Pole-position king Sebastian Vettel clinched his ninth top spot of the season to edge out Red Bull-Renault teammate Mark Webber in qualifying for tomorrow’s Korean Grand Prix.
For Vettel it is the most poles in a year since Michael Schumacher in 2001, with only six drivers in Formula One history claiming more — Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen, Jacques Villeneuve and Schumacher.
It was another dominant performance from Red Bull overall, with the team locking out the front row for the fourth time this season, and the eighth for Vettel and Webber as a pairing, with the duo split by just 0.074secs on this occasion. On the second row of the grid at the Korea International Circuit will be Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren-Mercedes.
Hamilton, 28 points adrift in the standings and desperately needing a win to stay in the hunt for the title, at the death finished half a second down on Vettel who had been nowhere in practice.
After completing his first run in Q3, there was a serious scare for the 25-year-old as he made his way into the pit entry. Taking the right-hander too quickly, Hamilton was forced to take to the grass before finally making his way back onto the asphalt and into the pit box for a fresh set of tyres.
Whether that unsettled Hamilton is unsure, but he failed to make any headway on his second row, and will now have to rely on his race pace to keep him in the hunt. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg starts fifth ahead of Felipe Massa in his Ferrari, with Jenson Button suffering another damaging blow to his hopes of retaining his title as he will start seventh.
At the end of Q1 Button had complained over the team radio that he was struggling to get temperature into his tyres, explaining why he finished a second down on Hamilton who ended that session quickest.
Renault’s Robert Kubica starts eighth, with Michael Schumacher ninth for Mercedes and the Williams of Rubens Barrichello 10th.
After clinching a place in the top 10 in three of the previous four races, Nico Hulkenberg failed to make it four from five after being edged out by teammate Barrichello in the 15-minute Q2. The German will start from 11th ahead of Sauber duo Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld, separated by just 0.068secs, with Force India’s Adrian Sutil 14th.
Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, whose position in the team for next season is increasingly coming under threat, qualified 15th, but will start 20th due to a five-place grid penalty. That follows his dangerous manoeuvre at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix a fortnight ago when he took Hulkenberg out of the race.