Webber beats Vettel at Yeongam and takes pole for Korean Grand Prix
By Berthold Bouman
Red Bull driver Mark Webber took pole for round 16 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Korean Grand Prix. Webber beat his team mate Vettel with 0.074 seconds during the final qualifying session, while Lewis Hamilton took third spot on tomorrow’s start grid for McLaren. It was a very tight qualifying session as the difference between the pole-sitter and the number ten, Michael Schumacher, was just 0.271 seconds.
“It was a tight session for all of us. I think as the session unfolded, people were having different balance issues on different tyre compounds,” Webber said. About his pole winning lap he said, “I was happy with my lap there, it was solid and it’s good to get pole. It’s a great place to start the race from. I’m looking to get off the first corner very well, that’s important as there are two long straights after that.”
First serious time in Q1 was put on the board by Fernando Alonso, he lapped the circuit in 1m39.543s. A lot of traffic in the first session which made it difficult to find enough space for a clear lap. Narain Karthikeyan in the HRT lost control but managed to keep his car out of the barriers, later it was established his brakes didn’t work and he was sidelined for the rest of the afternoon. Also Hamilton had problems, he ran wide at the first corner but could continue without damage.
Meanwhile, with five minutes still to go, Vettel had set a new benchmark with a lap of 1m38.887s, Kimi Raikkonen was second, and Felipe Massa was third. Just three minutes to go and Bruno Senna was in the drop-out zone, but the Brazilian went out again on the super softs and moved up to 11th place, but as it turned out, it wasn’t enough as he later dropped to 18th place.
Both Sauber drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez also went out on the super softs and secured a place in Q2. Jean-Eric Vergne bumped Michael Schumacher out of the top 17, but the German was also on the super softs and took eighth place just seconds later, Alonso and Hamilton were lucky as they finished in 16th and 17th place respectively. Senna, Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen, Charles Pic, Timo Glock, Pedro de la Rosa and Karthikeyan didn’t make it into the second session.
In the Q2 all drivers were on the super softs, first to set a time was Perez with a lap of 1m38.981s, but it was again Vettel who set the benchmark with a lap of 1m37.767s. A number of drivers opted to stay in as long as they could in Q2, Schumacher was the last to put in a timed lap, while the circuit became faster and faster after each lap.
Just three minutes to go and now the race for a spot in Q3 was on, Vettel, still the fastest in Q2, was confident enough to stay in the garage. But the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo caused a yellow flag as he had to stop with a gearbox problem, and that was the reason Button finished in 11th place. The 2009 World Champion had slowed down a bit due to the yellow flags and couldn’t improve his time. Also Perez, Kobayashi, Paul di Resta, Maldonado, Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne didn’t make it into Q3.
Drivers didn’t wan to waste any time and most cars were on track just after the lights turned to green for the final qualifying session. Again Vettel set the pace with a lap of 1m37.316s on his first run, Alonso and Webber were second and third.
All returned to the pits to prepare for their final run, and when all went out again, Hamilton almost collided with Schumacher as they both exited the garage at the same time. Webber was fast but lost time in the second sector, but the Australian was still fast enough to take pole.
Second-place man Vettel commented, “On the last run, I had to back off starting the lap as Massa was there, it wasn’t his fault, but I had to back off. I lost time in the middle sector, which seemed to be okay all weekend, but when the circuit ramped I wasn’t able to go with it, so I lost a bit, but second is a good position so start from.”
Hamilton on third place said, “In Q3 I’ll happily admit that I ragged the life out of the car and got everything from it, yet Mark [Webber] and Seb [Vettel] both claim they had a little bit left over. We’ll see. Anyway, Jenson showed yesterday that our long-run pace is promising, so I’m really looking forward to the race tomorrow.”
Tomorrow’s race will certainly become an interesting one from a championship point of view, Alonso is still leading with 194 points, followed by Vettel who is four points behind him, Raikkonen is third with 157 points, while Hamilton and pole-sitter Webber are fourth and fifth with 152 and 134 points respectively.