Hulkenberg shocks title contenders to take pole for Brazilian GP
With all of the attention and pressure on the top five drivers, who are currently battling for the drivers' title, it was Nico Hulkenberg who stole the show in today's Formula One qualifying session for the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
After yesterday's final practice was over, and the German landed 13th place, he seemed quite far from the front row of the grid. However, what a difference a day makes, as he stunned everyone to secure his first pole position in the Formula One.
"My first pole position is an emotional and hopefully historic moment as I want to be in F1 for many, many years... I am still shaking from the thrill and I just want to enjoy it and get on with the job tomorrow... It was a pretty good lap with no mistakes," beamed the German. "It was still tricky out there. There were wet parts, particularly the last corner. But the lap was spot on."
Hulkenberg's final lap time to secure first place was 1:14.470s. The Williams driver snatched the top spot from Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who ended up in second and his team mate, Mark Webber took third place. Both drivers looked very strong in yesterday's practice, but today's session certainly threw up a few surprises for them.
Hulkenberg was thrilled with the result, and especially achieving not only his maiden pole but the first pole position for the team, since the European Grand Prix in 2005, which now Sauber driver, Nick Heidfeld secured for them.
The McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, maintained similar form as in practice yesterday, and will line up on the second row of the grid alongside Webber. Sadly his team mate, Jenson Button, did not have the greatest result, and his qualifying was over as Q2 came to an end. The defending World Champion's hopes of keeping his fight for the title alive, seem to be reducing further and further away.
As the track was drying out gradually after a light rain fall which appeared earlier on as the session got underway, Button did manage to grab tenth position, but this was only a temporary measure, when Ferrari's Felipe Massa snatched it by a small margin. As a result of the disappointing run for the Briton, he will begin the race from 11th position on the grid. Whereas, Massa went on into Q3 and got himself into ninth position, which puts him in a reasonable place on the grid, when he races on home soil tomorrow.
Fernando Alonso in the sister Ferrari, who is currently leading in the Drivers' Championship, did take the top spot for a short while, but Hulkenberg managed to fight off tough competition from the top contenders, who are still hungry for the title. The Spaniard finally ended up in fifth position, and two places lower than his place in second practice.
Rubens Barrichello also had a very solid finish for the Williams team, despite being outqualified by his rookie team mate. The Brazilian driver will start from sixth place, and accompanies Alonso on the third row of the grid.
Robert Kubica took a slight detour during the session, after he opted for the slick tyres before anyone else, which saw him leave the track, but he managed to get back on course and set a few good laps. The Renault driver landed himself seventh position, and he got slightly ahead of his Russian team mate, Vitaly Petrov. One of the rookie drivers in Formula One did secure the last desirable slot on the grid, and he will start from tenth position.
The final driver who was able to make it into a top ten position was Michael Schumacher. The Mercedes driver experienced a rarity in the team, as he beat his fellow countryman and team mate to a higher grid position. This result was the opposite to yesterday's turn of events in practice, whereby; Nico Rosberg went one place better than Schumacher. Nevertheless, the veteran driver of the two will start ahead in eighth position. However, Rosberg trails him by a few grid slots, and will begin the race from 13th place.
Another in team battle was seen in the Sauber team. It was the feisty Japanese driver, Kamui Koabayashi, who leapt several places in front of his team mate, Heidfeld. Koabayashi picked up 12th position for the grid tomorrow, which left Heidfeld down in 16th place. The chance of a good finish for the German driver may not be too far out of reach, as Sebastian Buemi for Toro Rosso, still faces his five place grid penalty, following his incident with Virgin Racing's Timo Glock at the last race in Korea. This adjustment to the grid will put Heidfeld in 15th place, next to the other Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari, who is just ahead in 14th position. Alguersuari's Swiss team mate, who will take the punishment from the stewards, will now start from 20th place.
Towards the back of the pack there was upset for the Force India driver, Adrian Sutil, who suffered in Q1 when his Italian team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi was a bit of an obstruction during the German's lap. Liuzzi spun his car and went off the track, which meant Sutil did not progress well with his lap time. The rest of the weekend and especially for starting the race tomorrow, will not be the best for Sutil, who originally qualified in 18th position. He too, like Buemi will take a five-place grid penalty, because of his collision with Koabayashi during the last race. This will see him fall down the field to 23rd position. On the other hand, with the shake up of positions where the back markers are concerned, Liuzzi will benefit and begin from 16th position, unlike his team mate's situation.
Of the new teams lining up at the back of the pack, it was Virgin who faired better than the others for a change. The team colours usually ahead are Lotus, but they could not quite close the gap on their rivals. Glock will start from 17th position, and is ahead of the Italian driver Jarno Trulli, and his Finnish team mate in the sister Lotus, Heikki Kovalainen, who will start alongside in 19th place. Lucas di Grassi in the other Virgin car, will begin his home race in 21st position. The Brazilian driver pipped Hispania Racing's Christian Klien to the higher grid slot, but the Austrian is not too far behind in 22nd place. His team mate Bruno Senna did not have the best chance of starting well, like the other Brazilian drivers also at their home race, when he spun near to the close of Q1. Senna makes up the back of the grid in the 24th and final position.
The outcome of today's qualifying session is definitely a turn up for the books, and would not have been what anyone or even the top five title contenders could have predicted. When the lights go out to start the race tomorrow, it is likely that Hulkenberg will be looking to make the most of his pole position advantage. Meanwhile, those battling to secure the this year's title, over their closest rivals will not be too far behind, and the points between them are very few and far between. Alonso leads Webber by 11 points, Hamilton is third with a difference of ten points, Vettel is in fourth place and there is a small margin of four points between them. Button is slightly behind in fifth position, and 17 points adrift from Vettel.