The session was dominated by news emanating from the Red Bull pit garage with Vettel’s pole overshadowed by his teammate’s woes; Mark Webber failed to make it out of the first session and will start 18th. The Australian was unable to get his harder prime tyres up to temperature in the opening 20 minutes and had the embarrassment of joining the Lotuses, Virgin’s and HRT’s at the back of the grid.
It has been a very tough start to the year from Webber and he is once again hampered by having KERS problems with his car which will mean that he will race without the system.
The red flag was caused by Vitaly Petrov after the Russian was forced to stop his car just off the racing line on the run down to turn four. Petrov had just set a time that would safely see him through to qualifying three but his mechanical misfortune effectively ended the qualifying hopes of his team.
His teammate, Nick Heidfeld, had planned on making just one timed run in Q2 and had started his run when Petrov halted the session. Heidfeld’s plan was to save an extra set of softer tyres for the race but he was forced back to the pits without setting a time.
He came out, with ten other runners, to try to set a top ten time but was unable to do so. The end of Q2 resembled the start of a race with 11 drivers jockeying for position but ultimately getting in each other’s way.
Michael Schumacher was the other big loser from the red flag. The German had set a time earlier in the session on the harder tyre but the traffic on his outlap and a mistake at the hairpin, caused by another DRS failure on the Mercedes, cost him dearly and he finished the session 14th.
The stars of Q2 were the McLaren’s and the Toro Rosso’s both of which safely made it through to Q3.
Force India’s Scottish rookie, Paul di Resta, had another superb qualifying session. He, once again, outqualified Adrian Sutil and made it through to Q3 for the first time. With Petrov unable to set a time di Resta split the Toro Rosso’s to qualify eighth with the Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa on the third row.
Nico Rosberg had his best qualifying result in a year with the fourth fastest time behind the McLaren who look to be in good shape ahead of the race. Learning from his Malaysian race that was blighted by being forced to run an extra stint on the harder tyres Lewis Hamilton saved an extra set of the option tyres for tomorrow’s race. Speaking after qualifying the former world champion said:
“We are in quite a strong [tyre] position: the options I just qualified on, a new set of options and a new set of primes and a decent set of options as well,” Hamilton said. “I just wanted to increase chances for the race because that is what counts.”
Unfortunately for Button he does not have his car working quite as well as Vettel whose stunning lap registered the 18th pole position of his career.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m33.706s 2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.421s + 0.715 3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.463s + 0.757 4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m34.670s + 0.964 5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m35.119s + 1.413 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m35.145s + 1.439 7. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m36.158s + 2.452 8. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m36.190s + 2.484 9. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m36.203s + 2.497 10. Vitaly Petrov Renault No time Q3 cut-off time: 1m35.858s Gap ** 11. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m35.874s + 1.388 12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m36.053s + 1.567 13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m36.236s + 1.750 14. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m36.457s + 1.971 15. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m36.465s + 1.979 16. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m36.611s + 2.125 17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m36.956s + 2.470 Q3 cut-off time: 1m36.147s Gap * 18. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m36.468s + 1.196 19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m37.894s + 2.622 20. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m38.318s + 3.046 21. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m39.119s + 3.847 22. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m39.708s + 4.436 23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m40.212s + 4.940 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m40.445s + 5.173 107% time: 1m41.941s