x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Vettel takes pole in Istanbul

The Red Bull driver grabs pole for the Turkish Grand Prix to deny Jenson Button a hat-trick of starts from top spot.

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel celebrates after qualifying in pole position for the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul's Otodrom.
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel celebrates after qualifying in pole position for the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul's Otodrom.

ISTANBUL // Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole for tomorrow's Turkish Grand Prix to deny Jenson Button a hat-trick of starts from top spot on the grid. The young Red Bull star left it until the final hot lap of the closing 10-minute Q3 to demote championship leader Button down to second, with his Brawn GP teammate Rubens Barrichello third. It is the third pole of the 21-year-old German's career, with both his victories to date coming from the front of the grid, in Italy last year and China this season. Vettel, the first driver this season to be quickest in all three sessions, said: "We had an engine failure yesterday (in second practice), and I didn't get many laps in, but I still had a good feeling for the car. "It's quite a surprise to be quickest in all three sessions, but finally we have made it and we are ahead of the white cars. "It's been quite an effort by the team because we had some parts arrive late, but they've fixed them on and we've made it."

As for reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, it was yet another day of frustration, and this time there was no mistake as in Monaco a fortnight ago when he slid into a barrier in the opening 20-minute session. On this occasion it was yet another case of the car not being good enough, blowing away the early optimism after yesterday's practice sessions. After finishing second on a three-stop strategy at this circuit a year ago, Hamilton had expressed hope of a top-10 finish tomorrow.

But even that now seems remote in a clearly unstable car, draining the 24-year-old of any confidence to attack the most famous corner at Istanbul's Otodrom ? Turn Eight. The embarrassing factor at this track for Hamilton is that Adrian Sutil in his Force India will start ahead of him in 15th, while teammate Heikki Kovalainen is 13th. It was the 26-year-old Sutil who edged the Briton into the bottom five by 0.040 secs, notable for the fact both their cars are powered by Mercedes engines.

After previously failing to make it into Q2 for 23 races, Sutil has now edged into the middle 15-minute stint at the last two grands prix. Underlining the abysmal season he is enduring, Hamilton remarked: "Welcome to my world. "It's the car. It has got slower and slower throughout the weekend as the track has got hotter. "It looked great yesterday, but this morning it didn't look fantastic. "I don't think we should rush anything. It's better we take our time to refine it. It's not like we can claw back 60 points (in the championship)."

And then admitting his hopes of a title challenge this season have gone, he added: "We will bounce back next year." Behind the top three in the hunt for the points came Mark Webber in his Red Bull, followed by Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari. Felipe Massa, who has won this race for the last three years from pole, will have to go some to make it four in a row from seventh on the grid.

The top 10 is rounded out by Fernando Alonso for Renault, Williams' Nico Rosberg and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, aiming to break his points duck for the year. Nick Heidfeld, who has failed to make it into the top 10 now for six successive races, will start with Williams' Kazuki Nakajima alongside the German on the grid. Timo Glock is 13th, bizarrely so given Toyota teammate Trulli was second quickest in Q2, finishing six tenths of a second behind the veteran Italian.

Behind Hamilton are Nelson Piquet Jnr, whose F1 career is threatening to draw to a close after yet another mistake, this time spinning into the gravel at the start of his final hot lap. Then come the Sebastiens of Buemi and Bourdais in the Toro Rossos, sandwiching Giancarlo Fisichella for Force India. * PA Sport