Mark Webber ensured that Red Bull’s streak of taking every pole position this season continued at the Turkish Grand Prix as he beat off a challenge from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
Their team-mates Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button took the third and fourth spots but were prevented from challenging for better by a combination of mechanical gremlins and a late spin by Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher.
The biggest surprise of a qualifying day that saw most teams perform to their expected standard was the weakness of the Ferrari cars in their 800th grand prix. Fernando Alonso failed to make the pole shoot-out, an error late in Q2 leaving him 12th, while Istanbul Park expert Felipe Massa could only manage eighth.
Instead, the closest challengers to McLaren and Red Bull were the Mercedes, Schumacher outqualifying tem-mate Nico Rosberg on row three, with Renault’s Robert Kubica also ahead of Massa on row four.
The last two slots in the top 10 were taken by Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who was in the pole shoot-out for the first time, and Sauber’s Kamui Kobyashi. Adrian Sutil was the driver who came closest to the top 10 of those who missed out.
Webber now leads his team-mate 4-3 in qualifying, Red Bull having taken the top spot at every race. He said: “It is a great record, it shows tremendous pace in the car and we have been to a lot of different venues now. That is a big feather in our cap. It is a real credential to the whole team that we can come to each track and be strong.”
Vettel lost his chance to beat the Australian thanks to a mystery brake problem that developed during the third qualifying session. He said: “The first lap was brilliant up until Turn 12 and under braking I slightly locked the front, but that was no issue. Then it was weird because the front kept locking and never came back. Otherwise it should easily have been a lot quicker. It is obviously very strange.”
Hamilton was pleased to have split the Red Bulls and thought they would have less of a speed advantage during actual race conditions. Despite starting on the slower side of the grid, he is aiming to attack at the start rather than defend.
He said: “We are in the best spot I have ever been to start the race – if I can get close enough to Mark then without a doubt I will be taking the opportunity. We have to look after the tyres, and then see what happens.
“It feels great [to be second,] these guys have been untouchable all year in terms of pure pace so it is a real boost for me and my team. Knowing we have a good baseline pace, and our race pace is even better, it puts us in a strong position tomorrow. We will continue to push and have some new bits coming for the future.
“These guys are easily flat out through turn eight in qualifying – they pull out four tenths from us in that corner, but with full fuel we will be a little bit closer. It is a point where you can degrade tyres quickly if you don’t treat them well, but I hope we have good balance.”
The first qualifying session saw Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi join the new teams in failing to advance, despite having his team’s version of the performance-enhancing F-duct system. Lotus was fastest of the three newcomers to the grid, while Vettel was fastest overall ahead of Webber and Button.
The big news of the second session was Alonso’s failure to advance, a wobble on the lap that should have taken him to safety instead leaving him having to scramble a last-gasp final lap that failed to improve his position. Force India’s Adrian Sutil also fell short as Kobayashi advanced for the third time this season.
Again the Red Bulls were fastest, this time challenged by Hamilton, while both Toro Rossos, both Williams and Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa failed to make the cut.
In the pole shoot-out Webber set the early pace and, when Hamilton looked like challenging at the end, he extended his lead with another fast lap. Vettel’s brake problem left him in third while Button missed the chance to put in a late flyer because of Schumacher’s spin ahead of him.
Button said: “The last run was a bit frustrating. Being the last car on the circuit is sometimes a good thing because you get the cleanest track, but there’s obviously more chance of someone going off. Michael went off in front of me on my last lap and when there’s a yellow you’ve got to back out of it obviously.
“Wasn’t perfect, but it’s not bad to be P4. On the dirty side of the grid, but we’ll see what we can do from there. I think we are a lot closer to Red Bull than I expected this weekend, so it’s positive.”
Qualifying times for the Turkish Grand Prix
Times shown are the fastest for each driver in the latest session in which he competed.
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:26.295 (Q3)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:26.433 (Q3)
- Sebastian Vettel: Red Bull: 1:26.760 (Q3)
- Jenson Button, McLaren: 1:26.781 (Q3)
- Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP: 1:26.857 (Q3)
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP: 1:26.952 (Q3)
- Robert Kubica, Renault: 1:27.039 (Q3)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:27.082 (Q3)
- Vitaly Petrov, Renault: 1:27.430 (Q3)
- Kamui Kobayashi, BMW Sauber: 1:28.122 (Q3)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:27.525 (Q2)
- Fernando Alonso, Ferrari: 1:27.612 (Q2)
- Pedro de la Rosa, BMW Sauber: 1:27.879 (Q2)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:28.273 (Q2)
- Rubens Barrichello, Williams: 1:28.392 (Q2)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:28.540 (Q2)
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1:28.841 (Q2)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:28.958 (Q1)
- Jarno Trulli, Lotus: 1:30.237 (Q1)
- Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus: 1:30.519 (Q1)
- Timo Glock, Virgin: 1:30.744 (Q1)
- Bruno Senna, Hispania: 1:31.266 (Q1)
- Lucas di Grassi, Virgin: 1:31.989 (Q1)
- Karun Chandhok, Hispania: 1:32.060 (Q1)