Sebastian Vettel has snagged his second pole position in as many races this season. He and team mate Mark Webber have secured an all Red Bull front row, a first for the team. The Red Bulls were clearly the class of the field on Saturday, with only Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari being able to come within striking distance of Vettel and Webber.
McLaren pilot Jenson Button slotted into fourth position, more than half a second behind the top three drivers. Button professed to be satisfied with his performance under the circumstances. Many drivers failed to come to grips with the softer option tires in the third qualifying session as the track began to cool in the late afternoon under dark skies and windy conditions.
Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, for one, had difficulty bringing his tires up to temperature. He qualified fifth, behind Button. Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher had similar difficulties, and opted to run the harder primary tires on their final hot laps of Q3. They took sixth and seventh places on the grid, respectively, separated by only 0.043 seconds. It was the second time in as many races that Rosberg has out-qualified his more illustrious team mate.
The top ten positions from Q3 were rounded out by Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Robert Kubica (Renault) and Adrian Sutil (Force India).
The major surprise of the day came from Lewis Hamilton, who failed to make Q3. In the late stages of Q2, as the track cooled, his tires went off and he used up his allotment of fuel. He later said he was simply unable to extract any more pace from his McLaren under prevailing conditions.
“Today was a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to be out in Q2,” Hamilton said, as reported on ESPNF1. “I felt I got as much as I could out of the car, but I just couldn’t get the grip from the tyres. On my first run in Q2, I was held up by traffic, so I wasn’t able to do a quick lap. I pitted early, got a clear lap, but still struggled to find time in the final sector, even with new tyres. I don’t know what the reason for that was. So I didn’t have a great day.”
Poor grip and slow traffic seemed to be a common complaint. In fact, Michael Schumacher later claimed that both Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton had impeded his hot laps, and went so far as to raise the issue with FIA technical representative Charlie Whiting, to get a clarification on protocol for qualifying.
|14||de la Rosa||Sauber-Ferrari||1:25.747||Q2|