Webber secures first pole of 2011 in Spain
Mark Webber has broken Sebastian Vettel’s qualifying dominance with a single flying lap securing him his first pole position for 2011.
The Australian took pole during a short-lived skirmish between the two Red Bull drivers, with Webber coming away with the first spot on the grid by two tenths of a second.
‘It was a good session. We thought he had an advantage and that we would probably battle for pole, not to underestimate the other guys,’ he said.
‘I was obviously praying my number went to number one on the gantry when I crossed the line and it did. Today was my day.’
Webber dominated last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, leading from pole to take his first victory of the season. He’ll be looking to replicate those results on a track he’s particularly comfortable with.
However, Vettel’s car was diagnosed with a KERS issue early during Q2, leaving the German unable to use the boost system for the remainder of qualifying.
Problems with the energy recovery system have plagued the championship leaders for most of the season, though its reliability has improved since the Formula One’s return to Europe. KERS has an estimated benefit of 0.5 seconds around the Catalunya circuit.
Vettel, however, was nonplussed over the fault.
‘I’m not concerned, I think we will be on top of it in the race,’ he said.
‘It’s not right to say Mark is on pole because I didn’t have KERS. Mark did a better job today.’
Even without KERS, Red Bull look to have enough pace to safely control the Grand Prix once again, with almost a second between them and McLaren.
Though they looked threatening, McLaren could only manage to find the second row of the grid. Hamilton will start from third after suffering a lock-up to his front-left, the effects of which are sure to be felt at the beginning of tomorrow’s race.
‘I’m happy with the result,’ he said. ‘The gap between us and the Red Bulls has increased. Red Bull have a second in qualifying but we will push as hard as we can.’
Alonso split the British pair in his mixed-spec Ferrari. The Italian team was forced to revert to its Turkish rear wing after it was found to be in breach of technical regulations on Friday evening.
Vitaly Petrov will start from seventh, one place ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
Team-mate Felipe Massa failed to produce similar pace, manage only eighth in front of Maldonado and Schumacher, neither of whom set a time.
Lotus stole the show early on in the session with Heikki Kovalinen becoming the first driver for any of the 2010 debutants to make it past the first qualifying session.
The Fin took advantage of a gearbox fault in the Williams of Rubens Barrichello to progress in P17, which he would ultimately improve to P15 in the second session.
Nick Heidfeld also joined those to fall at the first hurdle, with the damage caused by his Renault catching fire in P3 proving too extensive for his mechanics to repair in time for the session.
Michael Schumacher’s side of the Mercedes garage opted to play with strategy rather than grid position, the seven-times world champion completing only one out-lap with hard tyres in Q3. He’s hoping to turn his disappointing start to the season around by getting the troublesome prime-tyre phase out of the way in the early stages of the race.
A gamble by the top teams with the experimental ‘super-hard’ compound tyres against the soft tyres used by the backmarkers was set to define Q1, with a two-second disparity existing between the two variants
Most frontrunners, barring Red Bull and McLaren, ultimately opted for the soft compounds, though it proved wasteful as all runners made it through safely.
Trulli just missed out in P18, with Barrichello, Glock, Liuzzi, Karthikeyan and d’Ambrosio completing the bottom seven.
Maldonado gave Williams something to smile about after Barrichello’s disastrous start to qualifying with the Formula One’s first Venezuelan giving the sport’s second most successful team its first top ten qualification for the first time this season
Force India opted not to run with the soft compound in Q2, which relegated di Resta to P16, just ahead of team-mate Sutil. Their pace on the harder compound gifted P15 to Kovalinen, who achieved Lotus’ best ever qualifying result.
Both Sauber and Toro Rosso drivers put Felipe Massa under pressure for the last place in the top ten, with the Brazilian holding on to his Q3 berth by one-tenth over Buemi. He was followed by Perez, Alguersuari and Kobayashi.