Korean GP: Hamilton finally beats Vettel for pole
Jenson Button was third in the 2nd McLaren ahead of Mark Webber in fourth in the 2nd Red Bull.
It's McLaren - Red Bull - McLaren - Red Bull at the front with Felipe Massa fighting for his job and again beating teammate Fernando Alonso as the Ferraris fill row three.
"I'm sure this will cheer Lewis up," his boss Martin Whitmarsh told BBC1 television.
But the 2008 world champion was not celebrating his rare defeat of F1's new double title winner Sebastian Vettel, even causing the official press conference moderator to ask him: "Are you ok?"
A few minutes earlier, Hamilton had refused to respond to his engineer after being told of his pole, and in parc ferme climbed from his McLaren without a cheer, brushing a cameraman with his shoulder as he trudged past.
The 26-year-old is unquestionably struggling amid his dip of form in 2011, but his teammate Jenson Button noted after qualifying: "Lewis has been pretty great all weekend."
Perhaps he suspects Red Bull are playing the long game, with Vettel securing a front row position whilst conserving "all our prime (soft) tires" for a race expected to witness extreme degradation.
"I think we are in a good position. Tire wear will be crucial," said the German, who told his engineer he is looking forward to the "better tires" on Sunday.
Sebastian Vettel (2nd, 1:36.042): "McLaren looked very competitive yesterday; I know the conditions were completely different, but you could see they were a fair chunk ahead of everyone else, including us. They looked extremely quick this morning in the dry also, but I think once again we pushed them very hard in qualifying and got closer than I think they, and we, expected. So, I think we did a good job. We also saved all our soft tires, which I think will be crucial for tomorrow. We only had a rough idea from this morning with more fuel in the car, but I think we are in a good position. There's not a long run to the first corner and Turn 3 is a little bit exposed, so we'll see. It's a long race, a lot of things can happen and I think tire wear will be crucial."
Mark Webber (4th, 1:36.468): "On the last run, I lost the rear a little bit on the exit of Turn 1. I tried to get it back through Turn 3, but I was down 3/10 of a second; it's a pity as you're not going to get that back in the last sector - which hadn't been too bad on the previous run. So, we're fourth tomorrow to start. It's a shame that Jenson got me in the end there, as it bumped me onto the left hand side of the grid, but we'll see how we go tomorrow in the race. Tires are going to be interesting tomorrow, as there were different strategies in qualifying. We're closer to the McLarens than we thought and it was a well fought contest between the four of us."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "Well, for the first time since Brazil last year we didn't make the pole position today, but it was a very exciting qualifying session and Sebastian produced a stunning lap to split the two McLarens and be on the front row. Mark backed that up with fourth. We elected to take a different approach to others with our tire usage in qualifying, which has saved us three sets of the soft tire for tomorrow's race, should that come into play. It's going to be a fascinating race with strategy and pit-work and hopefully we can take the fight to the McLaren's."
Cyril Dumont, Renault: Overall, I think we should be happy with P2 and P4 to start the race tomorrow."
Lewis Hamilton (1st, 1:35.820): "Throughout the year, I don't think my qualifying performances have been too bad - it's only in the last two races that I didn't manage to get my final run in Q3 - so today's result wasn't entirely unexpected. Still, we've been quick as a team and never stopped making improvements to the car. I'm so, so proud of all the men and women both here at the circuit and back at Woking who've worked so hard to get us back to where we want to be. Of course, pole position is still only the first step, particularly when we know that tomorrow's race will be long and unpredictable. Pole is always a great achievement and I'm particularly proud to have achieved it at the team's 700th Formula 1 grand prix. We've been working to improve our starts, and I hope we can convert pole into the lead tomorrow. The grand prix's going to be tough, and it'll be difficult to beat the two guys starting immediately behind me, but I hope to keep the lead and control the race in a responsible way. I now want to put all my energy into the race."
Jenson Button (3rd, 1:36.126): "Congratulations to Lewis - he's been very quick and has been all weekend and I just couldn't quite get close enough to him this afternoon. On my final run, I think I lost some ground in the last corner: I hit the limiter at the apex and lost a bit of time, but I feel good in the car. Third position isn't where I want to start, but we can have a good race from there: there are a lot of long straights on this circuit, especially after the start. With a headwind from Turn Two to Turn Three, there could be a lot of action on the first lap - I'm looking forward to that! Our car is feeling good this weekend. As a team, we've done a great job - and I'm particularly grateful to the guys in the garage who worked extremely hard last night to switch my chassis. Thanks guys. We're slightly heading into the unknown tomorrow as we haven't run high-fuel yet. Off the line tomorrow, we'll need to get a feel for how the cars behave on high-fuel, and then we've got to focus on what we're doing to the tires over the course of a stint. We have all the ingredients for a fantastic race. Even more encouragingly, if we continue this way, fighting for poles and wins, then it'll be a really good way to end the season and the perfect basis for 2012."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "Obviously, it feels great to be on pole, particularly if you haven't had it for some time - and we've missed a few that we felt we should have had this year - but it's not the full celebration yet. Both Lewis and Jenson did a great job this afternoon and we're in a reasonably strong position. I also think we've got a decent car balance, although it's a little bit of an unknown just how the tires are going to survive. I think it's going to be an intriguing race with some interesting tire decisions and some exciting strategies. I think it could go any way between ourselves, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari - but I nonetheless think both of our guys will fancy their chances tomorrow."
Felipe Massa (5th, 1:36.831): "I am happy with my performance today. I think I got a good lap on my final run, after the first one in Q3, when I used the same set of Supersofts I had already run in Q2. My impression is that we are now also improving our Saturday performance, but there are still four cars in front of us and so the grid position stays more or less the same. Going into this Grand Prix there was a lot of concern about tire degradation but, at least from what we have seen today, it seems to be less severe than expected. Let's see how things go tomorrow. I am confident: if nothing strange happens to me, as has been the case in the last few races, then I think I can do a good job. It was actually here, a year ago, that I stood on the podium for the last time: maybe tonight I'll watch the race again, even if the weather then was very different to what we can expect tomorrow. Finally, I want to offer my condolences for two people who have left us this very day: Maria Martins Bassi, my wife Raffaela's grandmother and Pasquale Danza, whom I first met ten years ago when I came to Ferrari and with whom I shared so many good times, both at the track and at Maranello."
Fernando Alonso (6th, 1:36.980): "I can't be happy with sixth, but the position reflects our current situation: McLaren and Red Bull are stronger than us so it just leaves us to fight between ourselves for fifth and sixth places. That's how Saturday goes, but maybe tomorrow will end up like Sunday in Suzuka and we will find ourselves again fighting for the win. When tire degradation is very high, usually we are in good shape, but here the situation is not very clear, as the behavior of the Supersofts over a long run and on full tanks is still an unknown quantity. We had considered using this tire right from Q1 but then we decided not to take too many risks. Today, we were losing too much time in the first sector, where we lacked top speed. On my last run, I immediately lost a few tenths at the first corner and after that, I could not make up the time, so I decided not to complete the lap. Unfortunately, I start from the dirty side of the grid, which should be a major disadvantage here, so I hope I don't lose a place to Rosberg. We will have to keep an eye on what happens ahead of us and exploit the strategy in our favor. The new front wing? I don't like talking about individual components; on the one hand I think that's a job for the engineers, on the other, I prefer to share my opinions about it only with the team."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "The entire team is very sad, because one of ours, Pasquale Danza, passed away today. He worked at Ferrari for a very long time with great passion and dedication. On behalf of everyone at the Scuderia I offer our sympathies to his family; all our thoughts are with them and him at this moment. You can therefore understand that it's difficult right now to comment on qualifying...We definitely cannot be surprised at the outcome, because we are well aware of the potential we have at our disposal. However, that does not mean we are resigned to it, quite the contrary in fact. Only eight days ago we were in an almost identical situation and then, 24 hours later we came very close to winning. Therefore, let's wait and see how things go tomorrow and then we can add up the figures from this weekend."
Pat Fry: "Once again this qualifying result is more or less what we could have expected. Getting a place on the front two rows depends more on others making mistakes than on our actual technical potential and today nothing differed from that. We brought a new front wing here, which will serve as the basis for the development of next year's car: yesterday we tried it in the wet and today we decided to continue with our learning phase, running it in qualifying, which means also using it in the race. I've been saying it for a few races now, we must exploit this last part of the season by trying to learn something useful for next year and the decision to run this wing was taken with that in mind. Tomorrow there will be one more unknown factor than usual, because we were not able to do the usual Friday job of evaluating tire degradation with a high fuel load, however, from what we could see this morning, the situation seems better than expected."
Nico Rosberg (7th, 1:37.754): "I'm quite pleased with today. To find the right set-up for the qualifying and the race is always a compromise, particularly after such limited dry running, so I'm happy that we saved one set of option tires. It will be tough to catch one of the top six drivers tomorrow but hopefully I'll have a good start and may be able to gain a position there. It will be an interesting race from the tire perspective with a lot of stops, and I'm confident that our boys will do a great job in the pits again."
Michael Schumacher (12th, 1:38.354): "To start with the positives of today's qualifying, I have saved two fresh sets of option tires which is always helpful. On the other hand, it was obviously a pity what happened. Everything went normally in Q1, and from what you can expect of the tires under normal circumstances, it was absolutely justified to go for just one run in Q2. But unfortunately I could feel that something was not right when leaving the pits as I had vibrations straight away. All that was left for us to do was hope that the gap would be big enough to remain in the top ten but that turned out not to be the case. We will now have a close look into what exactly happened and fully concentrate on trying to make up some positions in the race tomorrow."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "It was a straightforward afternoon for Nico, and P7 represents what the car was capable of. We took a balanced approach to tire usage with Nico making a single run in each session, and he goes into the race with one new set of options and two new sets of primes. The uncertainty over tire performance after yesterday's wet running meant we wanted to keep as many new sets back as we could, although the performance is now looking more consistent than had been anticipated. Michael's pace on the prime in Q1 was very good, then as he went out on the options in Q2, he complained of a vibration. We debated whether to change tires, but decided to stay out and try for the lap time. In the end, the pace did not reflect what the car was capable of, and there wasn't enough time to complete another run. Even so, Michael was just one tenth away from Q3, and he will have opportunities tomorrow. The track is definitely rubbering in after the rain, but the sparse support race program means this is not happening as much as at other circuits. It will be very interesting to see what the race has in store."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Like at previous races, we concentrated on setting up our cars for the best possible race performance. This was especially challenging here in Yeongam after the wet conditions yesterday left the teams just one hour of dry running this morning in P3 to prepare for qualifying and the race. Nico and Michael focused on saving tires for the race, which possibly compromised our qualifying performance a little bit. We did longer runs this morning on the supersoft and the soft tires, and the lap times on both compounds looked consistent. It should be dry tomorrow and our aim is to repeat our performances achieved in the recent races at Spa, Monza and Suzuka to get the best possible result from our current technical package. Congratulations to Lewis and McLaren Mercedes for the first non-Red Bull pole this season - and the 68th pole position for McLaren-Mercedes."
Vitaly Petrov (8th, 1:38.124): "I was pleased with today's efforts. Eighth position is something to be proud of, and it gives me a strong chance to make my presence known towards the top end of the grid tomorrow. I was quite surprised with how enthusiastic we were in venturing out again in Q3, but I was unable to complete a second timed lap anyway. This track is quite smooth, and today it offered a lot of grip with these tires. As a team we did a fantastic job, and the main thing is we have no mechanical problems heading into tomorrow."
Bruno Senna (15th, 1:38.791): "It's been a bit of a tough weekend so far and today didn't go quite to plan. It's my first poor qualifying performance of the year and I hope it's the last! These things happen - sometimes you just don't get everything you need out of the car at the vital time. Vitaly did a great job so we've seen that the car is consistent and has strong potential for the race. The car was fine; I probably didn't have sufficient mileage to push when it mattered on my qualifying run. I'm just off Vitaly's time in a few corners and that's all it takes to make the difference between Q2 and Q3. It's not the ideal way to celebrate my birthday, but tomorrow should be a better day."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "Yes, however it would have been nice to see both cars competing in Q3. We will have a look at why Bruno was lacking in pace, but Vitaly pulled a strong result out of the bag. He completed an excellent lap in Q2 on scrub tires to ensure he secured his place in Q3, so it is all looking quite promising for tomorrow. I'm sure we can have a good battle with the other teams to ensure we score some good points. He was fine in the first sector but struggled a little in the middle sector, which was unusual for him. We will have to look through things tonight to see where this can be improved upon, and help give him the best possible chance to salvage a good result tomorrow. The tires are actually behaving pretty well. As expected, the super soft was quicker than the soft but the durability of the super soft looked particularly good. Certainly on the light fuel loads we were running today the degradation was almost non-existent; we were able to go out on scrubbed tires and obtain almost the same lap times that we could on new tires. This will be somewhat different in the race with the full tanks, but we do not expect it to pose huge problems. It will be a challenge to arrive upon the right strategy, but the tires certainly look durable enough to race here."
Pastor Maldonado (16th, 1:39.189): "I didn't get much running on low fuel this morning, just four timed laps, and this track is not easy, especially sectors 2 and 3. I think I did some good laps in qualifying, in both Q1 and Q2. We are a bit far away from the top ten so we need to keep working. Tomorrow is another day and we have lots of new tires which is important for our race strategy."
Rubens Barrichello (18th, 1:39.538): "My first lap in Q1 was quite good but my tires had started to go off by the third lap. As we had decided to conserve tires before the session started, we aborted the run and came in. We made the best call we could today based on the performance we have in the car at the moment."
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: "P3 was trouble free with both cars concentrating on collecting as much information as possible from the soft and super soft tires for the race. This was particularly important considering we had no dry running on Friday. No one is happy with our performance in qualifying and we are all aware of the need to continue to improve throughout the remainder of the season. As a team we are pushing hard to understand the areas where we need to concentrate on in order to accelerate the development process and drive the performance forward."
Paul di Resta (9th, No Time): "We looked quite strong throughout the session, although we seemed to be very close on performance with the cars around us - so it was a tight session as well. It's good to make Q3 and it puts me in a strong position tomorrow, especially starting from the clean side of the grid. For the race the important thing is to be aggressive with our strategy because there are some fast cars behind us, including a Mercedes, and we need to work hard to keep them at bay. That won't be easy because I expect the DRS zone to be quite effective here. So there's a lot of hard work ahead tomorrow, but we go into the race believing we can bring home some points."
Adrian Sutil (10th, No Time): "Considering the limited dry track time we had during practice, I think we can pleased with our performance level today. Getting both cars in the top ten is a good result and we can have a strong race from there. I took the decision to save tires during Q3 and I believe it was the right thing to do. Having as many new sets for the race is an advantage - that's something we've already seen in lots of races this year. Starting from the dirty side of the track is not ideal, but there is not a very long run to the first corner so let's see how the start of the race unfolds."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "Given it was so wet yesterday, it was difficult to judge how competitive we were going into the qualifying session, but we were optimistic that Q3 was achievable for at least one of our cars. As it turned out both Adrian and Paul made it through to Q3 with some excellent laps getting the job done. For Q3 we decided to play the long game and save tires for tomorrow. Adrian stayed in the garage, while Paul initially went out to try and have a go at Petrov for eighth, but aborted his run. This puts us in a better position in terms of tires than the cars directly ahead of us. We know we will have a fight on our hands to convert today's result into points, but we have all the strategy options available to us so we're well placed to do so."
Dominic Harlow, Chief Race Engineer:
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer:
Kamui Kobayashi (14th, 1:38.775): "We have had a difficult time here so far. Fourteenth on the grid is obviously not what we were hoping for, and we are quite far away from our competitors. The main problem is still a lack of grip, which is caused by a combination of factors. My lap as such in Q2 was okay, I can't complain about traffic and didn't make a mistake. It was pretty much the best I could achieve today. However, the race tomorrow will be a different story. Because of the changing weather from Friday, when it was wet, to today, we have very little experience of running on this circuit with the tires we have here in dry conditions with high fuel loads. Regarding this, we will only learn more tomorrow and I hope it plays in our hands."
Sergio Perez (17th, 1:39.443): "For me this was a very bad qualifying. After our only dry running was this morning and also for me the track is new, I am not happy with the balance and the set-up of the car. I didn't feel at all confident in the car. My final lap in Q2 was particularly bad because I hadn't got the brake balance right and had the fronts locking. I now have a bad grid position and I think we should go for an aggressive race strategy."
Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering: "Today it was about doing everything we couldn't achieve yesterday in terms of preparation. We tried to focus on getting the most out of the qualifying. The result is definitely not what we were hoping for, and we are too far behind our direct competitors. Now we have to work to make a recovery in the race and get into the points."
James Key, Technical Director:
Jaime Alguersuari (11th, 1:38.315): "So we can say this was a good qualifying for the team. We did a good job, starting yesterday when the car felt fine in the wet. I think we now have a better understanding of some of the upgrades we introduced in Suzuka and made the most of them. I was also encouraged by the long run I did, as there was not as much tire degradation as we had expected, so this issue should not trouble us tomorrow. I am expecting a lot from the race in which I hope we can score enough points to close up the gap to Sauber, who are starting behind us on the grid. As for the incident this morning with Vettel, it's clear to me what happened: I was on a long run, he was on his fast lap, so I let him by. Then he made a mistake so he was behind me, but he caught me again. Having already let him by once, I pushed for another lap on my long run. You cannot keep letting one driver pass you. I know it would have been easier for him if I had moved over again, but I also had a job to do to get enough data, because we had no information regarding a long run in the dry because of yesterday's rain. I'm sorry about that, but they have to understand my point of view too."
Sebastien Buemi (13th, 1:38.508): "I am reasonably happy with my performance in today's qualifying, even if thirteenth is not where we really want to be. However, we are getting very close to Q3 which is very important. Being two tenths off getting into the top ten is a sign that the car is improving. I am sure I could have done a bit better, but this still looks good for tomorrow, especially considering we had a strong long run in free practice this morning, during which we got a good idea about tire degradation. This means we should be well prepared for the race, in which we have every reason to believe we can get a good result."
Giorgio Ascanelli, Technical Director: "I am pleased with our performance today, because this was a good result also considering we were given no presents by other teams underperforming. Maybe we could have squeezed a bit more out of the package we had, but there's no need to be sore about that. We might have been able to get one car in Q3 and we missed out on that by a fraction, although you have to consider that in our part of the grid there were three cars within two hundredths of a second. I am pleased with the way the cars went and the way the drivers handled the session, getting clear laps. It's going to be an interesting race tomorrow. We can expect tire degradation of course, but the sun and how much cloud cover we see will have a significant effect on what happens. I must congratulate Pirelli on being ambitious in their choice of Soft and Supersoft tires, for which they have been rewarded with mild temperatures and overcast skies: both tires worked well and tomorrow we will see that track temperature will be another important factor in the race."
Heikki Kovalainen (19th, 1:40.522): "For me that was probably my best qualifying lap of the season. Next to Hungary, I think I got as much as I possibly could out of the car and nailed every sector, so it's a good feeling to know when you've wrung as much as you can from a single lap. We worked hard last night and today to find a balance that would suit the dry conditions today and tomorrow, and I think we've done that, so I'm feeling pretty good about the race. It'll be very interesting to see how the tire strategies play out, and if we can keep up the pace from Suzuka we'll be there or thereabouts."
Jarno Trulli (20th, 1:41.101): "I think we did ok today, but there was definitely a bit more in the car. This morning I had a really good setup and found a lot of grip, but this afternoon it just didn't feel quite the same so I wasn't able to get as much out of the car as I could. Still, I'm reasonably happy with where we are - we're well ahead of the cars behind and close enough on race pace to a couple of the teams just ahead, so another good start tomorrow and we'll be ok."
Riad Asmat, Chief Executive Officer: "That was pretty good, considering how little time we have had on track in the dry. The team worked very well last night and in FP3 to find a couple of setup options to give the drivers something they could really push with, and I think Heikki's lap in particular showed that we made the right choices. Now we look forward to tomorrow where the objective is the same as it has been all season - make sure both cars run without any issues and edge ever closer to securing tenth place this season."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "Today was a reasonably satisfying qualifying session for us. Jarno was struggling this afternoon with the grip levels on his car, but I still think he found as much as he could from his car, and Heikki put in a couple of decent laps on both runs to finish just ahead. Tomorrow's race will be dominated by tire degradation levels and in similar situations this season our speed in the race has given us the chance to race with a pack of cars ahead, so I think we will be able to fight in the race tomorrow and repeat our performance in Suzuka."
Thierry Salvi, Renault: "As yesterday's weather limited most of the meaningful running we could do to prepare for qualifying and the race it was important we had a solid FP3 and could fine tune the engine maps to give the drivers the top speed, traction and driveability they need around this track. I think we have achieved what we set out to, and the feedback from both drivers has been good, especially on Heikki's car, so I think we can look forward to the race where we know our pace gives us a chance to fight with some of the teams just in front."
Vitantonio Liuzzi (23rd, 1:43.758):
Daniel Ricciardo (24th, No Time):
Colin Kolles, Team Principal:
Timo Glock (21st, 1:42.091): "It's been a great weekend so far and today went very smoothly compared to the last few weekends where we had a few more set-up troubles. The car was very good in wet conditions yesterday, which made me very comfortable for today, because if the car is very good in the wet it should also be good in the dry - and it was this morning, straight from the first lap. We just fine-tuned the set-up as for us there is quite a lot of grip here and that suits the car. I got a good qualifying lap; a slight mistake into turn 5 which cost me a bit of time, but in general today we are 0.9s from Team Lotus. The team did a good job and in particular my engineers worked well together to get everything right. Now we have to focus on looking after the tires over a race distance and we'll see what we can do tomorrow."
Jerome d'Ambrosio (22nd, 1:43.483): "It wasn't a good day for me. The pace is not there and it's been like that all weekend. There's obviously something going wrong, even though we're not sure where it's coming from yet so we will have to analyze and try to understand it before tomorrow."
John Booth, Team Principal: "This morning's FP3 was a very busy session as a consequence of the weather conditions we experienced yesterday. Both drivers stepped through a quick-fire series of set-up changes and overall they ended the session reasonably happy. They were suffering from some understeer and having spent some time looking through the data and examining the tires we could see some evidence of where this was coming from. Going into qualifying, Jerome retained his set-up, while Timo made a few adjustments to his. Both drivers got good, clean opening laps in what was a planned three-lap run. They embarked on their crucial final runs having planned to complete only one and two flying laps respectively. Jerome didn't seem to find the big improvement on the second run and we will go through the data from the car to understand if there is anything obvious. On a more positive note, Timo achieved a good lap, which he is happy with. It was obviously quite a surprise to see some of the top runners fitting the option tire for Q1 and that may give us some clues as to what we can expect tomorrow in terms of tire choice."
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