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Motorsport | Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton © Reuters

Korean GP: Exclusive Qualifying Report



Lewis Hamilton made amends for fluffing qualifying in Japan by taking his 19th F1 pole of his career in Korea on Saturday.

The McLaren driver dominated the qualifying session at Suzuka last weekend and then made a strategic error in Q3 that denied him pole. He made no mistake at all on Saturday, dominating every session at Yeongam and breaking Red Bull's stranglehold on pole positions this year for the first time.

Newly-crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) will start alongside Hamilton, while the second McLaren of Jenson Button will start line astern behind his team mate, with Mark Webber in the second Red Bull alongside. The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso will start from the third row, but were a full second off Hamilton's pace.

McLaren had dominated every session of the weekend so far, finishing ahead of Red Bull in the wet on Friday and in the dry on Saturday morning.

For Korea, Pirelli has supplied its soft and super-soft compounds, and given their propensity for very rapid wear, coupled with a new abrasive track surface, drivers could be factoring a high number of pit stops for fresh tyres into their strategies. The Yeongam circuit was sued for the first time last year in a very wet race and has had little use since.

Bruno Senna (Renault) was the first driver out in the opening session which got under way under thin sunshine and heavy smog, the air temperature at 22ºC, the track at 29ºC and 66% humidity. His first effort yielded a 1'39.951 which was bettered by his team mate Vitaly Petrov by half a second.

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) curiously elected to make his first run on the super-soft compound, which drivers normally save for their final run for pole in Q3, and team mate Mark Webber did the same. Red Bull has won every pole position of the 15 races held so far this year.

Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes), running on softs, was the first to set a meaningful time with a 1'38.278, while Webber and Vettel went fifth and sixth respectively on the softer options. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) went second fastest, a tenth slower than Hamilton, with team mate Massa a quarter of a second behind.

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Hamilton put in a slow-down lap and followed that with another hot lap, setting new fastest times in all three sectors to set a 1'37.525, followed by team mate Jenson Button, winner in Japan last time out, four-tenths of a second slower.

Petrov had the 13th-fastest time and was in the drop zone, so took to the track on the super-softs and went third.

Rubens Barrichello (Williams-Cosworth) and team mate Pastor Maldonado waited until the end of the session before going out on super-softs and setting only the 16th and 18th-fastest times. Daniel Ricciardo (Hispania-Cosworth) never ventured out at all and will start from 24th and last place on the grid.

Hamilton finished at the top of the time-sheet in Q1 followed by Button, Petrov, Alonso and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes).

First Session Drop-Outs

18 Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams 1'39.538
19 Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus 1'40.522
20 Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus 1'41.101
21 Timo Glock GER Virgin 1'42.091
22 Jerome d'Ambrosio BEL Virgin 1'43.483
23 Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA Hispania 1'43.758
24 Daniel Ricciardo AUS Hispania No time

Hamilton's first hot lap in Q2 gave him a 1'36.526, followed by Webber, half a second off the pace and Button eight-tenths behind Hamilton.

All the top runners were on the super-softs, trying to ensure that they make it through into Q3.

Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) went 12th, splitting the Toro Rossos of F1 rookie Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi, while Schumacher's team mate Rosberg was five places ahead.

Hamilton was again fastest, followed by Vettel, Webber, Button and Felipe Massa (Ferrari).

Second Session Drop-Outs

11 Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso 1'38.315
12 Michael Schumacher GER Mercedes 1'38.354
13 Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso 1'38.508
14 Kamui Kobayashi JAP Sauber 1'38.775
15 Bruno Senna BRA Renault 1'38.791
16 Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams 1'39.189
17 Sergio Perez MEX Sauber 1'39.443

Rosberg was first out for the final tilt at pole position, setting 1'37.205, but moments later Hamilton set a 1'36.130, followed by Webber but then Vettel popped in ahead of Webber, just three-hundredths of a second behind Hamilton. Button went fourth, 0.436 off the pace.

The cars returned to the pits for a final tyre change and fuel top-up, these selections being the same as they have to use in Sunday's race.

With two minutes left in the session, most of the drivers (except for Rosberg and Adrian Sutil) went out for one final thrash around the circuit, setting up a bit of a traffic situation.

Button went fastest in the first sector, Hamilton took the middle one and the final, to set a 1'35.820, with Vettel two-tenths behind and splitting the two McLarens.

2011 Korean F1 Grand Prix - Qualifying Times
Pos Driver Nat Team Time
1 Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren 1'35.820
2 Sebastian Vettel GER Red Bull 1'36.042
3 Jenson Button GBR McLaren 1'36.126
4 Mark Webber AUS Red Bull 1'36.468
5 Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari 1'36.831
6 Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari 1'36.980
7 Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes 1'37.754
8 Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault 1'38.124
9 Paul di Resta GBR Force India No time
10 Adrian Sutil GER Force India No time
11 Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso 1'38.315
12 Michael Schumacher GER Mercedes 1'38.354
13 Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso 1'38.508
14 Kamui Kobayashi JAP Sauber 1'38.775
15 Bruno Senna BRA Renault 1'38.791
16 Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams 1'39.189
17 Sergio Perez MEX Sauber 1'39.443
18 Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams 1'39.538
19 Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus 1'40.522
20 Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus 1'41.101
21 Timo Glock GER Virgin 1'42.091
22 Jerome d'Ambrosio BEL Virgin 1'43.483
23 Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA Hispania 1'43.758
24 Daniel Ricciardo AUS Hispania No time

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