Webber heads Red Bull Racing front row in Spain

Red Bull Racing maintain their outstanding qualifying performance this season with yet another pole position but this time it was Mark Webber who took the all-important grid slot at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The speed advantage from the Red Bulls reveal how great this Adrian Newey designed RB7 handles around the 2.875-mile race track. The level of grip and downforce seems unreal with Sebastian Vettel even using his Drag Reduction System mid-corner to gain extra straight-line speed.

By taking pole position with just a single flying lap in Q3, Mark Webber has the upper hand in saving a set of fresh soft ‘Option’ tyre for the race.

Both chose to make just one Q3 run, with Vettel – who had been suffering an apparent KERS issue earlier in qualifying – setting a lap time of one minute, 21.181 seconds before Webber beat it with his lap of one minute, 20.981 seconds. Under no threat from the others, the drivers sat out the remaining five minutes of the session.

Lewis Hamilton will start in third for McLaren, but the margin between himself to the pole sitter is 0.980 seconds. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was delighted to qualify in fourth – his best effort this season – in front of his home fans and ahead of Jenson Button. As for Felipe Massa, he will start in eighth position, nearly a second off from his Scuderia team-mate.

Vitaly Petrov was an impressive sixth for Renault, just ahead of Nico Rosberg, whose Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher chose not to go for a lap time in Q3.

Pastor Maldonado showed his strongest form in his debut season in Formula One by making it to Q3 for the first time – and only the second time for Williams this season – and was just off Massa’s pace in ninth.

The Toro Rossos and Saubers will share rows six and seven, but the most significant result of Q2 was that Heikki Kovalainen got Team Lotus into the second part of qualifying for only the second time in the team’s history. The Finn then went on to beat the Force Indias to P15, though the latter team had played it conservatively and opted to only use the harder ‘Prime’ tyres in Q2, saving the softer Pirelli compounds for the race.

Kovalainen’s progress was not just due to Team Lotus having made a step forward this weekend, for two big names dropped out in Q1. A gearbox problem stranded Rubens Barrichello’s Williams to P19 while Nick Heidfeld’s fire-damaged Renault – caused by a damaged exhaust – could not be repaired in time for qualifying.

Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix is going to be fascinating. Not only to see the intra-team battle between the Red Bull drivers but also if the new 2011 rules will allow cars to overtake one another on this notorious difficult race track.

Qualifying times from Circuit de Catalunya:

1.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m20.981s
2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m21.181s
3.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m21.961s
4.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m21.964s
5.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m21.996s
6.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m22.471s
7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m22.599s
8.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m22.888s
9.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m22.952s
10.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes            No time
11.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m23.231s
12.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m23.367s
13.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m23.694s
14.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m23.702s
15.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m25.403s
16.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m26.126s
17.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m26.571s
18.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m26.521s
19.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m26.910s
20.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m27.315s
21.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m27.809s
22.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m27.908s
23.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m28.556s
24.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault              No time

107% time: 1m28.767s

9 thoughts to “Webber heads Red Bull Racing front row in Spain”

  1. By beating Sebastian Vettel’s run of pole position this season, Mark Webber is setting his sights on winning the Spanish Grand Prix in a repeat of last year’s triumph. Autosport.com has the story.

    Mark Webber is targeting a second straight win at the Spanish Grand Prix after securing his first pole of the season on Saturday.

    The Australian beat team-mate Sebastian Vettel to the top spot to end the German’s run of poles, although the world champion was unable to use KERS during qualifying.

    Webber, the winner of the Barcelona race last year, insisted he has his sights set on victory now.

    “Absolutely. I will relax tonight have a good sleep and come back tomorrow. I am looking forward to trying to get the victory tomorrow,” he added.

    “If I am in this position tomorrow coming out of the last corner then I will be happy.”

    The Red Bull driver admitted he was expecting the fight for pole to be between himself and Vettel only, with the team clearly ahead all of its rivals.

    “It was a good session,” said Webber. “I think it was pretty clear going into qualifying that we might have a bit of margin, so it was Seb and I to fight for the front row.

    “You can never underestimate these guys but we thought we would battle for pole. We got through on the first set of hards, some other people did as well, and then the crucial part was getting it right for Q3.

    “Ii was a nice lap, a good battle with Seb and today was my day.”

    He said a better understanding of Pirelli’s tyres means he is closing the gap to Vettel, the pole setter in the first four races of the year.

    “I am getting a better understanding of the tyres. They are new for everybody and up to everybody to get on top of them. Also I was not particularly slow in Sepang and also in China but we didn’t have smooth weekends.”

  2. Sebastian Vettel said he felt no great disappointment at seeing his run of pole positions come to an end in Spain, and played down the impact of his KERS issues on the result.

    The world champion had started from the top spot at every race so far this year prior to Catalunya, and had also taken pole for the 2010 finale in Abu Dhabi.

    But in Spain today his team-mate Mark Webber denied him first place with a lap 0.2 seconds faster.

    “I don’t think we can speak of big disappointment,” said Vettel. “At the end of the day we made a good step forward and Barcelona is usually a place where you bring lots of parts, and find out they work.

    “In Q1 I didn’t get into the rhythm immediately but made it on prime tyres, in Q2 I felt happier on the soft compound and in last qualifying I lost a little bit too much, wasn’t happy with my lap.

    “We had some problems and Mark did a good job. It was between us, he did a better job today. Tomorrow is a long race, we saved a set of tyres – as did the top three and Jenson [Button] – we will see what we can do tomorrow.”

    Vettel did not have KERS for either Q2 or Q3, but insisted this was not the factor that cost him pole.

    “I didn’t use KERS in Q2 and Q3, but it’s not right to say I didn’t have KERS and [therefore] Mark got pole – he deserved pole,” said Vettel.

    He is confident that the issue can be resolved before the grand prix, and said he was more focused on the improvements that the team had made to the car than the continued KERS niggles.

    “I am not afraid in the race, in the race I think we will be on top of it again,” he said. “In the end it seems to be an endless story. The guys are pushing very hard, we did an exceptional job. Today we have proved our car has become quicker, we had a quick base but we made it even quicker – so big compliments to the aero guys.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  3. The speed advantage of the RB7 in qualifying could prove to be unbeatable according to Lewis Hamilton, who could only manage third for McLaren nearly a second off the pace. Autosport.com has the details.

    Lewis Hamilton doubts McLaren can beat Red Bull in the Spanish Grand Prix, though he hopes the team can at least be closer than the one-second gap in qualifying.

    Hamilton and his team-mate Jenson Button will start third and fifth respectively at Barcelona, with Red Bull on the front row and nearly a second clear of the field.

    Asked if he could see any chance to get ahead of the Red Bulls, Hamilton joked: “The old circuit is still there at the last two corners, I could use the [old, faster] last two corners to match their pace if I don’t take the chicane… otherwise, no!”

    He added: “They have one second in qualifying, probably a second and a bit. But we will push as hard as we can, and push to save tyres in the run.

    “We’ve been closer in previous races. I think we will be closer than one second [in race pace], but whether it is within a tenth or so we will see.”

    Hamilton said there was no great sense of frustration at Red Bull’s current advantage, which he just saw as natural part of the Formula 1 cycle.

    “F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, nothing comes easy,” he said. “They have just done a better job. We are second quickest, we can’t complain too much.

    “I hope at some stage we have a significant improvement with the car so we have a proper race with these guys.”

    The Briton also played down the consequences of the tyre lock-up and flat-spot that occurred on his best Q3 lap.

    “I can start on these tyres and we can rebalance the wheel so it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

  4. Fernando Alonso felt the lap that earned him fourth on the Spanish Grand Prix was so good it might have been impossible for him to repeat.

    After a tough time in practice, which included the FIA banning Ferrari’s latest rear wing design, Alonso managed to split the McLarens and get onto the second row of the grid for his home race.

    “I did a perfect lap: I reckon that if I tried to repeat it twenty times, I could not do better!” he said. “When you do a lap like that it’s hard to put into words what one feels: always being on the limit, in every corner is a really special feeling for a driver.

    “I am very happy with this result, because we have never made it to the second row this year.”

    He admitted that there was still a huge amount of work to do to catch Red Bull, but was convinced that Ferrari was making good progress despite this weekend’s difficulties.

    “Sure, pole position is still a long way off: today, Red Bull was once again out of reach and we must work hard to try and get closer,” Alonso said.

    “This morning we ran some set-up changes on the car that did not produce the results we were expecting, also partly down to the conditions changing in terms of wind direction. We went back to what we had before for qualifying and instantly it was better. In general, we have made a step forward in performance terms, thanks to the updates we have brought here.”

    The Spaniard hopes to be in contention for a podium in the race, though he expects the McLarens to be tough competition.

    “So far, in the races we have gone better than in qualifying and so I think we can be in the fight for the podium,” he said. “It will be tough at the start because the McLarens always get off the line well and then they have one more new set of soft tyres than we do.”

    Team boss Stefano Domenicali was amazed at the turnaround between practice and qualifying, and put it mainly down to Alonso’s performance.

    “This sport never stops throwing up surprises!” Domenicali said. “This morning we had the worst FP3 of the year, with both cars struggling a lot and then we find ourselves commenting on our best qualifying position.

    “Certainly, this fourth place was down to an incredible performance from Fernando, who drove a simply stunning lap in Q3: it is further valediction, if one was ever needed, of why we have made the right choice in extending our relationship in the long term.”

    Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa qualified eighth.

    “This was definitely not the qualifying performance we were expecting, but all weekend long we have struggled with the balance of the car: we would have needed to be perfect to start a bit further up the order and that was not the case,” he said. “Let’s hope that, on full tanks, the car works better and then we can see if we can get a good result.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  5. Formula One rookie Pastor Maldonado managed to qualifying in the top ten for the first time this season and even though the Williams team are having a difficult time this season, the driver believes it’s a breakthrough. Autosport.com has the story.

    Pastor Maldonado believes his first Q3 appearance marks a genuine step forward in form for Williams, though he admits that the team still has a lot of work to do to get to where it wants to be.

    Williams has struggled all season so far and has yet to score any points, but rookie Maldonado’s Formula 1 career-best ninth on the grid in Spain gave the outfit some encouragement.

    “I am really happy for the team and all the guys,” he said. “We’ve tried really hard to find a good balance all weekend.

    “Yesterday’s practice, particularly the first session, was really difficult for me. The car wasn’t great so we took a bit of a risk and decided to run the new rear wing in qualifying.

    “The car seems more competitive, but we still need to keep pushing and improve. I am happy today.”

    Technical director Sam Michael also hopes that today’s result can be a springboard for the team.

    “That was a great effort by Pastor today to put Williams back into the top 10 in qualifying,” he said. “The next step is to get some points.”

    Rubens Barrichello will start only 19th after a gearbox failure in the other Williams, but he was convinced he would also have been in the top 10.

    “I think there is a big positive in saving a set of tyres, which is one way of looking at it, but having seen where Pastor finished, we could also have had a good shot inside the top 10,” said the Brazilian. “I will be pushing to be there tomorrow.”

  6. Scottish racer Paul di Resta hopes that the gamble to save two fresh sets of the Option tyre will pay off in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. Autosport.com has the details.

    Paul di Resta is hopeful a tyre gamble will pay off in tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix, after deciding to compromise his qualifying for the chance of a stronger race.

    The Force India driver qualified down in 16th position as the team decided to save two sets of soft tyres for tomorrow’s race.

    Di Resta said his position was not representative of his car’s true speed, and is optimistic the decision to sacrifice qualifying will be rewarded tomorrow.

    Force India also decided to revert to the old spec aero package as it did not have enough time to get to terms with the new one.

    “I don’t think our position on the grid is that representative of our true pace this weekend,” said di Resta. “We took the decision very early on that saving tyres for the race would free up our strategy a bit. That means I’ve got two sets of new options and a set of new primes to use tomorrow.

    “On paper that looks like the sensible approach so hopefully things will work out. How we use the tyres is also important because there’s a big difference between the two compounds in terms of pace.

    “Also, the prime being used here is much harder than usual and so it lasts a bit longer. I’m looking forward to the race and I’m sure we can come away with a better result than our qualifying performance.”

    Team-mate Adrian Sutil is also confident that today’s tyre gamble will pay off in the race after finishing down in 17th place.

    “We went back to a package and balance that we were already happy with,” he said. “We also know that qualifying is not as important as it used to be and that race strategy now plays a bigger factor in your race result.

    “That’s why we only ran the prime tyres during Q2 so that we could keep some new option tyres for the race. We feel this is the best approach for tomorrow and hopefully it will pay us back.”

  7. Michael Schumacher revealed that a KERS problem in qualifying prompted him to run his unusual Q3 strategy at Barcelona today.

    The former champion set out on hard tyres in the pole shoot-out, then aborted his lap once it became clear that everyone else was using softs and he was set for 10th place regardless. The plan allows him to start on the opposite tyre strategy to the rest of the frontrunners in the first stint of tomorrow’s grand prix.

    “Unfortunately in Q3, my KERS system did not work but we reacted in the best possible way,” he said. “We took the decision to go out on prime tyres to be able to react if other cars did the same. As no one did, we came in without setting a time so we can now choose our strategy for tomorrow.

    “I will certainly try to have another of the good starts that I have made recently, make up some positions right at the beginning, and take it from there. With DRS and KERS, overtaking is possible even in Barcelona, so it is important to use your tyres well, and I still have a set of fresh tyres left. I will definitely try to make the best out of it.”

    His Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg qualified seventh, four places lower than he had in Turkey a fortnight ago, but a consequence of a different approach from the team, according to the German.

    “With our focus on the race pace this weekend, it was to be expected that we might suffer a little in qualifying,” Rosberg said.

    “However I am not too disappointed with seventh place as we should be stronger in the race tomorrow, and I believe we can aim to be better than in Istanbul. I have one set of new tyres left which is good for us, and I hope that we can move up with the right strategy.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  8. Following a fire in practice session three caused by a problem with the exhaust on the Renault, Nick Heidfeld was forced out of qualifying as the damage was too difficult to repair and the German will start Sunday’s race at the back of the grid. Autosport.com has the story.

    Nick Heidfeld was left lamenting his problems during final practice for the Spanish Grand Prix after being unable to run in qualifying.

    The German’s car was heavily damaged in a big fire during the morning session, a problem caused by a small hole in the one of the exhausts of his car.

    Although Renault worked at full speed to try to get the car ready for qualifying, the German was unable to run and will start the race from the bottom of the grid.

    “It was a challenging day, and there was not much more we could have done after the exhaust problem this morning,” said Heidfeld. “The was a small hole in the right exhaust and then it overheated. Then, when I heard a strange noise, the power cut out and there were flames so I had to stop.

    “Since then, the team worked flat out to try and get me out for the qualifying session, but it was not to be. At least I managed to get a couple of laps on the hard tyres today, and during the race tomorrow I will need to push hard to make up some ground and get up the order.”

    In contrast with Heidfeld’s, team-mate Vitaly Petrov enjoyed a very good day, the Russian qualifying in sixth position.

    “We have got to be happy with the result,” he said. “The team made a big improvement today, and the result of my car reflects that.

    “Things felt good, the balance of the car was fine and I was able to put in a fast time in Q3 to ensure that we got the car in a good position on the grid.

    “I knew what we had to do today, and did it so I am pleased and looking forward to tomorrow. It should be another action packed race and strategy will be very important.”

  9. Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes celebrated a ‘great day’ for the outfit after a strong qualifying performance ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

    Heikki Kovalainen made good use of the updates introduced in Barcelona to enjoy his strongest outing of the season, making it into Q2 for the first time and finishing in a promising 15th position.

    Fernandes was elated with the team’s performance.

    “I am so thrilled. It is almost unbelievable but this is a great day for Team Lotus and just reward for the effort that the whole team keeps putting in,” said Fernandes. “I am so thrilled for everyone associated with our team.

    “We have a lot of work to do so we are not going to get carried away, but it is important that we enjoy days like this and the feeling that comes with hard work being rewarded with this sort of result.

    “As I keep saying, these small steps will keep us moving up the grid, so well done and thank you to everyone.”

    Kovalainen was equally delighted and insisted there is still more speed to be found in the car.

    “There is a lot more to come from this car and while we have performed really well today we can see that we can keep progressing and taking the fight to the cars around us on merit,” he said.

    “With the work we did overnight and in FP3 I can feel that we have found a much better balance in the high-speed corners, and we can work more on how it feels in the low speed corners which is where I think we will find even more time, but for now this is a good feeling and puts us into a good position for the race tomorrow.”

    Team-mate Jarno Trulli did not enjoy such a positive day, the Italian again hit by problems in his car.

    Trulli managed to complete just one flying lap near the end of the session and managed to finish in 18th position.

    “First I want to congratulate to the whole team for getting Heikki into Q2. That’s a great achievement for us and a sign of what’s to come,” Trulli said.

    “For me the session was interrupted by what looks like an electrical issue that meant I was stuck in second gear when I went out for my first run, but we changed the steering wheel and I managed to get a lap in right in the last few seconds that still put me ahead of Rubens.”

    Source: Autosport.com

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