Brazilian Grand Prix: Nico Hülkenberg takes pole position

niko hulkenberg
(Photo: Morio)

niko hulkenberg

Rookie Nico Hülkenberg stunned Formula 1’s championship contenders to secure a sensational pole position for Williams ahead of Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix on a drying track at Interlagos.

The 23-year-old German is joined on the front row of the grid by compatriot Sebastian Vettel who won the battle of the Red Bull drivers, as Mark Webber took third ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in a dramatic finale.

Championship leader Fernando Alonso could only manage fifth for Ferrari, hampering his chances of becoming the youngest driver to secure three world championships.

The track remained too wet for slicks at the start of Q3, with all 10 drivers completing their first runs on intermediates before Rubens Barrichello gambled with slicks, and Hülkenberg followed suit, timing his run perfectly to ensure he was the last man to cross the line before the chequered flag came out for his flying lap.

Hülkenberg traded fastest laps with Hamilton, but a mistake by Alonso on his final run meant Hülkenberg had already secured pole before his final lap. The rookie smashed his own time to finish 1.1 seconds quicker than Vettel with a 1:14.470.

Rubens Barrichello was unable to match the grip found in the sister Williams, but completed an excellent day for the team with sixth on the grid at his home race with a time of 1:16.203.

Robert Kubica starts seventh, despite an early switch to dry tyres, ahead of four-time winner Michael Schumacher, 2008 winner Felipe Massa and Renault team-mate Vitaly Petrov rounding out the top 10.

McLaren’s Jenson Button lost out in the Q2 lottery as the drying track provided a drama-fest, and will start 11th with any hopes of retaining his title all but over.

Kamui Kobayashi, Nico Rosberg and Jaime Alguersuari start 12th to 14th on the grid, while Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi was 15th quickest but takes a five-place penalty because of an incident in the last race. Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld took 16th ahead of Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi in 17th.

Q1 offered few surprises despite the conditions, as the two Hispania Racing cars were slowest, with Bruno Senna being out-qualified by Christian Klien at his first home Grand Prix.

Virgin Racing won the battle of the new teams with Timo Glock sneaking ahead of Lotus’ Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen with Lucas di Grassi left to follow them home half a second slower than Kovalainen.

Hülkenberg’s pole position showed just how much of a lottery a bit of rain can bring at Interlagos, and Sunday’s race could offer more of the same.

Few will expect Hülkenberg to hold off the superior cars behind him, meaning the first few laps will be crucial for the championship leaders to keep out of trouble and make a break for the lead.

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