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Qualifying analysis - McLaren resurgence gathers pace 15 Oct 2011

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 150 Italia.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 150 Italia leads Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Bruno Senna (BRA) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM04. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW33.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Timo Glock (GER) Virgin Racing MVR-02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Practice Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Friday, 14 October 2011 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) HRT Formula One Team HRT F111. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011 Pirelli tyres. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 15 October 2011

Fresh from victory in Japan last weekend, McLaren have led the way throughout the Korean event and on Saturday afternoon the British team proved their new-found pace yet again by preventing Red Bull from securing a 16th consecutive pole position. Lewis Hamilton took top billing in the MP4-26, with recently-crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel nipping at his heels in second in the RB7. We take a team-by-team look at how all the runners performed…

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 35.820s, P1
Jenson Button, 1m 36.126s, P3

McLaren were surprised by Vettel’s speed on the first runs in Q3, even though historically they have always pulled something out of the bag, but when Hamilton was told he needed to pull out a tenth in sector two on his second run he delivered even more and found two and a bit tenths to throw pole position beyond Red Bull’s reach. It was the team’s first pole since Montreal last year. Button was little slower than Vettel, and said he was quite happy starting from the inside of the second row.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 36.042s, P2
Mark Webber, 1m 36.468s, P4

Vettel admitted that McLaren’s ultimate speed had come as a surprise this weekend, but said his own speed also surprised him in the circumstances. With all the fuel out, the world champion very nearly beat Hamilton on their first Q3 runs, but didn’t quite have enough on their second. Webber was quick too, pushing Button hard in fourth place. Two hours after qualifying, the stewards revealed that Vettel would be investigated for cutting parts of the track between Turns Four and Six on his laps in Q3. They decided that no action needed to be taken.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 36.831s, P5
Fernando Alonso, 1m 36.980s, P6

Ferrari had a glum day, with long-serving team worker Pasquale Danza dying back in Italy and Massa’s wife Raffaela’s grandmother dying in Brazil. The Brazilian again outqualified his team mate after a clean run in Q3, whereas Alonso admitted to a mistake and a lack of speed in the first sector, and was non-committal about a new front wing which did not work as well as the old one.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 37.754s, P7
Michael Schumacher, 1m 38.354s, P12

Rosberg made one run in Q3 that was good enough for seventh, then called it a day to conserve tyres. Schumacher just missed out on a Q3 run after his car developed a vibration right at the start of Q2. This was later traced to nothing more serious than an out of balance tyre.

Renault
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 38.124s, P8
Bruno Senna, 1m 38.791s, P15

Petrov said he was happy with his day’s work, which earned him eighth place on the grid. Senna, on his birthday, said he was disappointed with his first poor qualifying performance of the year, and that he had struggled in sector two most of all.

Force India
Paul di Resta, No time, P9
Adrian Sutil, No time, P10

Force India enhanced their chances of staying ahead of Sauber with a strong performance all through practice and qualifying which translated into two Q3 positions. Di Resta cannily did one lap in the final session, which moved him on to the clean side of the grid ahead of team mate Sutil, and the Scot said they would run an aggressive race strategy in the effort to keep Schumacher’s Mercedes, among other cars of similar speed, behind them during the race.

Toro Rosso
Jaime Alguersuari 1m 38.315s, P11
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 38.508s, P13

Going into the race in 11th and 13th places is good news for Toro Rosso, as both drivers said they had a better feel for the upgrade introduced in Suzuka. Alguersuari said that his incident with Vettel in FP3 was simple to explain: he let him by while he was doing a long stint and Vettel was on a fast lap, but was disinclined to repeat the courtesy after Vettel had made a mistake and fallen back behind him.

Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 38.775s, P14
Sergio Perez 1m 39.443s, P17

Sauber came back down with a bump after Suzuka. Kobayashi said he just couldn’t find the grip he needed, while Perez reported poor grip and balance.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 39.189s, P16
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 39.538s, P18

No major problems here, but Barrichello was concerned about tyre wear.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 40.522s, P19
Jarno Trulli, 1m 41.101s, P20

Kovalainen was very happy after qualifying and said that, together with Hungary, this was his best qualifying lap of the season. He got a good balance in the morning and made the most of it. Trulli wasn’t quite so happy, and said that his car didn’t have the same balance it had in FP3.

Virgin
Timo Glock, 1m 42.091s, P21
Jerome D'Ambrosio, 1m 43.483s, P22

Glock said he’d had a great day and that his car felt good right from the start in the dry. Fine-tuning just made it better and he was very happy to be so close to the Lotuses notwithstanding a small mistake in Turn Five which cost him some time. D’Ambrosio was less happy and was left mystified by his comparative lack of pace.

HRT
Tonio Liuzzi, 1m 43.758s, P23
Daniel Ricciardo, No time

Liuzzi said his car was much better balanced on Saturday than on Friday, but was slightly perplexed by Glock’s speed in the lead Virgin as it was so much faster than D’Ambrosio, whom he had in his sights. Ricciardo had a water leak in the morning, and the problem persisted in the afternoon which prevented him from doing a timed lap.

Pirelli
The tyre supplier believes the super-soft compound will work effectively for about 10 laps during the race while the soft tyre will work well for up to 20 laps. They expect the time difference over a lap between the two compounds to be in the region of 0.7s to a second and that most drivers will stop three times.

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