2013 Korean GP Qualifying: No stopping Red Bull as Sebastian Vettel claims pole
Hamilton to start on front-row, Grosjean a season-best third, more misery from Williams, while both Saubers reach Q3
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 06/10/13 6:52am
There isn't, it seems, any stopping the reigning World Champion as he closes in on a fourth successive title with relentless precision.
Despite Saturday's qualifying session commencing with high hopes that Vettel's recent run of relentless success could be thwarted by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton following the Englishman's table-topping efforts in Friday practice, the German's third successive pole position was secured even before he completed his second and final run at the culmination of Q3.
Although Hamilton was able to improve his lap-time on his second run, it wasn't enough to trump the benchmark lap of 1:37.202 which the Red Bull driver had set at the outset of a top-ten shoot-out that ultimately only fired blanks.
"I had a very, very good lap in Q3 on my first attempt and I knew it would be tricky to beat that time - for myself! On my second attempt I caught Kimi [Raikkonen] on the warm-up lap and didn't have time to drop back further so it was not ideal, but fortunately the first lap was good enough," said Vettel afterwards.
The German is clearly not the sort of chap to be concerned by the statistic that a driver is yet to win from pole position in Korea.
Either Hamilton or Vettel have claimed pole position for every race since May's Monaco GP and the Englishman will once again share the front-row with his perennial Saturday rival after edging out Mark Webber in the timesheets. The Australian, who abandoned his final lap, will in any case start in the midfield pack after his Singapore 'taxi drive' triggered a ten-place grid penalty.
With the Lotus of Romain Grosjean in third and the disappointing Nico Rosberg a distant fourth, a forlorn Fernando Alonso was once again cut well adrift of Hamilton and Vettel's private battle for pole position, ending the session nearly a second down on the Red Bull and unmoved by the consolation of out-qualifying departing Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.
With his title hopes already hanging by a thread, the Spaniard does not expect to challenge on race day.
"I think this weekend we are not particularly strong and in the race pace yesterday we saw some problems so I'm a little bit less optimistic in terms of winning the race or a podium finish tomorrow, but we will try our best," said Alonso. "I think the start, there is a very short space into turn one, so we will do all of our attacks into turns three and four and we will see what we can do, but we know we will struggle tomorrow."
The Ferrari driver is yet to start a race on the front-row this season and hasn't lined up higher than fifth since April's Bahrain GP.
The star of the session, meanwhile, was arguably the Sauber C32 with both Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez reaching Q3 ahead of the two McLarens.
At the other end of the grid, there was yet more misery for the beleaguered Williams team with both Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas joining the Caterhams and Marussias in taking an early bath after Q1 - the fourth such indignity the Grove outfit have endured this season. How the mighty have fallen.
And at the front, how the mighty keep on prevailing. You may not like him, but it's awfully difficult not to admire F1's lead man.
Sky F1's coverage of the Korean GP begins at 5.30am, with lights out at 7am