It was dry in the small corner of South Korea where the Yeongam track stands, except for underneath Daniel Ricciardo’s car. He had a leak in FP3, which had not been fixed for qualifying. The Australian starts from the back of the grid. As teams attempted to get their set up right for the race, FP3 was busy. The fastest time was set by Jenson Button – using an old Hamilton chassis after his was discovered to have a defect. Lewis was second-fastest. The McLarens showed their pace yesterday, and proved this morning that it wasn’t in the wet that they were good here. The question was, could they keep it up in qualifying and deny Vettel pole, and Red Bull their seventeenth in succession?
Well, qualifying began as expected. Several cars chose to wait until near the end of the first session, but other teams went out straight away. Unusually, the Red Bulls used the super-soft tyres in Q1. The HRTs were struggling. With Daniel Ricciardo unable to run, Tonio Liuzzi was unable to meet the 107% rule on his first try. He was successful the second time around, and qualifies 23rd. The Williams were the last to go out, and while both were able to beat the usual six easily, it still wasn’t enough for Rubens Barrichello who became the ‘fall guy’. Heikki Kovalainen was happy with his qualifying, however, with the gap less than a second to the Brazilian.
Q2, and it was close between the midfield teams. Sauber struggled for pace, but Force India were again shining and managed to knock the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari and Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes out of the top ten. Schumacher had not gone for a final run, as his car was suffering from mechanical issues. Senna also failed to make it through. So it was both Red Bulls, both McLarens, both Ferraris, Rosberg, Petrov and both Force Indias for Q3.
Surprisingly, we had an action-packed session with lots of people going for two runs. And after the first runs, the fastest was not Vettel. They returned to the pits to try again, knowing that the German would never settle for second. Out again, the McLarens and Red Bulls were flying. Hamilton set a 1:35.820. But Vettel behind had been fastest in the middle sector. Could be do it? There must have been cheers all over Britain when the German failed. 1:36.042 his best time, 0.222 seconds off the McLaren.
It should be a massive confidence-booster for Lewis. But he did not look particularly happy when getting out of the car. He knows that he still has all to prove when he gets on track tomorrow. Red Bull have been working on their race pace, so it will be a challenge for the McLarens. But I hope he does succeed, and shows he can race without crashing with Felipe Massa.
No pole for Red Bull. The last time they missed out was after Nico Hulkenburg’s amazing run on a drying track in Brazil. That day, Sebastian was the victory in the race. But could McLaren deny him tomorrow? Could we have a weekend when Red Bull finish no session on top? The Woking-based team have had a massive resurgence in this latter half of the season. Next year looks like it will provide some much closer racing.
Anyway, the race tomorrow starts at 7am, British time. 6am for BBC TV coverage. See you then!