Vettel takes pole like it’s 2011. Or 2010.
Photo: Getty Images
Sebastian Vettel has taken pole position for the third consecutive year in Valencia for the European Grand Prix.
The reigning world champion put together the unexpectedly dominating time of 1minute 38.086seconds to put himself in the best position to win tomorrow’s race on the streets of Valencia’s docklands.
Nico Rosberg fired the first shot of Q1, posting a 1m 38.623seconds in the first run of laps. Only Button, Hamilton, and Raikkonen set laps in the first window, but none could beat the German Finn.
At the beginning of the second set of laps it was Romain Grosjean who set the fastest time – a little more than a tenth faster than Rosberg.
Pastor Maldonado then took a further three one-hundredths out of that time, before Sebastian Vettel came along to ruin everyone’s fun by tearing almost four-tenths off the fastest time to claim pole.
‘Yeah, one shot in the end, which turned out to be a very good lap, said Vettel. ‘I was very happy.
‘In the end it was a surprising gap, but, all in all, I felt very well this weekend.
‘I think, this year, grid position is obviously important, but maybe not as important [as last year]. I think we’ve seen too much this year to predict what’s going to happen.’
Second fastest was Lewis Hamilton in a surprisingly spritely showing after his modest predictions of poor form on Friday.
‘To be honest, I expected to be a lot further back,’ remarked the Briton.
‘We struggled all weekend with set-up. We had to make some guesses as to what set-up we wanted to change. It seemed to work.
‘The guys did a great job. The car felt pretty good, but the gap is quite big here.’
Maldonado ended up with a very respectable third-fastest, adding another chapter to his up-and-down season.
‘Williams is getting better and better,’ commented the Spanish Grand Prix winner. Pretty happy for the team.
‘This will be a great opportunity again to fight for the podium and a get a good result.’
Lotus-not-Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen will line up in P4 and P5, with the hot weather set to favour the team tomorrow with its impressive long-run form.
Nico Rosberg could only manage P6 in the end, just ahead of Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber.
The Force India cars of Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta were split by a somewhat-improved Jenson Button, rounding out the top ten for tomorrow’s grid.
Qualifying – Q1
Qualifying one began with Timo Glock being ruled out of the afternoon in the build up to the first session, with the German being taken to hospital with a stomach bug.
Marussia has no reserve driver listed, and will wait for medical advice as to whether or not to enter Glock into tomorrow’s race. His car will start from last on the grid, should it be run.
Jean-Eric Vergne headed the list of drivers knocked out of qualifying at the first hurdle – out-performed by Caterham’s Heikki Kovalinen in a straight fight.
The Frenchman has failed to make it to Q2 in all but three race this season, with Toro Rosso’s pace failing to improve since Melbourne.
Mark Webber will start behind Vergne in a problem-riddled RBR-8.
Webber spent more than half of Q1 in the garage with what has been reported as being a DRS problem. He completed only four laps in FP3 earlier in the day with hydraulics issues, and his team spent much of the first part of qualifying trying to guarantee his car.
The Australian completed three laps on his only run on the soft tyre, but failed to make it beyond the bottom seven – and was eliminated in P19.
It bodes poorly for his race – not only will he start out of position, but Red Bull seems unable to decode the problems ailing his car.
Vitaly Petrov lines up in P20, ahead of Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan, and Charles Pic.
Qualifying – Q2
Q2 gave Lotus-not-Lotus an opportunity to show its hand, with Grosjean going fastest in the session, Behind him, the top three was completed by Rosberg and di Resta, but more unlikely was the bottom seven.
Fernando Alonso was the first driver to be eliminated, his car set to start from P11 tomorrow. Team-mate Felipe Massa was less than a tenth off his pace, but the Ferrari pair were split by Michael Schumacher.
Bruno Senna will start from P14. He was one of three drivers to be left behind by their team-mate, with Schumacher being another, and Perez – who will start from P15 – being the last.
Kovalinen iced Caterham’s metaphorical qualifying cake by beating STR’s other driver Daniel Ricciardo, the two lining up in P16 and P17 respectively.
The 2012 European Grand Prix kicks off tomorrow evening at 10PM AEST.