Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Korean Grand Prix in what were the early hours of the morning in the States. The German faced stiff opposition from the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean, who filled out the three grid spots behind Vettel.
Nico Rosberg qualified fifth in the second Mercedes, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in the Ferraris. Behind them were Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez from Sauber, both drivers underscoring their cars’ improved pace with the team’s best qualifying result of the season. Kimi Raikkonen qualified in 10th after making a mistake on his one and only timed lap.
In Q3, only Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Rosberg and Grosjean went out for two runs; one early and one in the dying minutes of the session. After their benchmark times were set on their first runs, the track lost most of its speed, and none of those five drivers were able to improve. Grosjean was set for a front-row starting position on his second run, but a rear lock-up in the second sector made sure that didn’t happen.
With the long run pace of the Red Bulls, Mercedes and Lotuses being very similar, the race for the win could be very interesting. Webber will have to start from 13th due to his 10-place grid penalty after receiving his third reprimand of the season in Singapore.
The McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were slightly disappointed with their performances in qualifying, the former citing Raikkonen’s blocking him as the reason he missed the cutoff. Nevertheless, they are confident of improving in the race.
The usual suspects from Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams will line up behind the Mclarens, with the Caterhams and Marussias filling out the back two rows. Recently re-signed Jules Bianchi received a three-place grid penalty for impeding Paul di Resta in Q1, though the justification is thin considering di Resta made the cut to Q2. Additionally, a three-place grid penalty is a bit trivial when you qualify second to last anyway.
The pole-sitter has never won the Korean Grand Prix in the three years since its first race. Trends in Formula One are not often broken, but then again, Vettel likes to make his own trends these days.