Sebastian Vettel secured Red Bull’s ninth consecutive pole position in Valencia.
The reigning World Champion made his pole run in the middle of Q3, setting a time that few could realistically challenge.
In fairness, teammate Mark Webber got to within two-tenths of Vettel, but even the Australian’s best was not enough to topple the young German.
“It was a very good day for us – it’s good to have the front row for our team, but it will be a long race tomorrow. It’s always tough here. It’s a tricky circuit, as there are so many corners […] so to get all of them right is very difficult and to get the perfect lap is quite tough. So, it’s a good result and a good place to start from tomorrow, we’ll see what we can do.”
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) filled out the second row, some four-tenths off Vettel’s pace. Despite the gap, Hamilton seemed happy with the result:
“I’m excited to be in the fight: we can win from this position. Of course, we’ll need a bit of luck with the strategy and the pitstops, but our guys are on great form. I tried to push a little harder on my final lap – but it’s a very fine line between being too greedy and getting it just right – and, unfortunately, I locked up into Turn One and that’s where I lost time and bailed out.”
Both drivers qualified some way quicker than their respective teammates, with Felipe Massa taking 5th in his Ferrari and Jenson Button taking 6th, nearly seven-tenths shy of the pole.
Nico Rosberg led the Mercedes charge as both silver and turquoise machines made solid runs to the fourth row. The Mercedes driver’s did not get close to the top six; however there were also no challenges from behind, as neither Nick Heidfeld (9th, Renault) nor Adrian Sutil (10th, Force India) completed a run.
Vitaly Petrov only just missed out on the top ten shoot out. The Russian was knocked out of Q2 at the final moment by Sutil, but it leaves the Renault with an extra set of tyres for tomorrow’s race.
Alongside Petrov is Sutil’s Force India teammate, Paul di Resta. The Scot made an error on his fast run to leave him shy of the top ten. Di Resta did enough to place Mercedes-powered machine ahead of the experienced Rubens Barrichello (13th, Williams) and the feisty Kamui Kobayashi (14th, Sauber).
Their respective teammates also had tough sessions with Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 15th (who also stopped in the middle of turn 18 with an electrical fault mid-Q2, bringing out the red flag) and Sergio Perez (Sauber) taking 16th.
Both Williams and Sauber were suffering this weekend. Williams engineers removed their new exhaust prior to qualifying, whereas the Sauber team struggled with Valencia’s high speed speed straights and downforce dependent bends.
Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi was the last driver in Q2, taking 17th on the grid.
A late scramble to escape the Q1 drop saw Jaime Alguersuari fall at the first hurdle for the third consecutive race. The Spaniard stayed in the pits for much of the session to pick out a clear track, but the under pressure Alguersuari could not take advantage.
Once again, Lotus took advantage of the tenth row, with Heikki Kovalainen pipping Jarno Trulli for the seventh time this year. On a circuit that emphasises the deficiencies of the Cosworth-powered machine, neither Lotus came close to making Q2.
Trulli did not help his cause with a final corner spin on his last flying lap.
Virgin and Hispania filled out the final two rows as per usual. Timo Glock (Virgin) headed the foursome, with Vitantonio Liuzzi (Hispania) trailing.
Jerome d’Ambrosio (Virgin) and Narain Karthikeyan (Hispania) registered times shy of their teammates.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m36.975 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m37.163 + 0.188 3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.380 + 0.405 4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.454 + 0.479 5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m37.535 + 0.560 6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.645 + 0.670 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.231 + 1.256 8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.240 + 1.265 9. Nick Heidfeld Renault No time 10. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes No time Q2 cut-off time: 1m39.034s Gap ** 11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m39.068s + 1.763 12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m39.422s + 2.117 13. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m39.489s + 2.184 14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.525s + 2.220 15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m39.645s + 2.340 16. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.657s + 2.352 17. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.711s + 2.406 Q1 cut-off time: 1m40.131s Gap * 18. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.232 + 1.819 19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m41.664 + 3.251 20. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m42.234 + 3.821 21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m42.553 + 4.140 22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m43.584 + 5.171 23. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m43.735 + 5.322 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m44.363 + 5.950 107% time: 1m45.301s * Gap to quickest in Q1 ** Gap to quickest in Q2