Mark Webber’s incredible momentum continued in Istanbul with his third pole position in a row, his fourth of the season.
It continued the clean sweep of seven pole positions from seven races for Red Bull, but they were under real pressure today from the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, who split the dark blue cars in qualifying, setting a time just 15/100ths of a second slower than Webber. It was a great result for McLaren, for whom Jenson Button qualified fourth.
“You always try to push the car a little bit faster,” said Hamilton. “We were able to put together a good lap, I couldn’t have asked for more. These guys (Red Bull) have been untouchable on pure pace, so its a real boost for me and my team to know we have good baseline pace and the race pace is even better.”
Sebastian Vettel finished behind Hamilton and went straight on in Turn 1 on his final lap, losing 8/10ths in the process.
He had been fastest in Q1 and Q2, but then a problem with a roll bar linkage emerged in Q3, which lost him a chance of pole.
“The inside front kept on locking, ” said Vettel. “The car didn’t seem to stop I went straight. Then same thing on scodn run. First lap when I hit the brakes, I lost abilty to stop car, inside wheel didn’t do its job properly. It’s a bit frustrating, we were on top in Q1 and Q2.”
But the session saw another mistake by Fernando Alonso, which meant that his missed the cut for the top ten shoot out and starts the race in 12th place on the grid. On Ferrari’s 800th Grand Prix celebration weekend, this was an uncomfortable moment. Alonso said that the Ferrari wasn’t competitive and that his mistake was not the reason he missed the cut, he was already not on target to get through and was having to push to catch up.
“Saturday has been one of my strongest point,’ said Alonso. “I stay calm. We weren’t quick enough, it was very on the limit. We were 12th and we deserve it. I pushed very hard in that lap.”
Red Bull mechanics fitted new parts right up to the final moments before qualifying, illustrating how tight the fight is becoming. The temperatures were much higher in the session than they had been in the morning session and some drivers preferred the hard tyre over the soft.
In the first part of qualifying the usual suspects from the three new teams were eliminated, with Jarno Trulli the fastest in the Lotus. Lucas di Grassi, despite several attempts, could not beat the Hispania of Bruno Senna. Hispania split with chassis partner Dallara this week, as the car has not been developed since the start of the season. From now on the car will be developed by HRT’s own engineers under a team headed by Geoff Willis.
Also eliminated at this early stage was Tonio Liuzzi, for the 2nd time this season. He was a second slower than team mate Adrian Sutil and although they had different specification cars, with Sutil choosing not to use the new drag reducing rear wing for qualifying, Liuzzi’s drive must now be under pressure from reserve driver Paul di Resta. That said, consistency seems to be his biggest problem as he has also been in Q3 twice.
In quali two the margins were very tight between the front runners, with Vettel only a few hundredths ahead of Hamilton. After the first runs, both Alonso and Rosberg found themselves outside the top ten after the first runs.
The Ferrari was struggling on the soft tyres and on his second run Alonso made a mistake in the final sector. He needed to do an extra lap but he didn’t make it. Another expensive mistake for Ferrari’s new driver. Felipe Massa in contrast managed to get through, four tenths faster than Alonso. But it wasn’t a great session for Ferrari and even Istanbul specialist Massa could only manage 8th.
It was another poor session for the Williams team, who didn’t look fast all weekend, having been forced to go back to the old specification front wing after the problems in Monaco.
Kobayashi made it through to Q3 for the third time this season, but had used up many sets of tyres in getting there so he only did one run in Q3.
Meanwhile Michael Schumacher’s rehabilitation into Formula 1 took another step forward as he again outqualified his team mate Nico Rosberg. The pair line up fifth and sixth on the grid.
After the first runs in Q3, Hamilton was ahead of Vettel and Button, but Mark Webber took provisional pole with two tenths over Hamilton.
Vettel’s problem at Turn 1 left the door open for Webber who found another two tenths. But he was pressured by Lewis Hamilton all the way and the McLaren with its straight line speed advantage will pose a major threat in the race tomorrow.
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Turkish Grand Prix Qualifying
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:27.500 1:26.818 1:26.295
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:27.667 1:27.013 1:26.433
3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:27.067 1:26.729 1:26.760
4. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:27.555 1:27.277 1:26.781
5. Schumacher Mercedes 1:27.756 1:27.438 1:26.857
6. Rosberg Mercedes 1:27.649 1:27.141 1:26.952
7. Kubica Renault 1:27.766 1:27.426 1:27.039
8. Massa Ferrari 1:27.993 1:27.200 1:27.082
9. Petrov Renault 1:27.620 1:27.387 1:27.430
10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.158 1:27.434 1:28.122
11. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:27.951 1:27.525
12. Alonso Ferrari 1:27.857 1:27.612
13. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.147 1:27.879
14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:28.534 1:28.273
15. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:28.336 1:28.392
16. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:28.460 1:28.540
17. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:28.227 1:28.841
18. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:28.958
19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:30.237
20. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:30.519
21. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:30.744
22. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:31.266
23. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:31.989
24. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:32.060