Vettel cruises to Valencia pole, but Lotus look like contenders
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Jun 2012   |  4:28 pm GMT  |  74 comments

Sebastian Vettel needed just one lap at the end of qualifying to claim a sensational pole position in Valencia ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado.

The Red Bull driver had struggled in an ultra competitive Q2 session and used up two sets of option tyres getting into Q3, leaving him with only one new set for Q3. But he managed the situation and pulled out his usual optimum lap to grab the pole.

But the Lotus cars are poised to play a role in the outcome of the Grand Prix, when track conditions are expected to be hot and with the car’s ability to make one stop less than its immediate rivals, it could make for a very interesting strategic race tomorrow. Vettel looks very strong in the Red Bull, but both Lotus drivers could have a say in the podium, so Vettel and Hamilton will have to work hard tomorrow.

“It will be a difficult race and difficult to predict,” said Vettel. “We have seen too much this year to sit here on Saturday afternoon and predict what is going to happen. It will be hotter tomorrow and there will be a lot of cars to look out for.”

In a session where Vettel showed the kind of qualifying confidence he had in 2011, the Red Bull driver claimed his 33rd pole position, 0.3 seconds clear of Hamilton, to prove that widespread changes to the RB8 have very much given the team a step forward. The same can not be said for the sister Red Bull of Mark Webber who carried a technical issue with the hydraulics operating his DRS wing from practice in to qualifying and could not make his way out of Q1 with just one run on the option tyres and will start the race in 19th position. He was 7/10ths slower than Vettel despite having no DRS wing, which he reckoned to be worth 1.3 seconds a lap.

The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were disappointed, both eliminated in Q2, along with Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes and they will start the race from outside the top ten. It was an extremely closely fought Q2, at the climax of which the top seven drivers were covered by just 0.1 seconds. Alonso and Massa both used a set of prime tyres for their first run in Q2 where all others opted for the option compound. When they made their second run, this time with the option compound, they were unable to find the necessary time to make their way in to Q3. They were only 2/10ths off the fastest time in Q2, but so close was the field, it wasn’t enough to take them through. Although the ability to have a free choice of tyres for tomorrows Grand Prix may soften the blow.

“We were not quick enough,” Alonso said. “Normally if you get into Q3 it is because you deserve it and because you do the job. We will try to recover tomorrow and try to gain some positions.”

In the final minutes of the top-ten shootout pole position changed hands many times as Nico Rosberg’s provisional pole was beaten by Romain Grosjean and then Maldonado before Vettel followed up on his practice pace to take his third pole of 2012.

Hamilton was the best of the rest, pipping Maldonado to continue his consistency of front-row starts. The McLaren driver once again outshone Jenson Button with the pacesetter in this morning’s final practice only managing ninth place, after a tricky build up to the race for McLaren,

“I expected to be a lot further back,” said Hamilton. “We struggled all weekend and into qualifying I had to make some guesses as to what set-up I wanted, and it seems to work. I’m really, really surprised. The guys did a great job to get me a good lap and the car felt pretty good. The gap is still quite big so it will be quite a tough race tomorrow as always.”

Joining Maldonado on the second row is Grosjean in the Lotus. Both cars had threatened to take pole position but will both be more than satisfied with their afternoon’s work, particularly Grosjean who also showed very good race pace during the longer runs in free practice.

The third row is occupied by Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg, with Raikkonen’s result confirming that Lotus have turned around their qualifying performance. Rosberg was near the head of the field for the duration of the session, however he failed to improve on his Q2 time where Vettel found 0.5 seconds. He claimed Hamilton had blocked him, but the stewards went through it with Hamilton and found nothing wrong with the McLaren driver’s conduct.

Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg both beat their respective team-mates to claim seventh and eighth positions. Kobayashi in particular putting in a very good performance just 0.3 off a front row start.

Paul Di Resta completed the top ten, after briefly setting the fastest first sector time in Q3. A mistake in Turn 17 meant that a possible top six qualifying slot went begging and Di Resta was very disappointed.

It was a good day for Caterham and Heikki Kovalainen, who qualified ahead of both Toro Rosso cars, with Jean Eric Vergne having dropped out of qualifying at the first stage for the fifth time in seven races. It was the second time this season, after Bahrain, where Kovalainen made it into Q2.

Timo Glock was forced to miss the session due to a stomach bug and will take a view tomorrow on whether to start the race from the back of the grid.

Additional reporting: Matt Meadows

EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX, Valencia, Qualifying
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m38.086s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m38.410s + 0.324
3. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m38.475s + 0.389
4. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m38.505s + 0.419
5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m38.513s + 0.427
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.623s + 0.537
7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m38.741s + 0.655
8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m38.752s + 0.666
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1m38.801s + 0.715
10. Paul di Resta Force India 1m38.992s + 0.906

11. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.707s + 0.218
12. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.770s + 0.281
13. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m38.780s + 0.291
14. Bruno Senna Williams 1m39.207s + 0.718
15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m39.358s + 0.869
16. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m40.295s + 1.806
17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m40.358s + 1.869

18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m40.203s + 1.378
19. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m40.395s + 1.570
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m40.457s + 1.632
21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m42.171s + 3.346
22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m42.527s + 3.702
23. Charles Pic Marussia 1m42.675s + 3.850

Best Tweets from the Day

#MyCaterhamF1 A significant day in the life of our team as we beat both Toro Rossos on merit.

# InsideFerrari EUR – Up hill struggle in qualifying for the two F2012

#Enginesman “Suspect that Seb is, just, the fastest #F1 driver at the moment. Don’t think he’ll win tomorrow though. My money’s on Grosjean or Raikkonen.”

#dchalmersf1 So apparently Tost rates Vergne very highly. That sounds like the dreaded vote of confidence you get from football chairmen.”

For more team and fan tweets as well as all the latest content from Valencia click HERE

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Bring Back Murray

Hamilton did a good job there getting 2nd consdiering all the lock-ups he was getting.

Stay with Vettel today and then we’ve got the British Grand Prix coming up.


James i am getting fed up with all the talk of looking after tyres to do well in a race, like canada alonso/vettel go for a win and drive the nuts of there car, gros and perez seemingly cruising and making tyres last and they jump the other guys, wheres the justice in that ? when are we guna turn up at a race and just go racing ? its all very anoying. dont get me wrong im a huge fan and love the not knowing whos guna win but its just frustrating to hear guys not pushing, we want 70 laps 24 guys all pushing to win not managing a gap !


I am puzzled why Webber has so many problems with the RB8 and not Vettel ? Is there still a pecking order.??


i’ve read an article about mclaren giving all hamiltons data to jenson.Apparently lewis isn’t too hapy about it.Is there any info about this,it all went pretty quiet


Come on Kimi… take this win!!!!!!!!!!


Kimi is on the clean side p5. He has a good chance to follow vettel and hamilton out of T2.

James, use of the run-off at T2 to gain a place will be allowed on the opening lap, to “avoid a collision”?


Great performance from Hamilton and vettel. Every race now Hamilton keeps adding $ to his next contract. Imagine where mclaren would be without him!

Mind you I’m convinced he is going to be alongside vettel next year and what an amazing battle that will be. Love Lewis’s “good job man” quote they are definitely preparing themselves for some big battles!!


One of the reasons given for no action against Hamilton was:

The smallest gap between Car 4 and Car 8 was 18 metres and 1.1 seconds.

So, 18 metres and 1.1 seconds is not too close, but a couple of seconds and 80 metres is (Alonso and Massa, Monza 2006).


Hi Paul,

I’ll trust your numbers on Nico and Lewis as that is 58 km/h, which might be right for the last turn.

However, 80 m at 300 km/h, which is probably on the low side for the back straight at Monza is only 0.96s, not a couple of them. And there would be 25 times the air disturbance at five times the speed to balance out the increased distance.


and rosbergs time in that sector the previous lap was actually slower then hamiltons

Tom in adelaide

So….. RedBull will win this one and the car will be declared illegal in a couple of weeks?


James, along with the lap time deltas could you include the tire usage stats and who starts on what compound for the top ten in your qualifying reports? You should ask the FOM broadcasters to include this on the telecasts too. This is especially important information this season.


I’ve been wondering lately if the Williams is perhaps the best car on the grid most weekends but the drivers are letting it down. Maldonado never seems to hit his apexes but still shows good pace.


I think that the best strategy for Vettel tomorrow is to nurse his tyres from lap 1 in a try to make as less stops as possible.

This is because I believe he should not have a real pace advantage to the cars behind him. Also there is no slower car between them. So by doing 1 more stop he would loose position to them.

If he only pushes where it is necessary for lewis not to pass and goes slower at other places where lewis cannot pass anyways then he could probably nurse his tyres to make the same amount of stops as the cars behind him. He could still loose a place to lewis at the pit stops, but otherwise he would loose at least place to both lotuses so loosing one place would be better.

If vettel fails to make as many pit stops as the lotuses then the question is how many stops can hamilton do. Assuming that he stays close to vettel which I believe he will then I believe vettel and hamilton will do the same amount of pit stops.

At least 1 lotus should pass Maldonado, so I see either Hamilton or Grosjean claiming the top spot. Raikonnen would have a chance if he passes Grosjean at the start.

I have no idea if the degradation will be high tomorrow or not so I think everything depends on those tyres again.


Just like last year then . (?)


Well i hope he proves me wrong but i think it’s game over for Bruno Senna. If i was Rubens Barrichello or anyone else for that matter i would be even more annoyed they never got the drive.


Andrew Barker


Yep have to agree,williams have lost plenty of points this year.Although not having practice 1 does hurt.


Yes i fully agree missing practice 1 must hurt but even when he has run in practice 1 it hasn’t made much difference.

Thank you for your reply

Andrew Barker


Sounded to me like the RBR was blowing hard on the overrun


How come the Force Indias are suddenly faster than the Ferraris? All down to track temperature?

Looks like Vettel will be the first double winner.


Force India tends to have highly efficient aerodynamics rather than high downforce. Short slow corners with lots of straights suit this quite well.


The top 13 were within 0.3 seconds. That’s incredibly close.

All of the cars are really close these days, and it just takes little things here and there to make or break your session. Track temp would usually give or take a tenth or two from you, but before this year, that may have only cost you one position… now it costs you five or ten!


It’s the tyres! Tyres are the problem. Everyone’s chasing the tyres.



Could it be that the Red Bull upgrades will make the car a little easier on its tyres, since most of the commentary suggests that they have significantly improved rear end downforce ?

Hamilton does not seem to rate his own chances for the race – I think he may be looking for damage limitation point scoring. Maldonado used all but one of his sets of tyres, so he has to be slightly handicapped for the race.

As for Lotus, do you think it is still possible they might one stop ?

No driver has suggested that this is a sensible strategy (and I’ve seen it suggested that it would be over 20 seconds slower than a two stop), so either they will surprise everyone tomorrow, or your Race Strategy Calculator will have failed miserably for the first time this season.


Hi Nigel,

If you increase the rear downforce you will improve traction, and this increases the driver’s error margin to avoid wheelspin, but it can still happen and heat up the tyre, causing degradation, and wear it.

Increasing rear downforce will also increase the load on the rear tyres, increasing the heat. The McLaren has generally had the worst degradation as it has the most downforce. Increasing downforce will not reduce sliding. The driver will just go faster and slide at a greater speed generating even more heat. If increasing the rear downforce removes an oversteer condition that would help enormously. Any significant level of oversteer in a car will either see extremely slow lap times in the race, or driving like Alonso in the Renault when he was forcing it to understeer to counter the oversteer. I doubt this year’s tyres would cope.

Of these two effects, the increased load will dominate the improved traction effect. However, if you gain enough performance, you can then bias the tyre management – camber, castor and toe-in settings for example – towards the race rather than qualifying.

I hope that helps.




James it was evident from the TV footage today that Red Bull have gone back to blowing the diffuser. Do you know if the other teams are planning to do the same?


Why would Sebastian Vettel want to leave Red Bull for a slower red car? Put Maldonado over there and watch the fireworks fly.


Whats happenig at mclaren is injustice, now Button is being spoon fed all of Hamilton’s data and setups. Button clearly fluked it to 2009 WDC he does not deserve to be at mclaren, as he is now being taught how to drive a F1 car!


Never has a WDC ‘fluked’ it.

Teams share data between drivers. It is in the team’s interested to do so. Some drivers use similar setups and learn from each other, this is nothing new. Jenson may adopt different set ups from Hamilton normally, so he is looking for answers.


Fluke? you got to be kidding? Where was rubens?


Are you for real?!! Spoon fed Hamilitons data!!! Hamiliton has used buttons data in the past as has button used his because there a team i am actually confused as to why it didn’t happen sooner! I know that Button likes his car setup acutely tuned and Hamiliton likes to drive the wheels off anything maybe that was it I don’t think driving styles matter when your so far off the pace! I know your looking for an argument with your fan boy comments so I probably shouldnt rise to it but come on Button has more than proved himself your slagging off the guy he beat Hamiliton in 2011, oh but don’t tell me just like 2009 that was a fluke!! Hamiliton was meant to be doing what hes doing to button now from the start and that didn’t happen in fact until the last five races qualifying aside button seemed to be doing the unthinkable and beating Hamiliton consistently. Luck is temporary class is permanent I have no doubt Hamiliton is the fastest driver over one lap in F1 and is going to be an all time great. Yet if you give Button a setup he likes he can and has beaten all comers so this fluke statement is nonsense. I obvioulsy am a Button fan but I cheer Hamiliton as well I really don’t understand why people cannot support both?!


Those are extremely harsh words, Tshep! I recomend you relax and enjoy.



Best Q2 ever in terms of closeness of the field and times. Suddenly we are not talking in 10th’s but 100th’s or even thousandths’s from P1-P11!


What? It was 2 tenths covering P1-P11.

I would be massively impressed if less than a hundredth of a seconds covered 11 places!


Good Quali. Exactly as I predicted fighting off Hamilton. I think Grosjean had another 3/10 or more were it not for that slide. I was also right with Rosberg ahead of Schumi. You would have to say that Red Bull has found ‘something’- it was well and truly planted ! Hats off to Sebastian ,I have watched hundreds of Qualis and have to say that was one of the best I have ever seen- about as perfect as you hope for!

I’m hoping Kimi will mow him down late in the race as you never know with these tyres but that’s wishful cause that Red Bull looks back on it again ! Darn it


I agree with your last two sentences, Elie.



not sure about lotus being contenders, they always seem to lack performance on race day. After every race all experts (including you 🙂 james) say lotus look strong, but where is the performance when needed, their last podium was coz of ferrari n red bull’s strategy error not lotus’s performance. only race they had real chance of victory is bahrain. They seem to look strong only during practice long runs 😛


Well they looked pretty competitive in Bahrain and Montreal, let’s see


James, would love to know your views on williams,do you belive mal is getting the best out of the car or if they have made a mistake by not singing a driver with known talents.


stuart briggs –

Well Maldonado has won a race this season, and has now put it on 3rd on the grid – ahead of the much-fancies Lotuses – pretty impressive eh?

I don’t deny he has made errors, like in Melbourne and Monaco – but I’d give him his dues, Williams have clearly identified someone with race-winning potential.

The ‘pay driver’ tag is a nasty smear – people omit to mention Sergio Perez’ connections with Carlos Slim.

Not sure if Maldonado can claim a podium tomorrow but I think he could be on for a top 5 if the long run pace is still there.


Like Rubens!



Is it just me or do redbull appear to be blowing their diffuser more than others? There is a definate sound difference to their engine when off throttle.


Apart from Pedro de la Rosa, Hamilton and Alonso are the only drivers to out-qualify their team-mates in all sessions this season. Pretty alarming for Button to be in the same boat with Massa and Narian isn’t it?


i saw buton at ascot i was thinking why aint he at work trying to sort him car out,or he would swap cars with lewis when he aint interesting to see all the drivers swapping cars with their team mates for one race.


The drivers would probably report a slightly different feel as it is impossible to make cars identical, but otherwise I think we’d all be bored with the process. Make the drivers use their team mate’s set up and in some cases you’d get odd results. The wings and aero change all the time anyway in the big teams.

Jenson might have been at Ascot so sponsors could pay for his simulator time (in a round about way).


couple of queries please

am I right to assume that pole is always from the clean side of the track [if that isn’t a silly question] ??

Also anyone come across rumors going about that the RB exhaust system is not quite legal?


I posted below a reply intended here

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