In a dramatic wet qualifying session at Interlagos where the track was drying out, Nico Hülkenberg took a sensational pole position for the Williams team as the championship contenders were caught out in the damp conditions.
The young German and the Williams team opted for the slicks tyre in the final top ten shootout and that gamble paid off. A whole second advantage over the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber!
Hülkenberg is the sixth youngest driver to ever score a pole position in the history of the Formula One world championship, behind Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Rubens Barrichello, Lewis Hamilton and Andrea de Cesaris. In addition, this is the team’s first pole since Nick Heidfeld took the honours at the European Grand Prix back in 2005.
All the frontrunners had changed to the slick Bridgestone tyres for their final runs at the end of Q3 and the Formula One rookie unleashed a string of fastest laps to beat the Red Bull Racing pair of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber to the top spot.
The Red Bulls looked in danger of starting at the wrong end of the top ten right up until the last few seconds, with Webber having an off-track moment with two minutes remaining. The Australian recovered and leapt up to second with his last effort, only to be demoted down to third position by his team-mate Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton initially held pole position during the final run but was eventually shuffled down to fourth. Still, at least the McLaren is competitive against the charging Red Bulls.
As for the championship leader Fernando Alonso, the Ferrari driver did set provisional pole but in the drying conditions, the others went faster and in the end, he lines up fifth on the grid. Joining him on the third row is home crowd favourite Rubens Barrichello in the Williams.
Robert Kubica was one of the first drivers to go out on slicks, although he spun at Turn 12 (Junçao) before rejoining the track and setting his personal best laps. The Renault driver will start the Brazilian Grand Prix in seventh, one position ahead of Michael Schumacher.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa just made it into Q3 and will start ninth in front of the passionate Brazilian fans, while Vitaly Petrov completing the top ten.
For the reigning world champion Jenson Button, this was another difficult qualifying session. The McLaren driver again struggled with a lack of balance and will start the Brazilian Grand Prix in P11.
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi lines up in P12, just ahead of Nico Rosberg who missed Q3 for the first time since Spa. Jaime Alguersuari will share row seven with Nick Heidfeld once Sebastien Buemi, who qualified P15, has taken his grid penalty for crashing into Timo Glock in Korea.
Adrian Sutil was the casualty of Q1, joining the six regulars in the elimination zone. He was swapped that spot during the session with Vitantonio Liuzzi, but ended frustrated after his Force India team-mate spun off at Mergulho and spoiled his lap when rejoining. To make matters worse for Sutil, he will take a five-place penalty for his collision with Kobayashi in Korea.
In the battle between the new Formula One teams, the honour went to Timo Glock for Virgin Racing, beating the Lotus pair of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen to P19. Christian Klien out-qualified HRT Bruno Senna, who spun at the end of Q1 and will start his first home Grand Prix from the back.
So a fantastic qualifying session for Hülkenberg and Williams. Can The Hulk remain in front during Sunday’s race? Or will we see the championship contenders coming through as the fight for the championship intensified? Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix is going to be thrilling.
Qualifying times from Interlagos:
1. Hülkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:14.470
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:15.519
3. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:15.637
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.747
5. Alonso Ferrari 1:15.989
6. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:16.203
7. Kubica Renault 1:16.552
8. Schumacher Mercedes 1:16.925
9. Massa Ferrari 1:17.101
10. Petrov Renault 1:17.656
11. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.288
12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:19.385
13. Rosberg Mercedes 1:19.486
14. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:19.581
15. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1:19.899
16. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:20.357
17. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:22.130
18. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:22.250
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:22.378
20. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:19.847*
21. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:22.810
22. Klien HRT-Cosworth 1:23.083
23. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:20.830*
24. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:23.796
*Five-place penalty for causing an avoidable accident in the Korean Grand Prix