Mark Webber has scored pole position for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix and beaten his team-mate in a qualifying session for the first time since last September in the process. The Aussie and team-mate Sebastian Vettel were in a class of their own at the Circuit de Catalunya, always looking nailed on for a front row lockout. Meanwhile there were strong performances from Pastor Maldonado and Heikki Kovalainen, an ecstatic Fernando Alonso – in fourth – and a session to forget for Rubens Barrichello and Nick Heidfeld. Here’s how it all went down.

Q1

Q1 was a race against time for the Renault team. Nick Heidfeld suffered a big fire in FP3, the German skipping from his car in an even more twinkletoes fashion than usual. The resulting damage – particularly to the R31’s floor – ruled him out of qualifying and leaves him last on tomorrow’s grid.

 

Photo: Charles Coates/LAT Photographic

Rubens Barrichello also dropped out, setting a time early in the session but then finding himself consigned to the pits. He’ll start 19th as Williams nightmare season continues.

That meant one of the regular Q1 departees would progress to the second phase of qualifying, and that man was Heikki Kovalainen, who set the 17th fastest time. With Jarno Trulli just missing out in 18th it was great result for the green cars.

Meanwhile Timo Glock was best of the backmarkers in 20th, with Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan doing all they could to put the Hispanias 21st and 22nd. Jerome d’Ambrosio was a disappointing 23rd, failing to get the Virgin ahead of the Spanish squads cars.

Out front Michael Schumacher rolled back the years by setting the fastest lap of the session with 90 seconds left on the clock. It was largely meaningless, coming on the option tyres whilst the Red Bulls had run on the primes, but it will no doubt have brought a smile to Michael’s face.

Eliminated

  • 18 Jarno Trulli
  • 19 Rubens Barrichello
  • 20 Timo Glock
  • 21 Tonio Liuzzi
  • 22 Narain Karthikeyan
  • 23 Jerome d’Ambrosio
  • 24 Nick Heidfeld

Q2

The Red Bulls came out early, set untouchable laps and quickly vanished back in to the garages. Job done. There was little surprise about the majority of the drivers who joined them, with McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes putting both their drivers through along with Vitaly Petrov.

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But there was one minor surprise. Pastor Maldonado finally came good, setting the eight best time of Q2 to progress to the top ten shootout for the first time in his F1 career. After Barrichello’s Q1 nightmare it was a much needed boost for the Grove-based team.

Out went both Toro Rossos, with Buemi and Alguersuari 11th and 13th respectively, and both Perez and Kobayashi in the Saubers, the young duo taking 12th and 14th respectively.

Meanwhile Kovalainen shone again, putting his Lotus 15th and ahead of both Force India, albeit on soft tyres. The Silverstone-based team’s cars will be 16th and 17th with di Resta once again getting the better of Sutil.

Eliminated

  • 11 Sebastien Buemi
  • 12 Sergio Perez
  • 13 Jaime Alguersuari
  • 14 Kamui Kobayashi
  • 15 Heikki Kovalainen
  • 16 Paul di Resta
  • 17 Adrian Sutil

Q3

After all that Q3 was something of a damp squib. Pole was decided early in the session, with both Red Bulls hitting the track and fighting a private battle for supremacy. Vettel set his lap first – a blistering 1.21.181 – but Webber was on track, and crucially he had a working KERS unit. Seb didn’t, and found himself beaten by Mark for the first time in eight months as the Aussie went two tenths faster. The faces on the Red Bull pitwall could have been a little happier.

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Behind them Lewis Hamilton took P3 but flatspotted his front left tyre in the process. That could prove crucial during the first stint tomorrow. Jenson Button had held P4, but a late lap from Fernando Alonso promoted the local favourite to the position. Fernando’s joy on the in-lap suggests that this was a little more than he’d expected today.

Another strong performance left Vitaly Petrov sixth, ahead of Rosberg’s Mercedes and the muted Felipe Massa. Maldonado took a career-best ninth whilst Michael Schumacher elected not to run and starts tenth. He saved a set of tyres in the process, and it’ll be very interesting to see how that develops come the race.

So Webber has finally beaten Vettel in 2011. But Saturday counts for nothing – if Mark is serious about mounting a title bid he’s got to stay ahead of Sebastian right to the chequered flag tomorrow afternoon.

Top Ten

  • 1 Mark Webber
  • 2 Sebastian Vettel
  • 3 Lewis Hamilton
  • 4 Fernando Alonso
  • 5 Jenson Button
  • 6 Vitaly Petrov
  • 7 Nico Rosberg
  • 8 Felipe Massa
  • 9 Pastor Maldonado
  • 10 Michael Schumacher