Free Practice 3
Cool and dry was the order of the day come Saturday morning at Yeongam for the start of third practice – a sixty minute session that was topped by the Renault of Robert Kubica. The Pole registered a lap of 1:37.354, a time that saw him pip three of the title protagonists by less than one-tenth of a second.
Behind Kubica was the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, but it was not the easier of runs for the 2008 World Champion, as he had a number of minor off-circuit excursions. Next up were Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari (3rd) and Red Bull’s Mark Webber (4th).
Nico Rosberg picked up the 5th best time, but was on the receiving end of some criticism from Alonso. The Mercedes driver was thought to have heavily blocked the Spaniard on the racing line at the entrance of turn 15 – a block that, Alonso considered, nearly caused an accident.
Sebastian Vettel also took to the run-off area during the morning stint. The young German has yet to top a session this weekend and could do no better than 16th when the time ran out here.
Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari complained during the session about lots of oversteer on track – something that would catch out Adrian Sutil in his Force India. The Mercedes-powered car lost the rear end around the turn 11 section and speared across the track, eventually recovering to secure the 10th best time. Despite having an engine cut-out issue, Nico Hulkenberg claimed the 8th fastest time, some 0.2 of-a-second (and four places) quicker than team mate Rubens Barrichello.
Tyres were a common worry throughout the session with a number of drivers noting a high amount of graining.
Coming into this weekend, both of the Red Bull drivers have exuded calm, while the heat is turned up around them, yet it was Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole position with both hands at the Korean International Circuit on Saturday morning. The German had the barest of margin’s over team mate Mark Webber, with the Australian a mere 0.074 of-a-second behind Vettel.
For a time, it looked like it might the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso to pip both of them – indeed the Spaniard spent much of the final session on top of the times, before finally being dislodged. In the end, Alonso only had enough for 3rd spot. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton must have been wondering if the second row was possible. Despite coming into the weekend very confident, the 2008 World Champion had a big off entering the pit lane on his penultimate, very nearly punting the wall and destroying his silver car.
Hamilton’s McLaren team mate Jenson Button is surely now seeing his title slip firmly away. Button was also the victim of a minor spin, but even when was on track, he could not generate enough heat into his Bridgestone tyres to stabilise his car – the reigning Champion qualified 7th.
Hamilton and Button sandwiched the leading Mercedes of Nico Rosberg (5th) and other Ferrari of Felipe Massa (6th). It was something of a poor run by Massa that left his some eight-tenths of a second slower than his team mate.
The fifth row was made up former Ferrari team mates, Michael Schumacher (9th) and Rubens Barrichello (10th). Barrichello had complained quite extensively about being blocked by Schumacher in Q2, but as both proceeded to Q3, no action was taken by the stewards.
An last second error from Nico Hulkenberg left the young German 11th and out of qualifying in Q2. The 2009 GP2 Champion was just one-tenth adrift of team mate Barrichello, but had just enough to cover both Sauber’s of Kamui Kobayashi (12th) and Nick Heidfeld (13th). Adrian Sutil found that the Force India simply did not have the pace to qualify higher than 14th; however he will still be happier than Renault’s Vitaly Petrov.
The Russian spun on his final run, destroying any chance of getting into the final qualifying session – Petrov also has a 5-place penalty following his Suzuka crash with Hulkenberg, leaving him to start from 20th. Jaime Alguersuari out-qualified team mate Sebastien Buemi – the Toro Rosso’s will line-up on the eighth row of the grid.
It was more bad news for Vitantonio Liuzzi. The Italian dropped out of Q1 with a time more than three-tenths shy of safety, leaving the Force India driver in 17th place.
Jarno Trulli was the best of the new cars, just heading Virgin Racing rival Timo Glock, who suffered a rather dramatic spin early in the session. The German recovered to qualify ahead of Heikki Kovalainen (21st), Lucas di Grassi (22nd) and Sakon Yamamoto (23rd). Bruno Senna also had a very poor session in his Hispania, as he took up last spot, nearly one second behind the unfancied Yamamoto.
Korea, 3rd Free Practice (October 23rd)
1 KUBICA Renault 1m37.354s
2 HAMILTON McLaren 1m37.402s
3 ALONSO Ferrari 1m37.426s
4 WEBBER Red Bull 1m37.441s
5 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m37.629s
6 MASSA Ferrari 1m37.955s
7 BUTTON McLaren 1m38.419s
8 HULKENBERG Williams 1m38.501s
9 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m38.630s
10 SUTIL Force India 1m38.632s
11 PETROV Renault 1m38.668s
12 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m38.733s
13 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m39.058s
14 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m39.145s
15 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m39.159s
16 VETTEL Red Bull 1m39.780s
17 HEIDFELD Sauber 1m40.289s
18 LIUZZI Force India 1m41.591s
19 TRULLI Lotus 1m41.623s
20 GLOCK Virgin 1m41.853s
21 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m42.095s
22 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m43.111s
23 SENNA HRT 1m43.417s
24 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m43.880s
Korea, Qualifying (October 23rd)
1 VETTEL Red Bull 1m35.585s
2 WEBBER Red Bull 1m35.659s
3 ALONSO Ferrari 1m35.766s
4 HAMILTON McLaren 1m36.062s
5 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m36.535s
6 MASSA Ferrari 1m36.571s
7 BUTTON McLaren 1m36.731s
8 KUBICA Renault 1m36.824s
9 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m36.950s
10 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m36.998s
11 HULKENBERG Williams 1m37.620s
12 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m37.643s
13 HEIDFELD Sauber 1m37.715s
14 SUTIL Force India 1m37.783s
15 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m37.853s
16 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m38.594s
17 LIUZZI Force India 1m38.955s
18 TRULLI Lotus 1m40.521s
19 GLOCK Virgin 1m40.748s
20 PETROV Renault 1m37.799s (*5-place grid penalty)
21 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m41.768s
22 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m42.325s
23 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m42.444s
24 SENNA HRT 1m43.283s