Korean Grand Prix 2011: Hamilton beats Vettel to pole

McLaren driver claims his first pole position since Canada last year for Sunday's race in Yeongam

By Gareth Llewellyn
lewis hamilton
Hamilton claimed his first pole of the season in Yeongam Photo: Courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

lewis hamilton

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton finally ended Red Bull’s stranglehold on pole position as his impressive form through free practice continued into qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix.

The 2008 world champion’s time of 1m35.820 at the Korean International Circuit in Yeongam was 0.222 faster than Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who clinched a successive world championship six days ago at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Jenson Button was third quickest in the other McLaren after a mistake on the last corner prevented him from locking out the front row.

“I’m happy to be here and very proud of what the team has been able to achieve over the course of the last few races,” Hamilton said.

“For Jenson to win the last race and for us to be on the front again and the only ones competing with Red Bull, I’m very happy.

“Throughout the year, I don’t think my qualifying performances have been too bad, it’s only in the last two races that I didn’t manage to get my final run in Q3, so today’s result wasn’t entirely unexpected.”

So dominant was the MP4-26, a McLaren topped all three practice sessions, while Hamilton was quickest in all three qualifying sessions to secure his 19th pole, and first since Canada last year, for what will be the team’s 700th Formula 1 grand prix.

“We’ve been quick as a team and never stopped making improvements to the car,” Hamilton added. “I’m so, so proud of all the men and women both here at the circuit and back at Woking who’ve worked so hard to get us back to where we want to be.

“Of course, pole position is still only the first step, particularly when we know that tomorrow’s race will be long and unpredictable. Pole is always a great achievement and I’m particularly proud to have achieved it at the team’s 700th Formula 1 grand prix.”

Red Bull were aiming for a record 16th pole in a single season, with Vettel quickest in qualifying 12 times this season, but McLaren built on their performance at Suzuka to dominate proceedings this weekend.

With tyre wear for the race expected to cause teams problems, Red Bull were happy to take the unusual approach of using an extra set of option tyres in qualifying in order to keep the primes for Sunday’s race.

“McLaren looked competitive yesterday and though the conditions were completely different today, they were a fair chunk ahead of everyone including us,” Vettel said.

“In the dry this morning they were extremely quick, but once again we pushed them very hard in qualifying, perhaps more than they expected, and we did a good job in qualification.”

Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber was fourth quickest after aborting his final lap, with Ferrari team-mates Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso fifth and sixth, over a second down on Hamilton’s time.

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who was fined on Friday for causing an avoidable collision during free practice, took seventh, 1.934s slower than Hamilton and ahead of Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who was the only other driver to set a time in Q3.

Force India maintained their impressive form ahead of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time by reaching the final qualifying session again, but only Paul di Resta ventured out of the garage to place himself ninth, ahead of team-mate Adrian Sutil who rounded out the top 10.

Troubled by a tyre vibration on his last lap, Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher will start the race 12th, between the two Toro Rossos, with Jaime Alguersuari ahead of him after di Resta pipped him in the closing stages of Q2.

Renault’s Bruno Senna was a disappointing 0.6s down on team-mate Petrov in Q2 leaving him 15th behind Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, but ahead of rookies Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Pérez. Maldonado squeezed out team-mate Rubens Barrichello in the closing stages of Q1 to leave the Brazilian 17th on the grid.

At the back, Lotus, Virgin Racing, and HRT were familiarly uncompetitive, with Lotus’ Heikki Kovalainen’s best lap three seconds off Hamilton’s Q1 time enough for 18th, while HRT’s Tonio Liuzzi was 6.233s slower than Hamilton as his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo failed to set a time due to a technical problem.

Korean Grand Prix 2011 – Starting grid

1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren-Mercedes 1min 35.820secs

2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault 1:36.042

3 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.126

4 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 1:36.468

5 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:36.831

6 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:36.980

7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:37.754

8 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:38.124

9 Paul Di Resta (Gbr) Force India-Mercedes 1:38.254

10 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes 1:38.219

11 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.315

12 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:38.354

13 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.508

14 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber 1:38.775

15 Brz Bruno Senna (Bra) Renault 1:38.791

16 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Cosworth 1:39.189

17 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber 1:39.443

18 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams-Cosworth 1:39.538

19 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus-Renault 1:40.522

20 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus-Renault 1:41.101

21 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin-Cosworth 1:42.091

22 Jerome d’Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin-Cosworth 1:43.483

23 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Hispania-Cosworth 1:43.758

24 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Hispania-Cosworth no time

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