Korea Quali Recap: Vettel takes pole, Hamilton comes close

Sebastian Vettel (1:37.202) won pole for the 2013 Korean Grand Prix, despite a late charge from Lewis Hamilton. The Briton would only be able to qualify second fastest in the end, beating out Mark Webber after the Australian dipped back into the garage. Though he aborted his fast lap, Webber qualified third, but will drop down the order on a ten place grid penalty after a reprimand two weeks ago in Singapore. Romain Grosjean, Nico Rosberg, and Fernando Alonso completed the top five starters. Though all ten drivers went out in the final minutes during and after the flag for Q3, no one could touch Vettel.

Most drivers used up a set of the supersoft tyres in Q1, leaving Raikkonen fastest in that session. Neither Williams driver fared well, both dropping out in the first of the three qualifying sessions. McLaren did little better with both drivers out in Q2, and Sergio Perez continuing Jenson Button’s inability to out qualify a teammate at Mokpo. The Briton claimed impeding by a Lotus during the busy latter stages of Q2, after allowing Kimi Raikkonen ahead on his out lap.

Though drivers were quick to post installation laps, the first third of the first practice session at the rarely used Korean circuit seemed to pass slowly. Hamilton (1:39.630) would end the practice fastest, leading Vettel by a couple of hundredths. Webber, Rosberg, and Button completed the top five at the end of the ninety minute practice. Once regular season drivers began lapping (James Calado sat in for Paul di Resta at Force India and Rodolfo Gonzalez for Jules Binachi), Rosberg seemed set to lead. He traded fast laps with Alonso, then Vettel and Raikkonen joined in the fray.

Hamilton beat Rosberg and remained there with thirty minutes remaining in the session, as Vettel nearly pipped the Briton in the final minute of practice. Raikkonen spun and crashed heavily moments later, joining Calado as the only man with a damaged car though many spun fairly harmlessly throughout.

Hamilton (1:38.673) continued to lead at the end of the second Friday practice, remaining faster than Vettel by a slightly larger but still small tenth of a second. Rosberg, Webber, and Massa completed the fastest five. While Pic and Gutierrez spun, and Alonso slid along the grass, no one damaged their cars as in the morning practice. Lotus completed repairs quickly enough that Raikkonen lost no time for FP2.

As has become typical, no matter who leads on Friday, Vettel (1:37.881) went fastest in the final practice on Saturday. Webber was just under two tenths slower, locking out the top two for Red Bull. Rosberg, Hamilton, and Alonso rounded out the fastest five in the rush on soft tyres. Hamilton complained of traffic behind him on the radio, though there was little the team could do with the track so busy for the final hour of practice before qualifying.

The sky varied between cloudy and the occasional shaft of sunshine at the start of the twenty minutes of Q1. Gutierrez left the garage on the medium tyre within the first thirty seconds of the session, quite early for a Q1 run. Gutierrez had the track to himself for a couple of minutes, setting the first lap of the afternoon. Six other drivers joined him by the time he completed his out lap. Soon, half the field lapped the circuit. Gutierrez set the early benchmark at 1:41.058, just over three seconds off Vettel’s time earlier in the day.

When five minutes had elapsed, Red Bull, Ferrari, Grosjean, Marussia, and Caterham remained in the garage. Alonso and Massa joined with fourteen minutes to go. Button and Perez soon led the timesheets, only to lose position to Rosberg, who stopped seven tenths off Button’s early time. Hamilton also joined his current teammate at the top, four tenths faster than his teammate from last year.

Times continued to flow as drivers set them as halfway approached. Alonso looked set to be quick, posting a fastest first sector of the session. That time stood for moments before Perez demolished it by two tenths. Alonso’s first lap put him second fastest. At halfway, Rosberg (1:39.415) led Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Button, Bottas, Perez, Ricciardo, Sutil, and Hulkenberg as the top ten. Drivers who had yet to set a time then populated the knockout zone, including Vettel, Webber, and Grosjean who had yet to leave their garages.

Vettel entered the track soon after halfway. Hamilton beat Rosberg’s time, as the German sat in the garage. With eight minutes to go, drivers began returning for fresh tyres and some adjustments. Vettel and Webber were on out laps, the former just beginning his first fast lap. Grosjean remained in the garage.

With six to go, Hamilton (1:38.574) led Gutierrez, Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Massa, Hulkenberg, di Resta, and Perez as the top ten. Grosjean had left the garage, and with the presumption that he and Webber would leap out of the relegation zone, Bottas, Vergne, Chilton, van der Garde, Pic, and Bianchi were in the knockout zone with five minutes remaining. Webber beat Vettel to third fastest on his first fast lap, while Grosjean went fifth on his. By that point, Gutierrez, Raikkonen, Button, and Rosberg had all switched to the supersoft tyres.

Vettel moved up the order to second fastest, but the focus remained on Bottas, Vergne, Chilton, van der Garde, Pic, and Bianchi in the knockout zone with six to go. However, Raikkonen leapt to fastest on his softer tyres, leaving Hamilton in the garage and dropping down the order. With seconds remaining before the flag, Alonso and Massa had gone down, sitting fifteenth, then sixteenth, and seventeenth, then nineteenth. Both Ferrari drivers moved up to fourth and tenth.

At the flag, Bottas, Maldonado, Pic, van der Garde, Chilton, and Bianchi were about to drop out. Di Resta did not look safe, pitting with an issue, but for Maldonado pitting his own final lap. di Resta got caught behind Bianchi on his hot lap, with the former and Force India quite upset by what they considered impeding.

In the end, only Hamilton, Vettel, Button, Perez, Webber and Grosjean did not set times on the supersoft tyres. Raikkonen (1:38.341) led Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Vettel , Gutierrez, Button, and Massa as the top ten.

Knocked Out in Q1:
17. Valtteri Bottas
18. Pastor Maldonado
19. Charles Pic
20. Giedo van der Garde
21.Jules Bianchi
22. Max Chilton

No one was as eager as Gutierrez in Q1 to get the fifteen minutes of Q2 going, with all the drivers still in the garage with two minutes gone in the session. Ricciardo left the garage first, with thirteen minutes to go. Raikkonen and Vergne followed nearly immediately. Most of the rest of the field joined them, barring the Red Bull drivers and Grosjean with ten minutes remaining. Most drivers went out on used options, but for Hamilton who began his session on a fresh set of tyres. Though Alonso went fastest (1:38.504), he had a sloppy lap with the Ferrari stepping out on him.

Just after halfway, Hamilton (1:37.824) took the lead over Rosberg, Alonso, Gutierrez, Massa, Hulkenberg, di Resta, Perez, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, and Sutil. They were the eleven drivers then to have set a time. Button soon popped up to sixth fastest while the drivers who had been sitting in the garage left, and those on the track beginning to trickle back into the garage.

Vergne, Vettel, Webber, and Grosjean had not set times with five minutes remaining. They, Ricciardo, and Sutil were then in the relegation zone. They sky had well cleared to allow the sun through and glisten on the few cars on the track. Webber went second fastest with three minutes to go, only to have his teammate drop him a place by going fastest overall (1:37.569). Grosjean went fifth on his hot lap, leaving di Resta, Perez, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Sutil, and Vernge in the knockout zone. Both Ferraris left the garage on fresh supersofts for a final run as the track continued to evolve.

Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Rosberg, and Grosjean all pitted, all in the top five, in the final seconds before the flag. Raikkonen went sixth fastest on his penultimate lap. Hulkenberg in the knockout zone looked set to post the fastest first sector. Alonso moved up to fourth despite his recalcitrant Ferrari, only to have Hulkenberg best him by a few hundredths. Button looked most dismal, sitting well down the order and only able to go twelfth fastest. Massa moved up to ninth, leaving Raikkonen safe.

Vettel (1:37.569) led Hamilton (1:37.824), Webber, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Massa, and Gutierrez off to fight for pole in Q3.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Sergio Perez
12. Jenson Button
13. Daniel Ricciardo
14. Adrian Sutil
15. Paul di Resta
16.Jean-Eric Vergne

Webber and Rosberg immediately left their garages for the ten minutes of Q3, with Rosberg and Hamilton following. Vettel started the final qualifying session uncharacteristically early. Webber allowed Rosberg ahead on their out laps, besting the latter’s first sector time by a tenth. Webber (1:37.840) set the fastest lap in the early stages, with neither Hamilton nor Rosberg able to best it. Vettel, though, went more than two tenths faster than his teammate for provisional pole. After the first laps, Vettel led Webber, Hamilton, Grosjean, and Rosberg. The other five drivers participating in Q3 had not left their garages with less than five minutes remaining.

As per usual, no one began his final run until less than three minutes were left. Gutierrez was first out in the second half of Q3, with Raikkonen and Vettel the only men lingering in the garage. Vettel left nearly precisely on the two minute mark. Webber set the early S1 benchmark, though Alonso bested it further back on the circuit. Hulkenberg went quicker yet, though Vettel could not beat Hulkenber’s sector one time. No one seemed horribly quick through the second sector, as Rosberg could not improve beyond fifth. Webber aborted his lap with a slowish middle sector. Alonso went sixth, but Hamilton was able to break in to the front row.

He could not top Vettel (1:37.202), who cruised to yet another pole on the 2013 season. Raikkonen, much like Webber, suffered a slow middle sector and qualified only tenth fastest. Though Webber qualified third fastest, he will drop down the order ten positions after his third reprimand of the season after the race at Singapore. That moved Grosjean to third, with Rosberg next to him. Alonso and Massa, Hulkenberg, Gutierrez, and Raikkonen completed the fastest ten, though Perez would join them in starting on the fifth row.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2013 Korean Grand Prix:

1. Sebastian VettelRed Bull1:37.20213
2. Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:37.42016
3. Mark WebberRed Bull1:37.46413
4. Romain GrosjeanLotus1:37.53114
5. Nico RosbergMercedes1:37.67916
6. Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:38.03817
7. Felipe MassaFerrari1:38.22316
8. Nico HulkenbergSauber1:38.23717
9. Esteban GutierrezSauber1:38.40515
10. Kimi RaikkonenLotus1:38.82217
11. Sergio PerezMcLaren1:38.36214
12. Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:38.36514
13. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1:38.41714
14. Adrian SutilFore India1:38.43115
15. Paul di RestaFore India1:38.71815
16. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:38.78113
17. Valtteri BottasWilliams1:39.4708
18. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1:39.9878
19. Charles PicCaterham1:40.8646
20. Giedo van der GardeCaterham1:40.8716
21. Jules BianchiMarussia1:41.1696
22. Max ChiltonMarussia1:41.3226

*will suffer 10 place grid penalty after 3rd reprimand of the season at Singapore

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