Vettel takes pole as Red Bulls hog front row
25 June, 2011
Jun. 25 (PVM) World championship leader Sebastian Vettel stamped his authority during qualifying for the European Grand Prix at Valencia with a scintillating lap around the harbour street circuit – making it seven poles out of eight so far this year for the Red Bull driver and the 22nd of his career – lining himself up as favourite for the race.
Much was made about the clampdown on aggressive engine mapping during qualifying, but in truth nothing really came of it – at least for now. Vettel in the RB7 is currently in supreme form and has an answer for everything his rivals can throw at him.
Canada gave Vettel’s rivals a glimmer of hope: he is human, he makes mistakes, maybe this is the turning point. Well, it looks like the Montreal failing (if you can call it that since he still finished second) was a mere blip on his steam-roller season. In Valencia he was back to his old self – again almost robot-like in his efficiency – daunting in his speed.
Vettel did the business in his first run in Q3 which was almost half a second better than his closest rival at the time – Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari – and as the heavy hitters went on a second run with the soft tyres. But none came close to the lap record time of 1 minute 36.975 seconds set by the World Champion in Kinky Kylie.
The German driver’s time was more than half a second faster than his pole position of 2010: 1m37.587s.
He said afterwards, “It was a very good day for us. It’s good to have the front row for our team. It’s a tricky circuit with 25 corners so to get a perfect lap in was tough, but it’s good result.”
To add insult to injury for everyone else, Mark Webber dug deep to snatch second spot on the grid with his final run and making it an all Red Bull front row for the race.
McLaren have looked somewhat out of sorts this weekend as both drivers struggled to find a compromise setup that would accommodate the two Pirelli compounds on offer in Valencia. In the end it was Lewis Hamilton who managed to turn it on when it mattered to take third place on the grid with his final flying lap effort in Q3 – surprising himself in the process.
The 2008 F1 World Champion said, “I wasn’t expecting to be so high up after practice. The guys did a great job to analyse the data. The first lap wasn’t too bad, tried to improve on the next lap but I had to bail out.”
Jenson Button was a quarter second down on his team mate which puts him sixth on the grid, providing an indication of just how close it is at the summit.
Clearly dissatisfied Button said, “It’s not very good. The car felt pretty good in Q2 but then in Q3, I had massive oversteer. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t get any rear grip. The car was great this morning in practice but with the heat maybe our balance isn’t working because of the track temperature. I just didn’t expect it. It’s not great but we’ll still have a good race.”
In the McLaren sandwich were the Ferrari pair, with Fernando Alonso fourth quickest a mere 0.081 seconds up on his team mate Felipe Mass who will start fifth. Alonso briefly topped the timing screens in Q3, but Hamilton, Vettel and later Webber toppled him off the summit.
It will be something of a disappointment for the Maranello squad who during the pre-race hype were confident of a good result on the Valencia streets – that meaning getting one up on McLaren at least and even Red Bull for that matter. Perhaps they still can in the race – but don’t put too much cash on it!
Ferrari summed up their afternoon on Twitter, “In terms of gap, it is more or less what we expected, maybe we’re hoping for a slightly better position.”
The top six are very, very close – covered by 0.670 seconds.
Behind the big three were the Mercedes GP pair with Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher set to share the fourth row, starting seventh and eighth respectively – both well over a second down on Vettel’s best in Q3.
Also making it through into Q3 were Renault’s Nick Heidfeld (ninth) and Force India’ s Adrian Sutil (tenth) but neither went for a time in Q3, opting to rather save fresh rubber for race day which could prove to be an inspired decision by the two squads.
Q1: Early shower for Alguersuari and usual suspects
Local hero Jaime Alguersuari was the ”biggest’ scalp to go out early, however he does seem to be making a habit out of it although this time mechanical gremlins on Friday severely curtailed his running on a circuit where track time is vital. He will start from 18th.
The Lotus pair were fastest in the ‘second division’ with Heikki Kovalainen (19th) and Jarno Trulli (20th) – the latter spinning on his final flyer in front of the pits.
Timo Glock (21st) was best of the Virgin Racing duo who were split by HRT’s Vitantonio Liuzzi (22nd). Jerome D’Ambrosio will start from 23rd. Narain Karthikeyan will start from last, but well within the 107% time required.
At the top of the timing screens it was: Massa fastest from, Vettel, Schumacher, Hamilton, Rosberg, Sutil, Button, Perez, Barrichello and Buemi with Webber 16th!
Q2: Petrov misses the cut
A last gasp effort by Adrian Sutil in Q2 saw the Force India driver send Renault’s Vitaly Petrov in for an early shower, which was a surprise as the Russian had looked good for a top ten slot throughout the practice sessions. Instead he will start 11th.
Force India’s Paul di Resta continued his impressive run in Valencia, after missing out almost the entire first day (Nico Hulkenberg shunted the VJM04 on Friday morning), almost sneaking into Q3 – but a big moment in his final run scuppered what looked set to be a top ten time. He will start 12th.
Williams are having another one of their nowhere weekends with neither of their drivers looking like top ten material. Rubens Barrichello will start 13th, while team mate Pastor Maldonado will be 15th on the grid. The rookie again suffering mechanical glitches which saw him come to a stop out on track midway through Q2, curtailing any ambitions he had of progressing and adding to his ever growing list of mechanical failures that have marred his debut Formula 1 season.
Kamui Kobayashi was fastest of the Sauber pair and will start 14th with Sergio Perez ending the session 16th fastest.
Sebastien Buemi will start from 17th, sharing row nine with his team mate Alguersuari who failed to progress beyond Q1 but will have an extra set of fresh Pirelli tyres for the race.
At the top of the timing screens Vettel was fastest and gave a taste of what was to come, followed by Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Webber, Schumacher, Rosberg, Massa, Heidfeld and Sutil.
Saturday, 5 June – Qualifying Result
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:39.116||1:37.305||1:36.975||15|
|2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:39.956||1:38.058||1:37.163||19|
|7||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||1:39.266||1:38.373||1:38.231||15|
|8||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:39.198||1:38.365||1:38.240||18|
|10||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:39.329||1:39.034||14|
|12||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:39.852||1:39.422||16|
|17||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||1:39.679||1:39.711||8|
|18||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||1:40.232||5|
|21||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||1:42.553||9|
|23||Jerome d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||1:43.735||6|
|Q1 107% Time||1:45.301|