It was a tight battle between the front-runners in today's Formula One qualifying session, in preparation for the first Grand Prix in South Korea. Not for the first time this season though, the Red Bull team closed off the front row of the grid.
It was a tight battle between the front-runners in today's Formula One qualifying session, in preparation for the first Grand Prix in South Korea. Not for the first time this season though, the Red Bull team closed off the front row of the grid. Sebastian Vettel snatched pole from team mate, Mark Webber, to achieve his ninth pole position of the season, and making it the eighth time for the team to take the first two positions. Fernando Alonso took third place for Ferrari, and will line up alongside the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton.
On his way to grabbing pole from Webber, the German set a final flying lap time of 1:35.585s. He was faster than his Australian team mate by seven hundreds of a second.
Vettel seems thrilled with the qualifying result, which means he will start from the clean side of the track unlike team mate, Webber.
"It was a small margin for pole, but it was enough and it was a good result as yesterday we didn't have smooth running. We had a puncture in the practice, so I hadn't done too many laps on the new track, which makes it harder to get into a rhythm. You have to take every race as it comes, Japan was a good result, but now in Korea all the focus is on tomorrow's race. The car was quick today, no doubt, but you still need to get the job done and the most important thing is that you remain calm, which we all did as we knew what we had in us. So, we got the job done today, but let's see for tomorrow."
The session was not completely in the hands of Red Bull, as Hamilton did impress in Q1, and was faster than the other top five drivers fighting for the title. The 2008 World Champion topped the timesheets at that point, with a lap time of 1:37.113s. When Q3 got underway and it mattered, the Briton was eight tenths quicker than Webber, and temporarily took first, with the lead then changing to favour Alonso. The Spaniard was the first man to set a lap time in the 1:35s. However, Hamilton did get slightly out of shape on his entrance, back into the pits when he ran wide, but still managed by a whisker to keep it together.
Hamilton's team mate, Jenson Button, seemed to continue the same run of luck as in practice yesterday. Throughout Q1 the defending World Champion was struggling, and finally found the pace once the tyres were up to temperature, but he then got held up in traffic, which meant he aborted his final lap in Q1. Button finished that part of qualifying in tenth position, to take him through to Q2. His performance did not improve once in Q2, and he was seven tenths down on his team mate's time, which saw him drop to seventh position by the end of that stage. By the time Q3 was well underway, Button's situation seemed to go from bad to worse. At Turn 14, he got slightly out of shape, and this hampered his lap time. As a result of the problems he faced with his tyres, Button will start from seventh place on the grid.
Although his Ferrari team mate outqualified him overall, Felipe Massa showed good form in the early stages of Q2. The Brazilian was the first of the front-runners to switch to the softer compound of tyres. This decision proved to have a positive outcome, as he was four tenths faster than his team mate, Alonso. Unfortunately, as the track conditions seemed to improve for the other top drivers, Massa was out of the running to secure a place in the first two rows. He will start just ahead of Button, in sixth position.
After an impressive start to the weekend in practice yesterday, Robert Kubica experienced a mixed qualifying session. During Q1 it appeared that Bruno Senna was on a hot lap, but Kubica was on his tail, and sadly the Polishman wasted a lap, and decided to return to the pits for a short while. Later on in Q1, Kubica got back out onto the track, and with the help of his prime tyres, got through to Q2 in sixth place. The rest of his session went along steadily, but with the top five title contenders about, Kubica will start the race from eighth position.
Vitaly Petrov in the sister Renault will not have the best start to his race tomorrow. In Q2 his tyres were letting him down, giving him very little grip on the track. The lap he was hoping to set was ruined when he spun, and this dropped him to 13th place at the time. His original qualifying position was 15th, but with the five-place grid penalty he incurred at Suzuka, he will now start from 20th position.
After completing yesterday's practice in 13th and 16th place, the Williams drivers would have liked to improve in qualifying, when track position really counts. However, it just did not seem to be their day. Rubens Barrichello was again in close company with Michael Schumacher as in practice. The Brazilian driver appeared to be held up in Q2 by the seven time World Champion, who was just ahead in his Mercedes. Barrichello was less than impressed with Schumacher's actions, and informed FIA Race Director, Charlie Whiting about the incident.
The race stewards have since announced that Schumacher will be reprimanded for impeding Barrichello. The FIA released a statement explaining the reason for the punishment. "The stewards note that irrespective of the team's opinion that car 9 (Barrichello) was not on a "fast lap", it is ultimately the drivers responsibility to be conscious of closing cars via the use of mirrors and blue flags/lights"
The two former Ferrari team mates, will at present, line up alongside each other for the race tomorrow. Schumacher managed to get the higher grid slot of the two, to take ninth place, which leaves Barrichello in the last top ten position.
Barrichello explained how the rest of his lap was slowed, because Schumacher seemed to get in his way.
"I'm a little bit sad because it's only luck that I passed on to Q3 because he really slowed me down... I am a down-to-earth guy, a very cool guy, which means I have a lot of respect even for the slowest cars and to the quickest ones. So we all make mistakes and we are allowed to make a mistake and to apologise...I don't want it to become very personal, we had problems in the past, we still have problems in some situations like in Hungary".
Nico Hulkenberg in the sister Williams was out by the end of Q2. He had a coming together with an adverse camber on the track, which caused him to be a tenth of a second down on his team mate, Barrichello. As a result of the mishap, the German will line up just behind his team mate in 11th position.
The Sauber team left it quite late in Q2 to change for softer tyres, and the gamble did not seem to pay off by the end. Nick Heidfeld was eight tenths down on his Japanese team mate, Kamui Kobayashi. The roles then reversed, as Kobayashi was a second down on his German team mate. As the clock was ticking down for the final stages of Q2, Kobayashi had the upper hand, and will begin the race in 12th position, as Heidfeld trails him in 13th place.
It was a disappointing day for the Force India drivers. Both have done well performance wise, and in particular on race days, but qualifying did not quite go to plan for them today. At one stage it was looking like Adrian Sutil, may have been the one to bow out of Q1, but for the fourth time this season, his Italian team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi dropped out of the session early. His exit as Q1 came to a close did mean that he would have started from 18th position, but with Petrov now 20th, Liuzzi will be one better in 17th position. Despite Sutil getting through to Q2, Sutil could not get himself into the final session. He is also out of the top ten and will line up in 14th place.
Other drivers to drop out after Q2, include the Toro Rosso drivers. Jaime Alguersuari managed to get ahead of his Swiss team mate, Sebastian Buemi. They secured 15th and 16th place respectively. Petrov would have been in Alguersuari's position, but with the grid penalty he faces, it means that there is a minor adjustment in places.
With the continuing battle at the back of the grid, it seems that Lotus have shone over the other new teams in Formula One. Qualifying was no different today, and Jarno Trulli, will start ahead of Virgin Racing's Timo Glock in 18th position.
Heikki Kovalainen managed to beat the other Virgin Racing car, of Lucas Di Grassi, to secure 21st place for the race tomorrow.
Both Hispania Racing cars will resume, what has usually been their position for qualifying, in the final row on the grid, and Sakon Yamamoto is ahead in 23rd place. His Brazilian team mate, Bruno Senna sits alongside him in 24th position. Even though he is in the final spot on the grid, Senna did mix with Kubica in Q1, who is in a more comfortable position near the front-runners.
Since some concerns were raised yesterday after practice, about the pit lane entry, as drivers would be going into it blind on race day. There were fears that if this remained, then there could be a high risk of an accident. The drivers have now been informed that they can ignore the usual ruling, where they have to remain within the white line, which directs the way to the pit lane.
This change means that drivers instead, will be able to cut into the pits using the racing line. It is also the case for the exit from the pits, where drivers can ignore the white line, due to the dust that surrounds the area there. The normal procedure for committing such acts, would result in a drive through penalty, but on this occasion with safety in mind, the normal race conduct for this has been waived.
There has been a further amendment to the circuit over night, with the safety of the drivers of paramount importance. At Turn 16, the kerb has been filled in, which now allows the drivers, to use the racing line, as they should do. The wall at the same place on the circuit has also been moved back to its original position, after concerns that it was also a hazard to drivers.
As the race gets underway tomorrow and the drivers go the distance, around the 3.5-mile Yeongam circuit, a lot of attention will be on polesitter and current Championship leader, Mark Webber. He will face close competition though, from the other drivers fighting for the title. They will be looking to pick up some extremely valuable points, to keep their own hopes alive. As well as their closest Championship rivals to battle against, the drivers may have the weather to contend with, which will inevitably change the track conditions, and impact on the handling of the cars.