Sebastian Vettel heads another Red Bull Racing front row in the Far East by taking pole position in the inaugural Korean Grand Prix. Championship leader Mark Webber lines up in second, ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
Vettel’s ninth pole position of the season came in dramatic fashion as the resurgent German stole the top spot from Alonso after the chequered flag had fallen.
The double world champion’s lap around the 3.492-mile track was one minute, 35.766 seconds, which looked quite impressive, but Vettel’s lap was even more spectacular with a time of one minute, 35.585 seconds. A clear demonstration of the superior pace from the Renault-powered RB6.
To rub salt into the wounds for the Scuderia driver, Webber recovered from his poor first attempt to take second position and lock out the front row. However, the Australian will doubtless be concerned that he must start on the dirty side of the track.
After setting some impressive straight-line speed in the first sector on the new Yeongam thanks to the F-duct and powerful Mercedes engine, the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button could only manage fourth and seventh, with the latter struggling with grip.
For Lewis Hamilton, this was a disappointment. He shown flashes of speed throughout the qualifying session but in the all-important top ten shootout, he missed out on pole by a margin of half a second. It could have been much worst, as entering that controversial pit lane entrance, Lewis lost control of the car and just missed the barrier as he trundled over the grass at high-speed.
Nico Rosberg will start fifth for Mercedes GP, ahead of a subdued Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari. The Brazilian has been complaining all weekend about the lack of balance in the F10 and yet team-mate Alonso is right at the sharp end of the grid…
Jenson Button struggled for tyre temperature through all three sessions and ended up a distant seventh ahead of Robert Kubica’s Renault, Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes and the Williams of Rubens Barrichello.
Kamui Kobayashi outqualified his Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld to go P12, while Adrian Sutil could only manage P14. As for Vitaly Petrov, who will be demoted down five places following his start-line crash at Suzuka, the Russian set the fifteenth fastest time but will start twentieth on the grid.
In the battle of the new teams competing in Formula One, Jarno Trulli took the honours for Lotus with P18 ahead of Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock, who spun in Q1. Behind Petrov will be Heikki Kovalainen followed by Lucas di Grassi, Sakon Yamamoto and Bruno Senna.
Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix is going to be fascinating. Not only for the championship contenders but also in terms of the tyres. Bridgestone has commented that the 24 drivers will face a big challenge to conserve their tyres as they did in Canada if track conditions do not improve. In that race at Montreal, the varying tyre strategies made it an exciting Grand Prix. Hopefully it can provide that on race day at Yeongam.
Qualifying times from Yeongam:
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:35.585
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:35.659
3. Alonso Ferrari 1:35.766
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.062
5. Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.535
6. Massa Ferrari 1:36.571
7. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.731
8. Kubica Renault 1:36.824
9. Schumacher Mercedes 1:36.950
10. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:36.998
11. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:37.620
12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.643
13. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.715
14. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:37.783
15. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:37.853
16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.594
17. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:38.955
18. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:40.521
19. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:40.748
20. Petrov Renault 1:37.799*
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
*Five-place grid penalty