again. Trulli’s seat was occupied by reserve driver, Karun Chandhok for the race in Germany last weekend.
Towards the very back of the field, the Marussia Virgin Racing cars have been split by the Hispania Racing ones and Buemi is in the mix as well. Timo Glock for Marussia Virgin Racing is just behind the Team Lotus boys. The German managed to get in front of Liuzzi. Meanwhile Daniel Ricciardo in the sister Hispania Racing car will start the race from 22nd place. On the final row of the grid alongside Buemi, will be the second Marussia Virgin Racing car of Jerome D’Ambrosio.
As in Q1 the second stage of qualifying had windy conditions around the track. In particular this part of the session, was very much focused on tyre choices. Di Resta opted for the soft compound of tyres, and he was one of the first drivers to take to the track. His solid performance in Q1 sadly, did not follow through to Q2. With the clock showing less than five minutes left, di Resta was in the drop out zone. He did improve for a short while, but Perez soon hampered his chances, as he got through to the final top ten shootout position. To add to di Resta’s disappointment of not getting through to Q3, his team mate Sutil made it there instead of him. This result now means that di Resta will start from 11th place on the grid. The other midfield runners who got themselves, into the final Q3 battle were Rosberg and Schumacher.
To accompany di Resta beyond the top ten grid slots will be Petrov in 12th position, with Kobayashi next in 13th place. Heidfeld will join Kobayashi on the seventh row of the grid, as he landed 14th place for himself.
Barrichello is also a casualty as a result of the Q2 results, reporting to the team that he had a lack of KERS charge. He will begin the race from 15th position next to the Toro Rosso driver, Jaime Alguersuari. While Barrichello’s team mate, Maldonado was the last to bow of the line up at the end of Q2. Consequently, he will make his way through the field from 17th place.
With the midfield runners having their fair share of problems and lacking pace, the top title contenders seemed to be on another level. Initially though, Vettel did set the early pace, despite not being the fastest at that point this weekend. On his first attempt in Q2 he still went straight to the top, and took first place with a time of 1:21.095secs. Vettel’s team mate Webber came through shortly after to ruffle his dominant wings, and snatched the lead with a 1:20.890secs. Hamilton was quick to follow this impressive time, but at first was not quite as fast. To start with Hamilton could only do enough for third place with a 1:21.105secs.
However, it seemed he was just building up to something special, as he crossed the line with a 1:20.578secs to hold first place. Alonso was keen to get in on the action of Q2, as he took the lead off Hamilton with a time of 1:20.262secs. As a result of their hard work and fine lap times topping the timesheets, the top seven drivers stayed in the pits, and left the midfield to battle for position with each other. As another seven of the field were dropped off at the end of Q2, it came down to the fight for the most desirable grid slots on the track.
Hamilton was one of the first of the front-runners to leave the pits. Although the vital thing at this point is grid position, the tyre choice was important with the windy conditions. It was interesting to see when Hamilton emerged, with a set of supersoft tyres on his car. He was using the first new set that he has available to him of the race weekend. The gamble seemed to pay off to start with, until Vettel came on the scene to take pole overall.
Alonso was the man on top to start with, but Hamilton soon completed his flying lap. The Englishman seemed to experience some oversteer, and was down on Alonso’s first two sector times. Despite this Hamilton still came through to snatch first place with a 1:19.978secs. Button was going on strong in third place, with Massa on his tail in fourth position.
There was more excitement still to come, with less than five minutes until the polesitter would be confirmed.
Vettel’s first attempt at taking pole did not go according to plan. He could only do enough to take second place, and was less than a tenth of a second adrift of Hamilton’s pace. Webber was also suffering similar fate, as he was trailing in sixth position, and more than a tenth of a second down on Hamilton’s lap time.
By the final stage of Q3 it ended up being a three horse race, as Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso, were all galloping to take pole position. Alonso was the first to fall at the final hurdle, and had to settle for fifth place. Once the reigning World Champion had conquered and taken pole position, Hamilton slipped immediately to second place.
His team mate may have been quite satisfied though, as he got ahead of Massa and Webber as well as Alonso. Rosberg is not far behind Webber and will start in seventh position. While Schumacher had to settle for ninth place, as well as being out qualified by his team mate by two positions. Sutil will start the race in a Mercedes sandwich from eighth position. Perez is the last of the drivers to line up the grid from Q3, and will start from a solid 10th place.
Once again the fortune of the drivers has changed, and Vettel is back in control of qualifying and landing the top spot. It will be interesting to see how the battle unfolds in the race tomorrow, as Hamilton and Button look strong and Alonso and Massa should not be written off yet. As well as his closest rivals, including team mate Webber, Vettel will have the uncertainty of incidents, that may occur and tyre wear to contend with in the race.