Vettel charges to Valencia pole position

Sebastian Vettel has taken his 33rd pole position at the European Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver was a full 0.3 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton, ahead of Pastor Maldonado and the two Lotuses. The qualifying session saw probably the tightest field in the history of F1 in Q2, but it did not continue into Q3.

There were several shocks as the session continued, as Mark Webber, Michael Schumacher and the Ferraris didn’t make it through to Q3. Here is what happened:

Q1

Webber was dejected after qualifying 19th

Webber was dejected after qualifying 19th

As the session began, Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez both locked up and ran wide at turn 1. With all drivers starting on the prime tyres, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen set the early pace.

Despite running wide at the final corner, Michael Schumacher pipped Massa at the top of the timesheets. Within a few minutes, Lewis Hamilton had slashed the top time by almost half a second.

The Red Bull drivers waited until the final 5 minutes to set their times. Sebastian Vettel backed out twice before setting a fast lap, while Mark Webber went out on the option tyres, yet still struggled to get on the pace.

Paul di Resta raised eyebrows by going 0.3 seconds faster on the softer compound. That time was quickly beaten by Pastor Maldonado by several hundreths of a second.

Webber attempted several more laps, but was unable to pull himself out of the drop zone. Amazingly, Heikki Kovalainen managed to pull himself into Q2, at the expense of Webber and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

18) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:40.203

19) Mark Webber – 1:40.395

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:40.457

21) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:42.171

22) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:42.527

23) Charles Pic – 1:42.675

24) Timo Glock – N/A

Q2

Both Ferraris found themselves out of Q2

Both Ferraris found themselves out of Q2

Fernando Alonso was first out of the pits, and wrangled with the prime tyres. He briefly went on top, but was soon passed by the Force Indias, Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Rosberg within a minute.

The Ferraris initially struggled, but Fernando Alonso pulled himself into 6th with 3 minutes to go. Felipe Massa got within 0.2 seconds of the pole time, but could only manage 12th.

Paul di Resta went within one hundreth of Rosberg’s time, while Maldonado, Kobayashi and Hulkenberg got back into the top 10.

Romain Grosjean leaped into 1st place in the final few seconds, knocking out Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Fernando Alonso – 1:38.707

12) Michael Schumacher – 1:38.770

13) Felipe Massa – 1:38.780

14) Bruno Senna – 1:39.207

15) Sergio Perez – 1:39.358

16) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:40.295

17) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:40.358

Q3

Kimi Raikkonen was first out the box for Q3. His time of 1:38.966 set the benchmark for the session.

Nico Rosberg looked set to beat the Lotus, and not even a lock-up could stop him taking provisional pole. The two McLarens went into 2nd within seconds of each other.

Pastor Maldonado had a scary swerve at the final corner, and was forced to abandon his first lap. Romain Grosjean was up next, making a mistake in the second sector, but still going fastest with a 1:38.505.

Pastor Maldonado then took the top spot, but only for a minute, as Sebastian Vettel smashed the pole time by nearly half a second.

Hamilton, Button and Raikkonen all improved on their times, but were unable to topple the Red Bull.

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