Sebastian Vettel’s extraordinary dominance of Formula One continued on Saturday when he claimed pole position for the
Korean Grand Prix.
The German has taken the pole for three straight races – and won them all.
He is aiming for a third consecutive win at the Yeongam circuit, and most importantly, a fourth consecutive F1 championship.
Vettel set his pole time early in the final qualifying session, and was able to abort his final flying lap when the nearest challenger, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, came up two-tenths of a second short in his bid to beat Vettel’s time.
“I had a very, very good lap in Q3 at my first attempt, and I knew that would be tricky to beat myself,” Vettel said.
“Fortunately the first lap was good enough,” he added. “Mercedes was pretty strong.”
Hamilton had been the fastest in Friday’s practice, but Mercedes could not improve the car as much overnight as Red Bull did.
Still, Hamilton said he was satisfied with second.
“I felt I got the most out of the car,” the British driver said.
“In general it’s been a good weekend and I really hope tomorrow we can fight with them [Red Bull].”
The positive news for Hamilton, and everyone else who qualified in an even-numbered grid slot, is that the even numbers have the inside line to the first corner, while the odd-numbered places are outside but on the rubbered racing line.
Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber qualified in third but carries a ten-grid-place penalty into Sunday’s race for hitching a ride back to the pits on Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari at the Singapore Grand Prix. He will be demoted to 13th.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean qualified fourth but will be promoted to third, ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Alonso, who is Vettel’s nearest challenger in the title chase but a distant 60 points back after finishing runner-up to the German for three straight races.
Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa qualified seventh, ahead of the Sauber pair Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen in a disappointing 10th, 1.6 seconds off Vettel’s time.
But Hulkenberg equalled his career-best performance with a fourth-place finish on Sunday, in a result that could make millions of dollars difference to the financially strapped team.
Hulkenberg put in a superb defensive drive over the closing stages of the race – holding off Hamilton, Alonso and Jenson Button – to take fourth place that matched his effort at Belgium last year.
The 12 points moved Sauber up to 31 in the constructors’ championship, level with Toro Rosso for seventh place.
While the precise amounts of prize money for team placings in F1 is confidential and only determined at season’s end, the difference between seventh and eighth is expected to be around $3m.