Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor John Myburgh
The battle for pole was expected to be between Vettel and Hamilton and so it was. The young German took his 42nd career pole, his 5th consecutive one, in a time of 1m37.202. He was followed by Hamilton in a time of 1m37.420 and Webber in 1m37.464.
Webber will receive a 10 place grid penalty courtesy of his taxi ride in Singapore so will start in thirteenth. Another driver out of place is Raikkonen who could only qualify in 10th but as we know from Dr Beck’s race pace analysis, he seem to have the best underlying race pace.
With the threat of a typhoon hitting the Korean qualifying and race subsiding drivers were met with a warm track of 33°C and an air temperature of of 25°C.
Spectators did not have to wait long for the first car to hit the track at the start of qualifying as Esteban Gutierrez made his way onto the track almost immediately setting the first timed lap at 1m41.058. This was bettered by Hulkenberg and Button, the latter fastest with a time of 1m40.169.
With most cars on track the Mercedes lead the way early on in qualifying, Rosberg leading from Hamilton before Alonso spoiled the party and slotted in between the two Mercedes drivers. On his second timed run Hamilton put a better lap together to go fastest in 1m28.574.
With 6min to go Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel started his first timed lap but only managed 3rd, behind Hamilton and a very fast, and impressive Guttierrez. Webber the dully claimed 3rd from his team mate on his first timed lap however both Red Bull drivers had slight lockups on their laps. Vettel improved to 2nd on his next timed run, 0.147s behind Hamilton.
As the flag dropped Raikkonen managed to go fastest followed by Rosberg and Hulkenberg. The casualties from this session was Bottas (Williams), Maldonado (Williams), Pic (Caterham), Van der Garde (Caterham), Bianchi (Marussia) and Chilton (Marrusia). Di Resta just scraped through in 16th after having his flying lap interrupted by Bianchi and as can be expected from the Scott, he was very vocal on the radio.
Interestingly, having Raikkonen finishing the session fastest it was the first time in 19 races where the session was not lead by either Hamilton or Vettel.
Track and air temperature was still at 33°C and 25°C but the track was quiet for the first 3min of the qualifying session. Ricciardo (Torro Rosso) then lead the field onto the track. Most drivers opted to go out on the options and Hamilton was the first to go below 1m38 when he set a time of 1m37.824.
With 4 min left the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg were leading the field comfortably before Webber slotted in between the two. With Webber’s 10 place grid penalty looming the Red Bull driver was trying to minimise his running in qualifying to allow him to save tyres for the race.
Sebastian Vettel then went fastest doing a lap of 1m36.569, pushing Hamilton down. With 1 minute to go the top four (Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Rosberg) sat in the pits , feeling comfortable they will get through to Q3.
With the track improving rapidly and times tumbling Hulkenberg managed to slot into fourth followed by Alonso and Rosberg 6th. Lotus took up 7th and 8th with Grosjean leading Raikkonen but the big story of Q2 was that Gutierrez again managed to get into Q3 while the McLarens of Perez and Button could only manage 11th and 12th.
Button complained that he was held up by the Lotus car of Raikkonen. Ironically he let Raikkonen past before he started his flaying lap and that probably cost him a place in the top 10 shootout.
Joining the two McLaren drivers in the drop was Ricciardo, Sutil, Di Resta and Vergne.
Q3 was shaping up to be a fight between Vettel and Hamilton for pole. Track temperature had gone up to 34°C and air temperature 26°C.
Surprisingly the Red Bulls joined the track almost immediately and Webber managed to go fastest in a time of 1m37.464 but was soon beaten by his team mate in 1m37.202. Hamilton slotted into third followed by Grosjean and then Rosberg. With two and a half minutes left all ten cars were on track. Vettel was the last one to leave the pits in an attempt to get the best track condition.
Rosberg was the first one to cross the time after the flag dropped however did not manage to improve his time. Webber saw he was not going to beat Vettel and dived into the pits. This opened the door for Hamilton to take a slot on the front row of the grid pushing Webber to third.
Grosjean slotted into fourth with the Ferraris of Alonso and Massa taking up 6th and 7th. Hulkenberg lead his Sauber teammate Gutierrez and Raikkonen rounded off the top 10.
Tomorrow’s race will be interesting race. We will have two cars charging from the rear that should really have started in the top 4, Raikkonen and Webber. There is also a possibility of rain tomorrow and strong winds so make sure you watch the race!
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “We’re now seeing an average of about 0.8 seconds per lap difference in terms of lap time between the two compounds, which is considerably less than Singapore. This is set to form the platform for some interesting strategies during the race, but it also means that more of the frontrunners were able to get through Q1 without having to put on the supersoft compound.
Grip levels improved as each session went on, so most drivers tried to set their best times in the closing seconds. We saw different strategies at work throughout qualifying, with a variety of approaches being taken in Q3 as well, although we would expect most drivers to stop twice under normal race circumstances. The big question mark is the weather: rain showers have been predicted for tonight and tomorrow morning.
While the race itself should remain dry, temperatures during the afternoon are expected to be cooler than what we have seen so far, although at least it looks like we’ve avoided the typhoon!”
The Pirelli mystery strategy predictor:
Two stops are theoretically the quickest way to complete the 55-lap Korean Grand Prix. The fastest strategy on paper is start on supersoft, change to supersoft again on lap 20 and then change to the medium on lap 40.
Realistically though, most cars are likely to adopt the following strategy: start on the supersoft, change to the medium on lap 20, then change to the medium again on lap 38.
The best three-stop strategy – for those wanting to try something different – is to start on the supersoft, change for supersoft again on lap 19, supersoft once more on lap 34, and finally medium on lap 47.
With Webber’s penalty coming into effect the final qualifying positions look like this:
Updated: Jules Bianchi gets a 3 place grid penalty for blocking Di Resta so he starts last. Is this a fair penalty as both were on a hot lap?
|1. Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1m37.202|
|2. Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1m37.420|
|3. Romain Grosjean||Lotus||1m37.531|
|4. Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||1m37.679|
|5. Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1m38.038|
|6. Felipe Massa||Ferrari||1m38.223|
|7. Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber||1m38.237|
|8. Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber||1m38.405|
|9. Kimi Raikkonen||Lotus||1m38.822|
|10. Sergio Perez||McLaren||1m38.181|
|11. Jenson Button||McLaren||1m38.362|
|12. Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1m38.417|
|13. Mark Webber||Red Bull||1m37.464|
|14. Adrian Sutil||Force India||1m38.431|
|15. Paul di Resta||Force India||1m38.718|
|16. Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1m38.781|
|17. Valtteri Bottas||Williams||1m39.470|
|18. Pastor Maldonado||Williams||1m39.987|
|19. Charles Pic||Caterham||1m40.864|
|20. Giedo van der Garde||Caterham||1m40.871|
|21. Max Chilton||Marussia||1m41.322|
|22. Jules Bianchi||Marussia||1m41.169|