Webber beats Vettel to Korean pole position
13 October 2012 – Mark Webber has picked up his second pole position of the 2012 Formula 1 season, beating a confused Sebastian Vettel who had been quickest throughout practice. Lewis Hamilton will start third from championship leader Fernando Alonso, with Kimi Räikkönen inside the top five. Jenson Button was eliminated in Q2.
Vettel’s 35th career pole looked almost certain as qualifying loomed, with Korea enjoying its warmest Grand Prix weekend so far despite overcast conditions. Webber’s triumph is all the more remarkable following a software glitch which was the cause for major worry when he lost ten minutes at the end of final practice.
Q1 had a sudden end for Narain Karthikeyan, who was forced to throw his HRT into a violent spin as he suffered brake failure at the end of the back straight. Bruno Senna was also on the sidelines at the earliest possible point, suffering his third Q1 knockout of the year and falling at the first hurdle for the second time in one week. At the front in both Q1 and Q2 was Vettel, very much expectant of pole position.
As ever, the second phase brought its fair share of drama and intrigue as midfield drivers battled with the front-runners for a top ten placing. While Vettel put in one extra lap to ensure his place was safe, Daniel Ricciardo stopped with a gearbox failure; this could result in a five-place grid penalty which would leave the Australian Toro Rosso driver towards the back end of the grid. Yellow flags meant others were obliged to lift off, including Button who was left marooned in 11th spot.
Also falling out of the action in Q2 were Jean-Éric Vergne - who lamented an end-of-lap error which saw him qualify 17th - plus both Saubers, Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado who endures his second consecutive Q2 exit. In the case of di Resta, 14th is his worst qualifying performance since the Monaco Grand Prix back in May.
Nico Hülkenberg performed well to make Q3, jumping ahead of both Mercedes works cars which will occupy the fifth row; all three attempted to save tyres. Ahead, as the first lap times were posted four minutes into the phase, Vettel duly seized the top spot from Alonso, Webber, Felipe Massa and Hamilton.
As the chequered flag came out, Webber crossed the finish line with a best effort of 1:37.242. Vettel was expected to beat this but, already off the pace in Sector 1, he lost even more time when catching Felipe Massa in the middle part of the circuit; the German therefore ended his lap seven hundredths of a second off Webber and is now targeting an opening lap pass in Sunday’s race. Hamilton could not repeat his Yeongam pole of 2011 and Alonso starts directly behind his chief title rival.
On the back half of Row 4, Romain Grosjean is highly keen to avoid early-race trouble as he lines up behind Kimi Räikkönen and Massa. Starting alongside Hulkenberg, the Lotus is now running coandă-style exhausts for the first time.
Sunday’s 2012 Korean Grand Prix begins at 3pm local time (BST +8) and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report