Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel took his third career pole position by snatching the all-important grid slot from his championship rival Jenson Button, in the closing stages of qualifying in Turkey.
In the closing seconds of Q3, Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber set the pace with his second run as he lapped in one minute, 28. 613 seconds. But moments later Button took that away with a time of one minute, 28. 421 seconds with his Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello backing him up with one minute, 28. 579 seconds.
But Vettel’s final run around the challenging anti-clockwise circuit that is the Istanbul Park meant he grabbed his second pole position of the season with a time of one minute, 28. 316 seconds. The margin between the Red Bull Racing driver and the series leader was just over a tenth of a second.
This was a great performance by the young German and after setting the pace in sessions one and two in qualifying, it wasn’t a surprise to see the energy drink-sponsored car heading the field after Q3. Indeed, this result is a major boost to Vettel’s title hopes after crashing out early in the Monaco Grand Prix. Sebastian really needs to score big in order to close the margin of 28 points to Jenson.
Even though Jenson Button was denied a third consecutive pole position by a tenth of a second, he is still on the front row. His Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello did well to recover from a poor first run in Q3 to take third spot, while Red Bull’s Mark Webber earned a respectable fourth position.
Toyota’s Jarno Trulli will start the Turkish Grand Prix in fifth, ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa respectively. This was a disappointing performance by Massa, as he was seeking for a fourth straight pole despite setting the quickest time in final practice leading up to qualifying. Felipe’s chances of going for a fourth consecutive victory on his favourite circuit is looking quite slim.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso lines up eighth in the Renault ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Williams and the improved BMW Sauber of Robert Kubica. In fact, this was a better showing from the BMW squad following a disastrous Monaco Grand Prix weekend a fortnight ago. Kubica’s team-mate Nick Heidfeld will start the race in P11.
But the biggest disappointments would have to be McLaren. After setting some promising lap times in the two practice sessions on Friday, the pace and handling of the Mercedes-powered MP4-24 made it quite a handful for both Heikki Kovalainen and world champion Lewis Hamilton. The pair struggled to set decent lap times due to a lack of grip and will start the seventh race of the season down in a depressing P14 and P16 respectively.
As for the under-pressure Brazilian that is Nelson Piquet Jr, he yet again failed in qualifying and was eliminated in the early stages following two spins in the Renault. First he ran wide upon exiting the demanding Turn 8, then later on plunging into the Turn 3 gravel (no thanks to a brake problem) – all of which left him 17th on the grid.
Qualifying times – Istanbul Park
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:28.316
2. Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:28.421
3. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:28.579
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:28.613
5. Trulli Toyota 1:28.666
6. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:28.815
7. Massa Ferrari 1:28.858
8. Alonso Renault 1:29.075
9. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:29.191
10. Kubica BMW-Sauber 1:29.357
11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 1:27.521
12. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:27.629
13. Glock Toyota 1:27.795
14. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.207
15. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:28.391
16. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.318
17. Piquet Renault 1:28.582
18. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:28.708
19. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 1:28.717
20. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:28.918