Hülkenberg takes shocking pole at Interlagos

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

10 thoughts to “Hülkenberg takes shocking pole at Interlagos”

  1. By taking his first pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Formula One rookie hopes he still has a future at the Williams team. Autosport.com provides the story.

    Nico Hulkenberg is hopeful that earning his maiden Formula 1 pole position at Interlagos today will help him cement his place in the Williams team for next year.

    There has been speculation that Hulkenberg could be replaced by GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado for financial reasons, despite the team saying it has been happy with Hulkenberg’s performance so far.

    But after giving Williams its first pole position for five years, the 23-year-old German is positive on his future.

    “This means a pay rise actually… only joking,” Hulkenberg said. “The situation at Williams is very open, nothing is confirmed but I just try to keep focused on doing a good job, and so far it is working pretty well.

    “If I do that and I don’t make any silly mistakes, that is what I can do. Then it’s up to team if they want to keep me, but I am in positive mood that we will have a successful conclusion to that story.”

    Of clinching pole position, by beating the two Red Bulls, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso by more than a second on slick tyres on a damp track, Hulkenberg added: “It is amazing, I still can’t believe I’ve done it.

    “Going on slicks was obviously the right decision, my engineer told me I had one last lap so I was squeezing everything out of car, trying not to get on the wet parts. It was easy to do a mistake but that lap was spot on. It’s a great moment for us.”

    Hulkenberg admits that he is unlikely to be able to hold off the title contenders if Sunday’s race is dry, but is determined to convert his pole into a strong points finish with Williams lying just three points behind Force India in the race for sixth in the Constructors’ Championship.

    “The best thing is to do a good start and drive off from them, but if it’s dry that’s not going to happen,” he said. “I’ll try to do my job. These guys are fighting for title so I don’t want to cause trouble, but we also have to look at our own performance.

    “We are fighting with Force India for P6. I am sure I can manage it and bring back some good points tomorrow.”

  2. Williams engineering director Patrick Head said the team’s first pole in five years is exactly the boost it requires as it fights to get back to the forefront of Formula 1.

    A spectacular performance from Nico Hulkenberg saw the German rookie take pole at Interlagos by over a second in drying conditions. The result was Williams’s first pole since Nick Heidfeld started from the front at the Nurburgring in 2005.

    “There’s no champagne for Saturday, but it’s fantastic for the team,” Head told the BBC.

    “Everybody back at base and here is pushing to try and get back to being a frontrunning team and this will give everybody good impetus.”

    Head also revealed that Hulkenberg had initially been unsure about changing to slick tyres in Q3, but was persuaded after his veteran team-mate Rubens Barrichello made the switch.

    “Rubens changed to dries first, Rubens is very experienced in choice of tyres,” Head explained.

    “Nico thought it wasn’t good enough for dries but his race engineer Tom McCulloch told him Rubens was going onto dries, Nico followed and put the hammer down and really did the job. It’s fantastic.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  3. Despite missing out on pole position, Sebastian Vettel was quite pleased to start the Brazilian Grand Prix on the front row. Autosport.com has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel said he was happy with second place on the grid for the Brazilian Grand Prix after a tricky qualifying session.

    The Red Bull driver finished behind Williams’s Nico Hulkenberg, who secured his maiden pole position after a superb performance on Saturday.

    “It was a tricky session, and obviously a tough call in Q3,” said Vettel. “It’s tricky in these conditions and it’s easy to do a mistake. We were targeting pole and he [Hulkenberg] was better for all of us today. I am happy with second.”

    Vettel conceded it was no luck that gave Hulkenberg, the young German finishing over a full second ahead of his closest rival.

    Vettel added: “Generally I am happy with qualifying, but also angry because if there is a second gap to the guy ahead it is not frustrating but a statement. We saw yesterday at the beginning when the track was green that Williams was generally a quick car.

    “It was not a lucky lap at all if you outqualify everyone by a second. He did it three times in a row. But I’m happy with second as it could have been anything this afternoon.”

    And Vettel said he will treat Hulkenberg as a serious rival despite the Williams not being as quick as the Red Bull in race trim.

    “I have to take notice of him, he is ahead of me, he is ahead so he is a challenger and we are racing against him,” he said. “The race is long, a lot of things can happen. We know we should be quicker in the race, as the car is a bit quicker than the Williams.

    “We will focus on a good start and it is a long race, a lot of things can happen.”

  4. For Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, taking third was the best result considering the circumstances. Read on for his views as taken from Autosport.com.

    Mark Webber said he was very pleased to take third on the grid in a qualifying session in which he felt all the title contenders had a lot to lose, as a drying track at Interlagos shook up the order.

    While Nico Hulkenberg claimed a surprise pole for Williams, Webber was third – behind his Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, but two places ahead of main championship rival Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.

    “I enjoyed qualifying, it was a very challenging session for all of us,” said Webber. “It’s easy in those conditions to get things wrong, so I’m happy to be right towards the front and to get something out of last session.

    “It was really, really tricky to get the clean laps in. I did my best and I’m close to Seb.

    “I am happy. Could have easily have been 17th today, it was a tricky session for all the drivers. If you’d asked me before Q3 if I’d be happy with third, then maybe not, but after the session it was very tricky on slicks so it’s good to be on second row, it’s a good position for the start of the race.

    “In the end, it was a sensational team performance today. We got everything apart from one position and JB [Jenson Button] had a tough day. We’ll try to capitalise on that tomorrow, and there were a lot of positives from today.”

    Webber also reiterated that while he had voiced his unhappiness at some elements of the Red Bull team situation on Thursday, those concerns were not affecting his focus at all when he was in the car.

    “When I’m in the car absolutely, it’s completely clear, we’ve seen that with my performances in the last five or six races,” he said.

    “Korea didn’t turn out but none of us have perfect seasons. Apart from that I’m happy with how I’ve driven and you cannot drive like that if not you’re happy. The boys on the floor are clear to go and have a good race tomorrow. That is our focus.”

  5. As for the championship leader Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard has said that qualifying could have gone a lot worst. Still, he is fifth on the grid and Autosport.com can provide the details as seen below.

    Fernando Alonso said he was not too disappointed to only be fifth on the Interlagos grid, as he feared the result could have been much worse given the unpredictable conditions.

    With the track starting off damp but drying rapidly, the end of Q3 saw the top 10 drivers dive in for slick tyres and change positions repeatedly.

    As Nico Hulkenberg took a sensational pole for Williams, Ferrari driver Alonso briefly held second but was pushed back to fifth – behind title rivals Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.

    “Well, in a qualifying like this, wet, dry, you never make any predictions or have any expectations. I think you do the best [you can],” Alonso told television reporters.

    “It was a difficult time for us in Q2, I think I was eighth and Felipe [Massa] was 10th. We were struggling a bit with the intermediate tyres.

    “Then with the dry tyres it was a tricky circuit to play. At the end, fifth is obviously not pole position, but we saved one tricky qualifying.”

    He said his priority for tomorrow – a race that could see him crowned as world champion for a third time – was just to maintain his current 11-point cushion over nearest rival Webber.

    “I know that there are some strange results that can give me the championship but for us the main priority is to increase the gap to the second guy,” said Alonso.

    “Now it’s 11 points to Mark, if we can finish tomorrow afternoon with more than those 11 points, it will be great.

    “If we have to give some points [away], hopefully it’s not too many.”

  6. Jenson Button concedes he is very unlikely to be able to help team-mate Lewis Hamilton after his disappointing qualifying performance in Brazil.

    Button, who is all but out of the championship fight with two races to go, continued to struggle for pace at Interlagos, finishing outside the top ten in 11th position.

    The world champion admitted he was disappointed with his showing, and said helping Hamilton in the race will be very hard now.

    “It’s been pretty tough for me all weekend. I’ve struggled with car quite bit to get a balance,” said Button after qualifying.

    “It was actually better in qualifying than it has been all weekend. I put new tyres on at the end of qualifying and the first lap was alright, but for the second the tyres were too damaged to get a lap out of them so I pitted.

    “It’s disappointing not to get in the top 10 but I’ve started from worse places here and done okay. It’s not as disappointing as last year, but still pretty disappointing.

    “As a supporting role it’s pretty difficult when you’re so far behind your team-mate, so if Lewis gets a good start in I’m not going to be able to help in that way. But I’m 11th, I started 14th last year and had a pretty good race, so we’ll see what happens.”

    Button also admitted that his own title hopes are now over: “Before, there was a slither of hope of retaining the championship but now it’s gone, it’s basically impossible. My main aim is just to have some fun tomorrow and see how many points we can get.

    Hamilton finished down in fourth position, the Briton pleased to at least be in the fight.

    “It’s better than nothing,” said Hamilton. “I can’t complain really. Just on that last lap I got a bit held up right at the last corner, someone was backing off in front of me.

    “Unfortunately I lost a bit of time there, a little bit frustrating. But I’m still in the fight. It’s quite cool that Hulkenberg is up there.

    “We’ve got a good race pace I think. In the straight speed we are in a good position for tomorrow, I’m happy that I can at least battle from there.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  7. Renault’s Robert Kubica has said that the team made the right decisions during qualifying. Autosport.com has the story.

    Robert Kubica was happy with his Renault team’s calls during qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

    The Renault driver conceded, however, that the right decisions were not enough to secure a better result after finishing in seventh position.

    “It was a very difficult qualifying session,” said the Pole. “We made the right choices with the tyres in the final part of the session, but when I completed my quickest lap on the slicks, I was happy just to have made it round without any mistakes because I was struggling to keep the car on the track.

    “It was hard to get enough temperature into the tyres and our downforce level for the dry probably didn’t help in this respect – but it’s always easy to see what you could have done better after the session.

    “We made the right calls today and it wasn’t quite enough, but I’m still hopeful that we can have a good race tomorrow.”

    Team-mate Vitaly Petrov was also happy to return to the top ten after a difficult Friday practice, where the Russian crashed because of a rear wing failure.

    He qualified in ninth position.

    “It was a really tricky qualifying session because the circuit was changing all the time, and it was getting drier and drier towards the end,” said Petrov. “In fact, we almost missed out in Q1 because we had expected rain early in the session but it never came – so we ran the whole session on a single set of tyres and I ended up only P16.

    “Overall, I’m very happy to be back in the top ten, but there was still more performance to come on the dry tyres and we could probably have been higher up. In any case, I am confident we can have a good race tomorrow and I’d also like to congratulate Nico Hulkenberg who did a great job to take pole position.”

  8. Michael Schumacher says he expected more from qualifying from the Brazilian Grand Prix after finishing in eighth position.

    “I am somewhat disappointed as the circumstances today were exactly as I had wished them to be,” said Schumacher, who looked strong during the session but dropped down the order in the end.

    “I really hoped for more from qualifying but it didn’t turn out right for us.

    “I couldn’t have gone any quicker on my lap and there were no issues so the only explanation is that my tyres cooled down at the beginning when I had to leave the racing line to let Sebastian and Mark past. It’s a shame that it didn’t work out better today.”

    Team-mate Nico Rosberg blamed Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi for slowing him down during what he claimed was doing to be his best lap in Q2.

    The German had to settle for 13th position, the first time he has qualified outside the top ten since the Belgian GP.

    “We were on for a good result in qualifying today but on the drying track, the intermediate tyres were only good for one fast lap and I was blocked by Buemi on my lap in Q2,” he said.

    “So that was it for me and it’s disappointing to qualify so far down the field when we could have taken advantage of the conditions.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  9. After taking his first pole position at Interlagos, there were some suggestions that it was down to a set-up on the car that made The Hulk achieved that top spot. Not so according to Williams and Autosport.com has the details.

    Nico Hulkenberg deserves the full credit for his shock pole position in the Brazilian Grand Prix, claim his team, after it was revealed his performance had nothing to do with a pure wet weather set-up gamble.

    The German ended a five-year pole position drought for his Williams team at Interlagos as he upstaged the championship contenders in a wet qualifying for the penultimate race of the season.

    Although it was initially suspected that the advantage that Hulkenberg enjoyed had been because he had opted for a wet-weather set-up due to the conditions, his outfit has made it clear that that was not the case.

    Hulkenberg had opted for a fully dry weather set-up and the pace he delivered was down to making the switch to slicks at the right time because of input from Rubens Barrichello – plus getting his tyres into the perfect operating window by some aggressive driving.

    Williams co-owner Patrick Head said: “Rubens was doing a lap on scrubbed inters and had a moment on one of the corners, so he didn’t get a decent lap on scrubbed inters but said, ‘the track was dry I am coming in’.

    “He was in putting dries in and Tom McCullough [Hulkenberg’s race engineer] said, ‘is the track ready for dries?’ and Nico said ‘no, it was too wet for dries.’ Tom then said, ‘well Rubens is in the pits putting on dries’ to which Nico nipped straight into the pits and put on dries.

    “If you look at the times and sector times you will see for Nico he had a hard out lap and was able to do three consecutive hard laps. I don’t think Nico would claim yet that the combination of Nico and Williams is quicker than Sebastian Vettel and a Red Bull in the dry.

    “What he was able to do was get his tyres in the right temperature window better than anybody else and that was partly Nico’s driving, toughness and determination, and partly the fact that he was able to do a hard out-lap and three consecutive hard laps.

    “Rubens was out on his dries and was behind Lewis Hamilton and Lewis was droaning around on dries but incredibly slowly, while the temps went down and down and down. Rubens was not able to find a way past him so his tyres got very cold.”

    Barrichello backed up Head’s views that Hulkenberg’s form was down to the way he got his tyres up to temperature.

    “To be fairly honest, like I mentioned before, situations like this are there for you to grab them,” explained the Brazilian. “I think he [Nico] grabbed it harder than anybody else.

    “For me, if you look at him first and me sixth it is a bit of a disappointment, but in any case we are much better than what we could do if it was completely dry or completely wet.

    “He was very good in keeping the temperatures on the tyres. We could see it on the data, he was fantastic. He went out, he was nailing every lap and unfortunately I don’t know what happened but Hamilton was very slow on the out-lap and then I had to create a gap to him.

    “My temperatures went down and I knew I had to keep on fighting. But I got to Turn 4 and went straight on so my temperatures went right down. I was fighting the machine for all those laps but it was still a good lap with all we saw. From a 14.4 to a 16.2 is a different level of grip altogether.”

  10. Nico Hulkenberg will have no problems in securing his Formula 1 future after his maiden pole position, reckons Jackie Stewart, who thinks that the biggest danger now is actually that Williams ends up losing him.

    Williams is stalling on signing Hulkenberg to a fresh contract for 2011 as it weighs up the benefits of taking pay-driver Pastor Maldonado for next year in a bid to boost its budget.

    The final decision on that front will be taken after Maldonado tests for Williams in the post-season Abu Dhabi young driver test.

    But Stewart, who is an ambassador for Williams’ current sponsor RBS so knows the outfit and Hulkenberg well, reckons it is not the young German who faces the biggest issues in the next few weeks.

    When asked by AUTOSPORT about the Hulkenberg driver situation, Stewart said: “I would be very surprised if he is not taken. The biggest chance he has now is of being grabbed by a more affluent team, not the risk of not having a drive.

    “He is never going to be without a job. I think even already this year he has proved himself. He has made some mistakes but that is the same as any young puppy does. Puppies, you try to train them and you think you have got them trained and then they pee on the floor again. It is a process of doing that.

    “My view of it is that we have got somebody who here in Brazil has demonstrated that he has got all the skills capable of doing the job.”

    Williams is already understood to have agreed terms with Rubens Barrichello for next year, but wants to wait until it has finalised its second driver before announcing its line-up for 2011.

    Patrick Head, the team co-owner, said that there would be no change to its current planned decision timeframe because of Hulkenberg’s form.

    “As I have said very much before, we are not making any statement about that until after the season, and if we have nasty things to tell people I will let Adam Parr do it,” he said.

    The speed of Hulkenberg has even fuelled speculation that it is Barrichello who could lose his seat – but the Brazilian made it clear in Brazil he was not worried about the situation.

    “You need to ask Frank [Williams] about drivers,” said Barrichello. “I don’t know what the situation is with the team, but even here we have talked about next year’s car so there is no reason to think that I am out.

    “All I can say to you is that I hope Nico stays, as he is a good guy and really, really good.”

    Source: Autosport.com

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