Hamilton and McLaren shatter Red Bull’s pole perfection
Lewis Hamilton has become the first non-Red Bull driver of the season to claim pole position after a scintillating lap around the Korean International Circuit.
The Englishman set an untouchable time of 1 minute 35.820 seconds, keeping newly-crowned World Champion Sebastian Vettel at bay by a little over two-tenths.
Hamilton’s opposite number qualified in third, lining up alongside Mark Webber on tomorrow’s grid.
Felipe Massa again outqualified Fernando Alonso, the Ferrari pair securing P5 and P6 for the race.
Nico Rosberg decided that his first run was the most he could extract from his Mercedes, forgoing a second hot lap and winning him P7, with Vitaly Petrov in eighth place. The two Force India cars of di Resta and Sutil filled P9 and P10.
Rosberg was the first to set a quick lap in Q3, but it was the revitalised Lewis Hamilton who set the fastest time, beating Rosberg’s lap by more than one and a half seconds.
A flurry of quick laps were soon posted, with Vettel falling desperately short, three-hundredths of a second slower than the McLaren driver. Webber was next fastest, but more than three-tenths adrift.
Neither Force India set a fast time during the first round of fast laps, wi
th only di Resta opting to run at all during the session.
Red Bull opted to play a different tyre strategy, using just two sets of option tyres for all three qualifying sessions, making three sets of new prime tyres available to them for race day.
Q2 built up to a series of final runs in the last five minutes of the session. Michael Schumacher battled unexplained vibrations during his time trial – due to an imbalance in his Pirelli tyres. He was the surprise driver to be eliminated at the second hurdle.
Ahead of him, di Resta pushed him and, in turn, Alguersuari into the drop zone, ahead of Buemi. Kobayashi, Senna, Maldonado and Perez each left their runs til late, and will start between P14 and P17.
Rubens Barrichello was the wildcard who was to be eliminated in Q1. Williams lacked pace throughout the session, but it was his junior teammate Pastor Maldonado who pushed him into the knockout zone with a last-gasp lap.
The result does not bode well for Formula One’s most experienced man, whose contract with Williams expires at the end of the year, leaving his future in the sport is currently unclear.
He heads the back seven of the grid, behind him sitting Kovalinen, Trulli, Glock, d’Ambrosio, Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo failed to set a lap, relegating him to last place on tomorrow’s grid. His HRT was suffering from an apparent leaking radiator, which Hispania failed to rectify before the end of the session.
The second running of the Korean Grand Prix will kick off at 5PM AEDT tomorrow evening.