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Hamilton breaks Red Bull pole stranglehold at Korean Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Oct 2011   |  7:33 am GMT  |  120 comments

Lewis Hamilton rediscovered his form in qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix, breaking the stranglehold Red Bull have enjoyed on pole position since November 2010.

It is his 19th career pole position and his first for 27 Grands Prix, stretching back to Canada 2010.

Although Red Bull’s tactics showed that they had accepted they were not going to be able to beat McLaren to pole, Vettel nevertheless managed to fight Hamilton and to split the McLarens on the grid.

Hamilton was on sensational form, setting a time three tenths of a second faster than team mate Jenson Button and squeezing out Sebastian Vettel to second place.

The last non-Red Bull pole was Nico Hulkenberg in Brazil last November.

Despite his scintillating lap, Hamilton was not triumphant, quite the reverse in fact, “I’m happy and very proud of what the team have achieved over the last two races,” said a subdued Hamilton, who was mindful that the race is the important part. He clearly feels that this weekend offers him a chance for redemption after a troubled season and a chance to put right much of what has gone wrong in recent months, particularly his off form performance in Japan last weekend.

Jenson Button had to change chassis on Saturday morning, but still managed to set the fastest time in the final practice session.

Felipe Massa outqualified Fernando Alonso despite using an old front wing, while the Spaniard had a new development wing. He aborted his final run.

In Q1, Red Bull were the only top team to use a set of supersoft tyres, a very unusual tactic, which they used again in Q2, their idea being to save three new sets of soft tyres for the race. Meanwhile McLaren had a good margin at the front.

Williams left it late to go out and it misfired for Barrichello, who had to back out of his final lap and ended up being eliminated.

Kovalainen was the fastest of the new teams, just under a second off Barrichello’s time. Team mate Trulli was well off, blaming the lack of the new power steering system. Ricciardo didn’t set a lap time, he was told that the car was ailing on his out lap with a water leak.

In Q2 Massa had to do a second run using up a set of supersofts. The Brazilian was using the standard front wing while Alonso had a new development wing.

Force India were again on the pace, with both cars making it into Q3, while Michael Schumacher was eliminated after doing a single run with a vibration.

Vitaly Petrov got himself into Q3, but Bruno Senna on his birthday was well off his pace in 15th place.

In Q3 Hamilton had it all under control, narrowly beating Vettel on the first runs and opening up a larger margin in the second runs.

As far as the tactics for the race are concerned, McLaren’s drivers have done five laps on one set of soft tyres, while Red Bull has three new sets of softs for the race, so they have a slight advantage there if they all need to do three stints on softs. It could be a three or four stop strategy tomorrow and clearly with very little dry running on which to base predictions, strategists will be feeling their way in the race.

The first stop will come early to get off the worn supersofts, but from there on stretching out the soft tyre stints will be key.

1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m35.820s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m36.042s + 0.222
3. Jenson Button McLaren 1m36.126s + 0.306
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m36.468s + 0.648
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m36.831s + 1.011
6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m36.980s + 1.160
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m37.754s + 1.934
8. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m38.124s + 2.304
9. Paul di Resta Force India no time
10. Adrian Sutil Force India no time

11. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m38.315s + 1.789
12. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.354s + 1.828
13. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m38.508s + 1.982
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m38.775s + 2.249
15. Bruno Senna Renault 1m38.791s + 2.265
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m39.189s + 2.663
17. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m39.443s + 2.917

18. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m39.538s + 2.013
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m40.522s + 2.997
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m41.101s + 3.576
21. Timo Glock Virgin 1m42.091s + 4.566
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m43.483s + 5.958
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m43.758s + 6.233
24. Daniel Ricciardo HRT no time

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LH did look a bit morbid at the end of qualifying; Holly Samos said on her twitter it was for personal reasons though. OK, I can accept that, maybe it’s something to do with pressures of fame but he was doing a full Cobain impersonation in front of TV cameras, let’s hope there won’t be any smashing going on tomorrow!

It’s funny most people (here and not only here) don’t regard Button as top F1 driver, recently Darren Heath did a post on Jenson where he stated JB was not in the same league as HAM or ALO or VET. I don’t agree with such statements, it’s rubbish. Jenson got into f1 when things were a bit different and he steadily built his career over the years, which is a lot better than – let’s say – doing a Villeneuve, win it all in your second year only to fade away from the scene after a couple of disappointing seasons. Jenson is top act and has his own style, it’s great we have so many different drivers in F1. Generally speaking, it comes down to “I hate your favourite driver”/”my favourite driver is better than yours”/”the new F1 champion is not worthy” forums stuff where people with overactive imagination normally dwell. Horses for courses, that’s whay I’m saying.


Button is warm with Vettel, he even started quoting him. Anyways, why was Vettel inspecting Hamilton’s car after Q3?


What’s going on with N. Rosberg? Why are folks mute on his poor form this year?


Guys.. could i suggest that perhaps a few races back, Mclaren made a call that Jensen was lead driver due to hus standing in the points table, and theoretically being the only one who could beat seb to the title if the planets aligned. Perhaps Lewis was told to be jensens wingman and didnt like that hense his demeanor the last few races. Perhaps now its back on as to who can take second in the championship, we might see the lewis of old. Personally, i think this must have occurred, I think Jensen was given the preferential treatment that Lewis has had for many years, and Lewis didnt like it a bit…


I think it’s easy to forget that lewis is still a young guy, he’s not a robotic driving machine. It must be so hard for a young guy who is still maturing and trying to become comfortable in himself to read all these negative headlines about his on and off track misgivings. I’m a mclaren fan, JB is my no 1 but i still really like LH and rate him as one of the top three drivers on the grid. But I fear that the constant negativity in the media (and some drivers jumping on that bandwagon), the slightly unfair treatment by the stewards and the rest of the carry on will drive him away from f1, and I fear we might lose him to NASCAR possibly at end of 2012 which I think would be a big loss to the sport.


Improved Temperament was shown by Hamilton today. No one ever doubted his sheer pace, but his temperament was often debated. A lovely lap by Hamilton today… Lets hope he manages to keep up this new temperament for keeps.


It looked to me as if hamilton set the car up the way he has wanted it set up all year! Thrilling stuff to watch!!

Let’s hope his setup doesn’t cost him in the race with excessive tyre wear!

Bring back refuelling!!! I want to watch f1 cars flat out on the limit from the green to the end, not just the last couple of laps (if they have any fuel left?)


I think it is very worrying that F1 driver isn’t exactly happy when he put his car on pole and beat a guy like Vettel in RB.

I am not a fan but I don’t wish him bad life either. James could you help us explaining what on earth is going on with him?

He clearly looked miserable as usual.


I do not know what others think about QUALIFYING these days. Last year we had boring races and super qualifying sessions. This year we have entertaining races, but I was very disappointed to pay money for qualifying that is really dull with no actions. 2 laps in Q3 at maximum…why to waste full hour for this?


Agreed Alex. Paying for a Saturday entrance fee is not worth it. Years gone by and saturdays was the time to see all the cars at their quickest and for two sessions. Then it got down to having only one session on Sat. now just bad value. Hopefully with a little ‘tuning’ Q3 can be made value again by letting the top 10 have an extra set for the session only….or something to give the fans better value


I don’t mind what mood he is in, doesn’t bother me at all – I just want to see him hanging the back of the car out like he did in quali yesterday. Brings back good memories.


Perhaps McLaren have said something like we made you and we can also break you. – but they already did that by providing uncompetitive cars which is why Lewis has been so demoralised. Jonathan Neale said Lewis had some things to learn. – We can only guess at those, but he must be absolutely pissed at the constant media battering.


If second or third best car is uncompetitive, the whole F1 grid must be in the midst of depression.


LH drove a great qually today. Good on ya Lewis. I have said it before and say it again…..Maclaren are to blame here!!MW has got to wipe that grin/smurk of his face and realise the team are letting LH down.It is so typical of maclaren to miss the point when these circumstances raise there heads.LH is acting like he is because of whatever and the team need to rally round.In return I am sure LH will get the job done.Everyone is differant and respect to LH for dealing with media today.WDCwill be achieved by sacking MW and giving total backing to LH….SIMPLE!ALL THE TOP TEAMS DO IT!


Are you serious? Hamilton is letting McLaren down…


I hate to say it but Vettel or Button will win tomorrow as they are the best at conserving tyres. I for one want to watch drivers racing as fast as possible not conserving tyres! Go Lewis !!


I am a Vettel fan but I agree with you…. I want to see drivers drive. I have nothing against Button but he is never as fast as Hamilton over one lap but he does not have to be as the Perilli’s seem made of paper this year… I am not a fan of 4 pit stops and all the saving tires in qualy


Pulling for Hamilton tomorrow too. No one deserves that much flack. But my boyhood hero (and I may be dating myself here), Jackie Stewart said ‘The secret to winning is going as slow as possible without losing.’ Hope the kid keeps that in mind tomorrow.


That’s a great quote; I have loads of time for Jackie. His quote still very much applies in this “tire spec” era, (query) when did he originally say it?


No reason?

No of course not – I wonder how many Hamilton and Vettel fans would be using ‘NEW CHASSIS” as an excuse if they were 400ths of a second off there team mate four hours after a new car was put together.

Buttons only weakness is his qualifying, but been third at this track is better than 2nd 🙂

I think Lewis doesnt have a chance, as per Webber hes no good with the tyres.


Could it be that Hamiltons car was setup specific for trying to get on pole to break RedBull’s winning streak? I find it a bid odd that they suddenly find .3 of a second and Button not finding the same. I guess tomorrow will tell…

James any thought on a specific strategy that made this possible.


Button has been an average of around 0.25 slower than Lewis in quali this year, so to suggest that something must be wrong for JB to be beaten by 0.3 is madness.

F1 fans have very short memories, Lewis was on top for the first half of the season, his recent run of formis not representative at all.


No, the points are handed out on Sunday and it’s a win he really wants


Great pole by Hamilton. that is the #1 weakness of Button. He is rarely fast in qualy. No reason at all for him to be so far off the qualy pace….

I think flag to flag win for Hamilton and that is saying something as I am a huge Vettel fan


I wonder whether Lewis’ mood is being engendered by internal team issues- contract negotiations come to mind.

I can see that Lewis might wish to calm his enthusiasm, knowing that winning the race is what counts, therefore starting him on the road to public opinion redemption.

But on the other hand ignoring his engineer’s radio comments, and his engineers waiting for him in the winner’s circle , seems personal.

Something is going on here. James, any insight? Possibly on to something re. contract negotiations?


I’m with you on this. Lewis can’t be happy and I think now is out to prove a point. The problem with mclarens strategy with 2 no 1 drivers is that it won’t work unless mclaren build a car that is considerably quicker than everyone else. F1 has changed this season now that team orders are allowed and both red bull and Ferrari have clear no1’s.

This problem for Lewis is linked to jenson’s new contract that has considerably enhanced his position in the team and lewis obviously doesn’t see this as positive.


I hope this is just a new approach from Lewis to focus on his driving alone, and to disregard anything that doesn’t contribute to simply driving to his and the cars absolute limits – which it looks like he did in qualifying today.

However I think from his reaction there is something more that we don’t yet know about. This reminds me a bit of last year (was it when he won in Turkey?) when Jenson overtook him when he thought they had both been told to “save fuel”.

I do wonder if there is something going on within McLaren – possibly regarding his contract like you suggest.


Yup, very reminiscent of Lewis’ mood in Turkey 2010- he won the race, but was annoyed that Jenson had gained when he thought they both had been told to turn their engines down. Best described as appearing like a sulk.


Maybe McLaren are reminding him of how a team can play mind games with drivers who dont toe the line. Alonso copped it in 2007 and now after talking to much Martin whitmarsh is telling Lewis ‘we can sabotage you at any moment’. His only option atm is a big pay cut at McLaren or move to Merc


This is what I was thinking.Alonso got a lof of flack for example when he didn’t drive to the team on the wall at Monza. Lewis seems to be getting the treatment from Mclaren now.

I’m an Alonso fan, and its quite amusing to see this.Wonder if everyone still sees it all the same way now.


First step on a long-road to being 2012 WDC, very realistic response from Hamilton.


Might just be some personal stuff for Lewis, not something to comment on.

I found myself wondering whether the internal tensions in McLaren, RB and Ferrari would change shape, now that the driver’s championship is won.

What if a Friday morning practice was given over to a reserve driver in one of the top three teams? Say Massa for example….


I loved the description by DC of Hamilton “appearing to steer the car by the rear axle”. Brilliant way of describing Hamilton’s driving style when he’s on form.


Vettel escaped penalty for cutting the track in Q3, we can only wonder what would have happened if that was Lewis…


It was a minor infraction at best.

The usual punishment for such an infraction is to have that particular lap discounted. Since it wasn’t a lap which qualified, the result was appropriate.

His chop-job on Jenson at the last race, however, should have been punished, and I note with interest the new rule implemented from this race onwards that drivers making a defensive move must leave at least 1 car width gap to the track edge. That’s going to be a difficult one to enforce fairly and, with Lewis on the front, guess who’s most likely to fall foul of it.


Lewis would have crashed into something (probably Massa) while cutting that particular corner……..


Nothing, it was on an out-lap, and it was done as Vettel’s engineer said on the radio, as we heard on the BBC, they needed to be in and out for a final run as quick as possible.


It was on an in lap and it meant he gained time coming back to the pits (for his second run)

Im convinced Lewis would have got a penatly/reprimand for that


well we all know the answer to that , don’t we !

apparently he was let off as he didn’t gain anything ….I don’t see that as if he was forced to turn round and exit in the approved place he might well have missed his pole lap

and now it seems that you can do what you like as long as you don’t damage anyone else or gain an advantage ; strange rule


I think Lewis is just really focusing, taking nothing for granted. Tyres do worry him and only a win would put a smile on his face (albeit small). He wants to deliver big in all 4 remaining races. Otherwise don’t expect the good old big grin anytime soon. The boy’s determined!




First it was careless race incidents, then qualifying woes, and now looking ‘glum’. There just always has to be some criticism directed at Lewis!

Back to the racing itself… great pole from Lewis, should have had pole the last race as well. Vettel and Lewis are by far the fastest drivers over a single lap.

Alonso admitted he made a mistake in his final lap and aborted it – so not really a big deal Massa outqualifying him. The race is an entirely different matter as shown in Suzuka…


James, is there anything going on in the background that we punters don’t know about?

Lewis’s demeanour getting out of the car, during the chummmy top 3 photo, the top 3 press conference and also the post quali interview with the BBC was subdued (to put it very mildly). Has he had an almighty bust up with the team?

It struck me as the sort of body language of someone seething (whilst trying to keep it looking professional) – almost as if he went out to get pole to show them all. It seems incredibly unlikely but I wonder if he has been told that the team won’t be requiring his services after his contract runs out on 2012 perhaps?

Do I smell a conspiracy, James, or am I simply doing the traditional internet fan thing of looking way too far in to something?


I’m with you. The body language with jenson was awkward as they did the traditional photo in the pit lane. He also wasn’t at the photo after his win in Japan. He also mentions the team first and I wonder if there is a hint of irony? Maybe I’m an Internet fan reading too much into it too but something is wrong!


Check the photos again, Lewis was there.


Not sure if he still gets on with Jenson Button, but Lewis Hamilton was definately at the photshoot. He was sitting to the right of John Button, complete with Rocket Red T-Shirt and Vodafone Cap. Check out the BBC coverage or the web.


Lewis was in the team photo shoot after Japan, he was about five places to Jenson’s right. Tsk, internet fans.


He was at the photo shoot the camera showed him arriving and shaking johnbuttons hand.


I don’t think Lewis has rediscovered his form. For the past two weeks McLaren has been the car to beat so there are no surprises. Also, were very fast throughout the weekend. Vettel did a fantastic job by splitting the McLarens and Button did a poor job with a faster car.

I don’t think McLarens are disadvantaged by any means by using a set of soft tyres. Still they have got two new ones.

Alonso had some new parts on his car, possibly some 2012 parts and Massa still beat him. That is Fantastic. Tomorrow we can see Massa moving over to let Alonso pass him during the race so that Alonso can become second in the championship. Typical Ferrari!

Lewis should behave in a professional way, at least in front of the cameras. He has taken pole and there is no need to be grumpy and behave as if he has lost a family member. He need to work on his attitude. His father is the only person who can sort him out.


Team orders? Maccas should be more worried that their No.1 driver can’t even keep up with their No.2 driver lately!


Yeah, typical Ferrari. They moved Massa openly aside. Other teams did the same… in a sneaky way.

And for your information, for that very reason this year team orders are allowed.

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