Red Bull fend off Ferrari for Vettel pole
Sebastian Vettel starts tomorrow's inaugural Korean Grand Prix from pole position after a flawless performance in qualifying today, with team-mate Mark Webber completing a Red Bull front row lock-out in second place. Both drivers left it very late in Q3 to set their fastest laptimes, demoting Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to third, while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton starts fourth.
Having made their way through to the final pole position shoot-out, most drivers completed two runs, after the first of which Alonso held top spot on a time of 1m35.927s, just fractions of a second clear of ultimate pole man Vettel who set an initial laptime of 1m36.000s.
Come the second round of laps, Webber set the ball rolling with a time of 1m35.973s, promoting him to second place, while Alonso improved on his laptime seconds later to consolidate provisional pole on a time of 1m35.766s. Vettel had his own say on matters though and set his time of 1m35.585s on the soft tyres to take pole, followed moments later by Webber who improved by a further three tenths to 1m35.659s, demoting Alonso to third.
Hamilton lines up fourth thanks to a time of 1m36.062s, after surviving a scare across the dirt as he entered the pitlane after his first run. Row three will be occupied by Nico Rosberg (1m36.535s) and Felipe Massa (1m36.571s), ahead of Jenson Button (1m36.731s) and Robert Kubica (1m36.824s). Michael Schumacher (1m36.950s) and Rubens Barrichello (1m36.998s) were the final drivers to qualify in the top ten.
The usual suspects took the drop at the end of Q2, with drivers from Williams, BMW Sauber, Force India, Renault and Toro Rosso all failing to make the grade. Fastest of them was Williams' Nico Hulkenberg (1m37.620s) who starts 11th, followed by BMW Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi (1m37.643s), team-mate Nick Heidfeld (1m37.715s), Force India's Adrian Sutil (1m37.783s), Renault's Vitaly Petrov (1m37.799s) and Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari (1m37.853s) and Sebastien Buemi (1m38.594s).
Force India's Tonio Liuzzi was the only established runner to take the plunge in Q1, failing to progress alongside the new teams. Jarno Trulli kept Lotus at the head of the battle at the back after lapping in a time of 1m40.521s, beating Virgin's Timo Glock (1m40.748s) and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen (1m41.768s). Lucas Di Grassi (1m42.325s) in the second Virgin was just a tenth faster than HRT's Sakon Yamamoto (1m42.444s) with a mistake in the final sector costing the Japanese driver 22nd place on the grid. Bruno Senna rounds out the list of 24 runners on a time of 1m43.283s.
Vitaly Petrov takes a five-place grid penalty after causing the start-line collision in Japan a fortnight ago, dropping him from 15th to 20th, while a grid penalty for Mercedes' Michael Schumacher is also likely after the German blocked Williams' Rubens Barrichello during Q2.