Vettel destroys rivals to seize Valencia hat-trick
23 June 2012 – Sebastian Vettel has won a third consecutive pole position at the Valencia Street Circuit following a hotly-contested qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Lewis Hamilton will share the front row ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean. There were a number of surprises earlier in the session, such as Mark Webber being eliminated in Q1 before Michael Schumacher and both Ferraris dropped out of the running in Q2.
Today’s qualifying threw up a number of sensational news stories and a large difference in temperatures is expected for the race, which could bring a further reshuffle. The first drama came 20 minutes before Q1, as Marussia announced that Timo Glock would be missing the session due to a stomach bug; should he be well enough to race tomorrow, the German will still require a special dispensation from Formula 1 governing body the FIA.
As HRT out-qualified Marussia, Heikki Kovalainen impressed by passing through to Q2 for Caterham, helped by a new rear wing; he beat Jean-Éric Vergne and, notably, Mark Webber. Following an installation run to check his car after brake problems in practice, the Australian lost over a full second due to a hydraulic problem which caused his DRS to jam shut. He will start from a very disappointing 19th place on the tight street venue.
Kovalainen went on to impress further in Q2, jumping ahead of leading Toro Rosso man Daniel Ricciardo to seal 16th spot. Amazingly, just two tenths of a second separated first place from the drop zone, which contributed to the fact that Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa could manage no more than 11th and 13th positions; between the Ferrari drivers, Michael Schumacher struggled his way to 12th as the stewards investigated the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi for impeding Nico Hülkenberg’s Force India in Q1.
Following on from the extremely tight Q2, predicting a pole-sitter was anybody’s guess. That is why Vettel’s superb lap time of 1:38.086, four tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton, came as such a surprise. The Red Bull man now hopes to convert a third successive Valencia pole into as many race victories since 2010. Behind, Hamilton confirmed that the front row is the same as that in Montreal two weeks ago, but admitted that he expected worse.
Maldonado looked to have spoiled his chances by running wide at the final corner, but recovered on his final lap to miss out on second place by just 65 thousandths of a second; on the other hand, Paul di Resta made the same qualifying mistake as last year, throwing away a very good chance of a front row placing and ending up tenth, behind Jenson Button. Positions six to eight are occupied by Nico Rosberg, Kobayashi and Hülkenberg, but Lotus have been tipped for success all week-long and start fourth and fifth - with Grosjean ahead of Räikkönen.
Sebastian Vettel’s third pole position of 2012 leaves him joint third in the all-time rankings, matching former Champions Jim Clark and Alain Prost on 33 poles. Only Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna now remain ahead of him in the record books.
Sunday’s 2012 European Grand Prix begins at 2pm local time (BST +1) and begins can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report