Vettel romps to pole in Valencia
Sebastian Vettel has taken pole position yet again to make Valencia his seventh pole in eight races.
Q3 promised to be a competitive affair early on with home crowd favourite Fernando Alonso leading the time sheet early on. He lost it only moments later to Lewis Hamilton, who in turn gave it away, rather predictably, to Sebastian Vettel.
‘To get the perfect lap in is quite tough. My first run was quite good. A good point to start from tomorrow,’ said the pole sitter.
‘Very good day for us, very good to have the front row for our team.’
Mark Webber proved that Red Bull’s dominance lay well beyond any ECU control by taking a close P2 to disappoint Ferrari’s hope of the ‘second championship’ starting in Valencia.
‘There was obviously a lot of talk going into this Grand Prix,’ continued Vettel.
‘Everyone will lose out something and everyone expects us to lose out more than others. That’s wehre I disagree.’
Hamilton looked threatening all afternoon and eventually made good on his promise to turn his form around. He put his car on the final place of the podium, less than a tenth ahead of Ferrari pair Alonso and Massa.
Button: It’s not very good
‘I wasn’t expecting to be so high up I think,’ said the Englishman. ‘The guys did a great job analysing some of the data after Friday.’
Jenson Button, who could only manage P6, was left to lament his car’s sudden lack of balance.
‘It’s not very good. The car felt pretty good in Q2, then in Q3 I just had massive oversteer. I don’t know why,’ he admitted to the BBC.
‘Maybe our balance isn’t working as good as it was this morning because of the track temperature.’
The top six was separated less than eight-tenths, providing a glimmer of hope that the grid may yet bunch up further come next round.
With the first three rows of the grid were locked out by Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, Mercedes were left to lead home the rest of the top ten. Rosberg took ‘best of the rest’ honours in P7 with teammate Schumacher – who rightly predicted his team would achieve a fourth-row qualification at best – just behind with a near-identical time in P8.
Neither Heidfeld nor Sutil opted to make use of their Q3 berths, instead satisfying themselves with P9 and P10 respectively. They’ll also take two sets of fresh tyres into tomorrow’s race.
Petrov became the highest placed driver not to make Q3 with a late run by Sutil in the second session edging the Russian out by three-hundredths of a second.
Compared to his teammate, P12 only compounded di Resta’s woes this weekend. He missed all but seven laps on Friday after his car was crashed during FP1 at the hands of Force India reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg.
Williams’ Rubens Barrichello complained that his car was ‘much worse’ over his team radio early during qualifying. His comments referred to his team opting to ditch their new exhaust system at the conclusion of FP3 that on Saturday morning.
Barrichello would bow out with a disappointing P13, despite his hopes that the rule changes in Valencia would herald a return to form for the manufacturer.
Bad day for Maldonado, Williams
News became worse for the ailing team as Maldonado’s car failed spontaneously on the circuit. He had no choice but to park it in the middle of the track, coaxing red flags for the session with eight minutes remaining.
Kamui Kobayashi split the Williams pair after his Sauber team did well to repair the damage on his car after the Japanese found the wall at the last corner late in FP3.
Perez, now at race fitness after sitting out both the Monaco and Canadian Grands Prix due to concussion, managed only P16. Buemi will start from 17th, and on the same row as his Spanish teammate.
While Ferrari opted to send Felipe Massa on an extra run on the option tyres during Q1, Toro Rosso opted to risk a single late run to keep their strategy options open for Sunday.
It backfired, however, as Alguersuari became the man to join the new teams in falling at the first hurdle – for the third time in as many weeks.
He will join Kovalinen, Trulli, Glock, Liuzzi, d’Ambrosio and Karthikeyan at the back of the field tomorrow.
European Grand Prix Qualifying Results:
Q1 107% Time