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Motorsport Blog

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Vettel on pole for first Korean Grand Prix

Vettel on pole for first Korean Grand Prix
Oct 23, 2010, 9:02 AM

Sebastian Vettel will start tomorrow's inaugural Korean Grand Prix from pole position after an extremely tight qualifying session.

Sebastian Vettel will start tomorrow's inaugural Korean Grand Prix from pole position after an extremely tight qualifying session. Mark Webber was just 7/100ths of a second slower in second place with Fernando Alonso a further 9/100ths off Webber.

It is Vettel's 14th career pole position and the 9th this season in 17 races. Perhaps more staggeringly it is Red Bull's 14th out of 17 races. After second in Singapore, then pole and the win in Japan this is starting to look like a sprint finish by Vettel and Webber is looking nervously over his shoulder with a slender 14 point advantage over his team mate.

Webber starts on the dirty side of the grid and thus faces an immediate threat at the start of tomorrow's Grand Prix from Fernando Alonso, who will start third on the clean side. As this is a new circuit which was very dirty at the outset, it is treacherous off the racing line and with Webber's unconvincing starts recently, there is a very real chance he will lose at least one place tomorrow. If he finishes third behind Vettel and Alonso, his lead over Vettel will be down to just four points with two races to go.

The start will be very tight, it's a short run to Turn 1, but then a tight angle. Then there will be further attacks into Turn 3, at the end of the longest straight in F1. The order at the end of lap one could be quite different from the grid.

Race strategy will be very important tomorrow. All the signs are that the soft tyres the top ten runners will be starting on will grain quickly, so early stops are likely. It is possible that we may see some drivers trying a two stop plan, as in Montreal. This will make the battle between the front runners very interesting and it may offer an alternative strategy to the McLaren drivers, who are likely to be much faster in the race than in qualifying. Button likes doing things differently, so we may see that tomorrow. If he doesn't do something then his championship quest will almost certainly fade away.

The McLarens were disappointing in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton is fourth, half a second off Vettel, while Jenson Button was 7/10ths slower than Hamilton and starts 7th behind Nico Rosberg, who did an outstanding job in qualifying and Felipe Massa. "It’s nice to be ahead of one of the McLaren and Ferrari cars and also Robert who has been very close to us recently, " said a delighted Rosberg. He was 2/10ths faster than team mate Michael Schumacher in 9th, who said that he got the maximum from the car today, which suggests that he's accepted he is 2/10ths slower than Rosberg.

"We were very quick in practice, so I don’t know where the Red Bulls found an extra half a second in Q3," said Hamilton. "Still, it’s important to remember that we’re still in the fight: we make good starts, and there are some long straights here, which should suit us."

In the first part of qualifying, Hamilton set the pace ahead of Vettel. At the back of the field, Force India were obliged to use a set of soft tyres to make the cut, Sutil did it, Liuzzi failed and was eliminated from Q1 for the fourth time this season. He complained of graining problems on his lap.

Jenson Button was a second down on Hamilton, complaining over the radio that his front wheels were locking.

In Q2 the decision to be made was whether to run the hard or soft tyre. Massa went out on softs first, but was slower than Fernando Alonso. At the end of the session, most drivers went onto the soft tyre as the track improved all the time.

Eliminated from Q2 were Hulkenberg, Kobayashi, Heidfeld, Sutil, Petrov (who will start 20th on the grid after his five place penalty from the Japanese Grand Prix) Alguersuari and Buemi.

At this stage it looked as though a two lap run was the fastest way on the soft tyre, the faster lap coming on the second lap.

Alonso set the fastest time on the first runs in Q2 ahead of Vettel and Hamilton, with Webber down in 5th. But Webber stuck with the two lap run tactic for his final attempt, while Vettel nailed it in one.

All weekend the teams have been working out whether to run downforce for curves of Sectors 2 and 3 or run low drag for the straights. Judging from the speed trap times, Ferrari opted to run extra downforce as Alonso is slower than both Webber and Vettel on the straight. McLaren went for the straight line speed and were 6km/h faster.

KOREAN GRAND PRIX, Yeongam, Qualifying

1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:37.123 1:36.074 1:35.585

2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:37.373 1:36.039 1:35.659

3. Alonso Ferrari 1:37.144 1:36.287 1:35.766

4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.113 1:36.197 1:36.062

5. Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.708 1:36.791 1:36.535

6. Massa Ferrari 1:37.515 1:36.169 1:36.571

7. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.123 1:37.064 1:36.731

8. Kubica Renault 1:37.703 1:37.179 1:36.824

9. Schumacher Mercedes 1:37.980 1:37.077 1:36.950

10. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:38.257 1:37.511 1:36.998

11. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:38.115 1:37.620

12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.429 1:37.643

13. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.171 1:37.715

14. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:38.572 1:37.783

15. Petrov Renault 1:38.174 1:37.799 *

16. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.583 1:37.853

17. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.621 1:38.594

18. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:38.955

19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:40.521

20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:40.748

21. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:41.768

22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:42.325

23. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:42.444

24. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:43.283

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Sebastian Vettel Shop Now