Sebastian Vettel made it four pole in four races, by setting the fastest time in qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix, doing only one run in the final part of qualifying. It is his 19th career pole position and he is the first man to take the first four poles of the year since Mika Hakkinen in 1999.
All three men saved a new set of soft tyres for the race, as the teams evolve their thinking on how to trade off qualifying against race strategy.
Once again the Red Bull’s downforce which allows it to use the DRS rear wing in places where others couldn’t consider it, gave Red Bull a gain. This is a gain they won’t have in the race.
In Q1 Kamui Kobayashi had a problem with the fuel system, which meant he didn’t set a time. Lotus set the pace among the cars that dropped out, Kovalainen again had the edge over Trulli, but the Italian didn’t have the DRS wing working.
Tonio Liuzzi almost got the better of Virgin team, but Jerome D’Ambrosio managed to pip him at the end by almost 2/10ths.
Timo Glock has had a very difficult weekend with new parts on his car not working out, losing him track time and he was forced to revert to old parts for qualifying, so he was outqualified for the second race in a row.
Of the front runners, Massa used a set of soft tyres in Q1, a curious decision as Kobayashi was already out so with him plus the six new team cars set to drop out, there was no need to waste a set of softs. He had a precautionary engine change just before qualifying. Meanwhile Alonso did a time just 3/10ths slower on the hard tyre, despite the soft being worth one second a lap.
In Q2 Paul di Resta did just one run at the end of the session, to save tyres for the race. It meant that Adrian Sutil outqualified him for the first time this season.
It was the best qualifying of the season so far for Williams; Rubens Barrichello almost got the car into the top ten, losing 10th right at the end to Nick Heidfeld.
Pastor Maldonado was half a second slower than his team mate in 14th place.
In Q3 the Red Bulls had a comfortable margin, but there was plenty of intrigue behind with Nico Rosberg fulfilling expectations from Mercedes’ practice performance to grab third place ahead of Lewis Hamilton, his best starting position since Malaysia 2010.
Much of Mercedes’ progress has come from working on set up, getting the tyres working and also from running in cooler conditions, as we saw in China. In Malaysia the team had to cut holes in the bodywork for cooling, which cut the downforce level.
Ferrari were 8/10ths off the pace of the Red Bull pretty much where they were expected to be from practice. Alonso amazingly kept up his record of qualifying 5th for every race this year.
Kobayashi will be worth watching tomorrow. He used up none of his new soft tires in qualifying, and also is in the fastest car in a straightline.