Fernando Alonso kept Ferrari’s Monza party going by snatching pole for tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix. Despite Sebastian Vettel looking the dominant force in practice the German couldn’t produce the perfect lap in Q3, and Alonso swept to pole with a stellar first run. Here’s how it happened.
With several damp patches still dotted about the track the drivers had to tread carefully as the session began. Michael Schumacher got well out of shape on his first quick lap, just catching the Mercedes in time.
The first real moment of drama came when Felipe Massa stopped on track at turn, the Brazilian’s engine having let him down. He’ll start last for tomorrow’s race, and this eliminated one of Q1’s best bits: the mystery over who joins the new teams’ drivers in the knockout zone.
Of the rookie squads it was Virgin’s Timo Glock who took the honours, beating Heikki Kovalainen. Lucas di Grassi and Jarno Trulli were 20th and 21st respectively.
At Hispania Christian Klien fully vindicated the team’s decision to put him rather than Karun Chandhok in the car with Sakon Yamamoto ‘ill’. We mean no disrespect to Karun – he’s a popular man at Badger HQ – but experience is clearly what this team needs, and Klien’s got bags of it. That showed in Q1, where the Austrian beat teammate Bruno Senna by over a second.
Early in the session Vitaly Petrov dropped his car at turn four, terminally damaging the Renault’s suspension. The pressure is mounting on F1’s first Russian racer, though the time he’d already set was good enough for 13th fastest.
There appeared to be more drama at Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso seeming on the verge of bursting a blood vessel as he talked to his team over the radio. He spent time in the pits and made it back out again to comfortably progress. As expected, both Red Bulls, both McLarens and Robert Kubica joined Fernando in easing through to Q3.
Nico Rosberg also made light work of progression, but teammate Michael Schumacher didn’t set a quick lap until the final minute of the session. He did enough though, finishing Q2 in ninth. Behind him was Kamui Kobayashi, the Japanese driver once again impressing in his Sauber.
Jaime Alguersuari produced one of his best qualifying sessions of the year and will be disappointed to have missed out on Q3, setting the 11th fastest lap. Nico Hulkenberg was p.12 but will take a five-place grid drop for changing his gearbox yesterday.
Young Nico showed his frustration by slamming his helmet down when he returned to the garage, and we were surprised he didn’t double in size and turn green – he is, after all, the Hulk. Teammate Rubens Barrichello – who doesn’t resemble any comic book character we can think- made it through to the final ten.
Also eliminated were Petrov, Sebastien Buemi, comeback kid Nick Heidfeld and the Force Indias. A poor showing from them saw Sutil 16th and Liuzzi 17th.
So it boiled down to the final ten, with all five title contenders out on track. The first set of runs saw Alonso quickest from Hamilton, Webber and Button. Sebastian Vettel had recorded a poor lap, and was down in seventh.
Vettel was then the first man to set his second lap time, but couldn’t quite do enough. Alonso meanwhile failed to improve, but none of his competitors could match him and Fernando had his second pole position of the season.
He’s joined on the front row by Vettel, with Hamilton and Button set to share row two. Mark Webber was a disappointing fifth, whilst Rubens Barrichello will be thrilled with p.6. Rosberg, Kubica, Schumacher and Kobayashi complete the top ten.
So the title contenders have locked out the first five places on the grid, with Fernando Alonso sitting in the box seat for tomorrow’s race. Can he make it back-to-back wins? Will Vettel rediscover his form when the grand prix gets underway, and is Webber capable of matching him? Or could a McLaren spring a surprise? Finding out is going to be very interesting.