World Champion elect Sebastian Vettel once again – in ‘Groundhog Day style’ – delivered an outstanding lap when it really mattered, to claim his fourth consecutive pole position and set himself up nicely for four wins in a row and with it took a step closer to his fourth World Drivers’ title.
The Red Bull driver needed only one lap, his first in Q3 to claim the top spot start position with a time of 1:37.202 and with it stamp his authority on day two after playing second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton on the opening day at the circuit in Mokpo.
The result was a big milestone for Renault, as this was 208th Formula 1 pole position by a Renault powered car, which matches the all-time record held by Ferrari.
Vettel said after his 42nd career pole, “I think it was fairly close. We had a very good lap on my first attempt. I knew it would be tricky for me to beat that time. I tried but I caught Kimi on [my] warm up lap on the second run. I was a bit too close, [it was] not ideal. Fortunately, the first lap was good enough.”
“As expected Mercedes was very strong. It’s a tight battle. It’s a bit of a surprise that we’re very good in sector one, which is mostly straights. We have got the balance right this weekend and I improved the car from yesterday as I was not entirely happy after practice so we can be happy with what we’ve achieved,” added the triple World Champion.
It was Hamilton and Mercedes who took the fight to Vettel, but in the end he was 0.202 of a second down on the top time and he will start from second place on the grid, but his body language in parc ferme revealed a driver resigned to the fact that his main rival currently has an edge that is simply out of reach.
“You’ve always got be looking ahead, but we did as good a job as we could. We got the most out of the car. It has been a good qualifying [session] for us and hopefully tomorrow we will be able to fight with [the Red Bulls]. There’s threats all around but I’m just looking forward,” said Hamilton.
Mark Webber could not match his teammate, however, he did set the third fastest time – a fraction off Hamilton’s best – but will drop down ten grid places due to receiving a third reprimand after his ‘taxi ride’ in Singapore. The Australian had a good look at the ‘taxi’which gave him the lift that night when he was in parc ferme after Korean quali.
Webber summed up his thoughts, “I’m pretty happy with qualifying. I could be two positions better off but will start in 13th because of the penalty. It was a tight qualifying session. We wanted to improve the car. The conditions will be different again tomorrow and we will see how it goes.”
Although a Red Bull versus Mercedes cat-fight was predicted, Romain Grosjean gave a good account of himself and threw himself in the mix with the fourth fastest time. Lotus may lack the outright pace of the Red Bull’s and the Mercedes duo. In race trim he may be the thorn in their side and will be chuffed to be starting on the clean side of the track, behind Vettel.
Nico Rosberg has not been able to match his teammate so far this weekend at the Yeongam venue. He was fifth fastest, albeit over a quarter second down on his Silver Arrows teammate.
Row three (thanks to Webber’s demotion) will be an all red affair with Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa sixth and seventh respectively. The Maranello outfit will also be buoyed by their starting positions as they too have a race pace capable of challenging for podium positions, and even victories.
The next row will also be all Ferrari powered with the pair of Saubers of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, eighth and ninth on the timing screens also benefiting from Webber’s penalty. The Swiss team carries the momentum which they enjoyed in Singapore to Korea and have trumped some of their more illustrious rivals. It was their best qualifying session of the season thus far.
Kimi Raikkonen’s weekend in Korea has hardly been memorable, a crash in the dying moment of FP1 put him on the back foot; he was no match for his teammate. Consequently he was down in tenth on the timing screens at the end of Q3.
Both McLaren drivers failed to progress beyond Q2, with Sergio Perez a mere 0.003 of a second up on teammate Jenson Button – they will start from 10th and 11th on the grid amid bitter disappointment for a team that last year was battling for the World Championship around this time.
Button reflected, “We had more time [in the car], but I came up behind Kimi [Raikkonen] on the last lap, and in high-speed corners you do get affected more than low-speed corners. The first couple of laps tomorrow [in the race] will be very important.”
It was also a disappointing day for Williams, a team that last year scored a famous victory, but this year has slipped down the pecking order at an alarming rate. Both Valtteri Bottas (17th) and Pastor Maldonado (18th) failed to make it beyond Q1 and were only just better than the usual bottom feeders Caterham and Marussia. How the mighty have fallen…
The script is familiar and can be penciled already: Vettel gets pole on Saturday, then on Sunday from the moment the red lights turn off his Red Bull powers into the distance leaving everyone eating his dust and two hours later he celebrates on the top step of the podium.
Perhaps the only glimmer of hope for his rivals, certainly one which several teams are clinging to as a game changer on race day, is that rain is expected.
Needless to say, the World Champion is not concerned what mother nature has in store, “It’s not a disaster if it starts to rain, we have rain tyres in the garage. They were talking about heavy winds. When I arrived on Wednesday, it was very windy, but it has died down since then and I think the typhoon has changed direction. If we get some rain from the typhoon, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that we did the job today.” (GP247)
Subbed by AJN.
Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 5 October 2013
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:38.683||1:37.569||1:37.202||13|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.138||1:37.840||1:37.464||13|
|14||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.988||1:38.431||15|
|15||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.185||1:38.718||15|
|20||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:40.871||6|
|Q1 107% Time||1:45.224|
Note – Webber penalised 10 grid places for accumulating three stewards’ reprimands