Sebastian Vettel flies to European Grand Prix pole position

Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado to pole position in a spectacular qualifying battle ahead of the European Grand Prix in Valencia

Sebastian Vettel flies to European Grand Prix pole position

Williams driver Maldonado looked set to start first for the second time this season - having inherited Barcelona pole after Hamilton was penalised - as he surged to the top with a 1m38.475s lap in the closing moments of qualifying.

But Vettel was putting in a spectacular lap in the revised Red Bull, coming through to depose Maldonado by nearly four tenths of a second with a 1m38.086s.

Hamilton's McLaren then slipped ahead of Maldonado by 0.065s with the Briton's final lap.

Lotus could not quite produce the pole challenge that many had predicted, but still qualified better than has often been the case this year, with Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen lining up fourth and fifth.

The astonishingly close initial stages of the session claimed several early victims - including both Ferraris, Michael Schumacher's Mercedes and Mark Webber's Red Bull, none of which made it into the top 10.

That was in part because a host of underdogs proceeded to Q3, with both Force Indias and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi reaching the top 10.

The Force Indias both made appearances inside the top four during Q3 before being edged back to eighth (Nico Hulkenberg) and 10th (Paul di Resta), split by Jenson Button's McLaren.

Kobayashi took seventh, just behind Nico Rosberg's Mercedes.

Less than three tenths of a second covered the top 13 cars in Q2, and several top teams were squeezed out.

Most significantly for the title battle and most disappointing for the Spanish crowd was that Alonso missed out on Q3 by 0.004s, as lapping just 0.218s off pacesetter Grosjean left him 11th. Schumacher squeezed in between the two Ferraris in 12th, with all three less than 0.08s from the Q3 cut-off.

The other early shock was that Webber only managed 19th, hampered by hydraulic issues and a lack of DRS on his Red Bull.

The session gave Heikki Kovalainen and Caterham another chance to star, and the Finn outpaced both Toro Rossos to take 16th on the grid, behind Bruno Senna (Williams) and Sergio Perez (Sauber), both of whom were some way off their team-mates' pace in Q2.

It was a tough session for Marussia. While Timo Glock was sidelined by illness, his team-mate Charles Pic was unable to beat either HRT.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap  1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m38.086s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.410s + 0.324
3. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m38.475s + 0.389
4. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m38.505s + 0.419
5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m38.513s + 0.427
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.623s + 0.537
7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.741s + 0.655
8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m38.752s + 0.666
9. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.801s + 0.715
10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m38.992s + 0.906 Q2 cut-off time: 1m38.703s Gap ** 11. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.707s + 0.218 12. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.770s + 0.281 13. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m38.780s + 0.291 14. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m39.207s + 0.718 15. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.358s + 0.869 16. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m40.295s + 1.806 17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.358s + 1.869 Q1 cut-off time: 1m40.087s Gap * 18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.203s + 1.378 19. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m40.395s + 1.570 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m40.457s + 1.632 21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m42.171s + 3.346 22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m42.527s + 3.702 23. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m42.675s + 3.850 107% time: 1m45.742s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2
shares
comments
Five themes to watch for in Valencia

Previous article

Five themes to watch for in Valencia

Next article

Mark Webber labels his qualifying issues in Valencia as a "big hit"

Mark Webber labels his qualifying issues in Valencia as a "big hit"
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Sebastian Vettel
Author Matt Beer
The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Plus

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says NIGEL ROEBUCK

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace Plus

Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace

Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Formula 1
Apr 9, 2021
Are we at peak F1 right now? Plus

Are we at peak F1 right now?

For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak

Formula 1
Apr 8, 2021
How crucial marginal calls will decide the Red Bull vs Mercedes battle in F1 2021 Plus

How crucial marginal calls will decide the Red Bull vs Mercedes battle in F1 2021

The longer Red Bull can maintain a performance edge over Mercedes, the better the odds will be in the team’s favour against the defending world champions. But as the Bahrain Grand Prix showed, many more factors will be critical in the outcome of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship

Formula 1
Apr 7, 2021
How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend Plus

How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend

Williams held out against the tide for many years but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, the age of the owner-manager is long gone

Formula 1
Apr 6, 2021
When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m Plus

When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m

Nikita Mazepin’s Formula 1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix lasted mere corners before he wiped himself out in a shunt, but his financial backing affords him a full season. Back in 1993 though, Marco Apicella was an F1 driver for just 800m before a first corner fracas ended his career. Here’s the story of his very short time at motorsport’s pinnacle

Formula 1
Apr 4, 2021
The nightmare timing that now hinders Mercedes Plus

The nightmare timing that now hinders Mercedes

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton took victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix despite, for a change, not having the quickest car. But any hopes of developing its W12 to surpass Red Bull's RB16B in terms of outright speed could not have come at a worse time.

Formula 1
Apr 2, 2021
How Raikkonen's rapid rise stalled his team-mate's F1 career climb Plus

How Raikkonen's rapid rise stalled his team-mate's F1 career climb

Kimi Raikkonen’s emergence as a Formula 1 star in his rookie campaign remains one of the legendary storylines from 2001, but his exploits had an unwanted impact on his Sauber team-mate’s own prospects. Twenty years on from his first F1 podium at the Brazilian GP, here’s how Nick Heidfeld’s career was chilled by the Iceman

Formula 1
Apr 1, 2021