How H???lkenberg snatched pole position

Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying analysis

Nico H???lkenberg, Williams, Interlagos, 2010

Timing was crucial in qualifying and Nico H???lkenberg exploited it to perfection.

Qualifying times in full

As the track dried with every passing lap in Q3, not only was the circuit offering more grip, but it was also becoming easier for drivers to keep their tyre temperatures up.

H???lkenberg began his final lap with just a few seconds left on the clock. But the remarkable thing is his penultimate lap of 1’15.462 was also good enough for pole position.

The perfectly-timed last lap goes some way to explaining his colossal 1.1 second advantage (in a car which had been off the pace by the same margin in dry practice).

It’s likely that the championship contenders couldn’t afford to risk cutting it as fine as H???lkenberg did. Had they got it wrong they might have ended up in the second half of the top ten.

But none of this detracts from what was an absolutely top-drawer performance from H???lkenberg. After all, his team mate was a huge 1.8 seconds slower.

Was it all down to a wet weather set-up? It seems very unlikely – if that were the case he would surely have been much quicker in Q1 and Q2, which were far wetter than Q3.

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Nico H???lkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1’20.050 1’19.144 (-0.906) 1’14.470 (-4.674)
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’19.160 1’18.691 (-0.469) 1’15.519 (-3.172)
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’19.025 1’18.516 (-0.509) 1’15.637 (-2.879)
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’19.931 1’18.921 (-1.010) 1’15.747 (-3.174)
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’18.987 1’19.010 (+0.023) 1’15.989 (-3.021)
6 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’19.799 1’18.925 (-0.874) 1’16.203 (-2.722)
7 Robert Kubica Renault 1’19.249 1’18.877 (-0.372) 1’16.552 (-2.325)
8 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’19.879 1’18.923 (-0.956) 1’16.925 (-1.998)
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’19.778 1’19.200 (-0.578) 1’17.101 (-2.099)
10 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’20.189 1’19.153 (-1.036) 1’17.656 (-1.497)
11 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’19.905 1’19.288 (-0.617)
12 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’19.741 1’19.385 (-0.356)
13 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’20.153 1’19.486 (-0.667)
14 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’20.158 1’19.581 (-0.577)
15 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’20.096 1’19.847 (-0.249)
16 Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1’20.174 1’19.899 (-0.275)
17 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1’20.592 1’20.357 (-0.235)
18 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’20.830
19 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’22.130
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1’22.250
21 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1’22.378
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1’22.810
23 Christian Klien HRT-Cosworth 1’23.083
24 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1’23.796

Driver comparisons

The balance of power at Mercedes tipped in Michael Schumacher’s favour for a change – although an unhappy Nico Rosberg said he was blocked by Sebastien buemi in Q2.

Felipe Massa should thank his lucky stars Rosberg was held up or he might not have made it into Q3. Even so the huge gap between the Ferrari drivers makes grim reading for Massa at his home race.

Christian Klien out-qualified Bruno Senna on his return to HRT. But Senna said he did not use a new set of intermediate tyres later in Q1, which seems strange. Tomorrow’s race is expected to be dry, so there’s no need for the team to save a set of intermediates.

Team Driver Lap time Gap Lap time Driver Round
McLaren Jenson Button 1’19.288 +0.367 1’18.921 Lewis Hamilton Q2
Mercedes Michael Schumacher 1’18.923 -0.563 1’19.486 Nico Rosberg Q2
Red Bull Sebastian Vettel 1’15.519 -0.118 1’15.637 Mark Webber Q3
Ferrari Felipe Massa 1’17.101 +1.112 1’15.989 Fernando Alonso Q3
Williams Rubens Barrichello 1’16.203 +1.733 1’14.470 Nico H???lkenberg Q3
Renault Robert Kubica 1’16.552 -1.104 1’17.656 Vitaly Petrov Q3
Force India Adrian Sutil 1’20.830 +0.238 1’20.592 Vitantonio Liuzzi Q1
Toro Rosso Sebastien Buemi 1’19.847 +0.266 1’19.581 Jaime Alguersuari Q2
Lotus Jarno Trulli 1’22.250 -0.128 1’22.378 Heikki Kovalainen Q1
HRT Christian Klien 1’23.083 -0.713 1’23.796 Bruno Senna Q1
Sauber Nick Heidfeld 1’19.899 +0.514 1’19.385 Kamui Kobayashi Q2
Virgin Timo Glock 1’22.130 -0.680 1’22.810 Lucas di Grassi Q1

Ultimate laps

An ultimate lap is a driver’s best time in each of the three sectors that make up a lap combined.

Another key aspect of H???lkenberg’s performance was that all his three sector times were either his best or very close to it.

His fastest time was within a hundredth or so of the best he was capable of – the championship contenders behind him were all capable of quicker times.

1’14.4541’14.7631’14.8661’15.1421’15.6291’15.9271’16.0471’16.3481’16.6161’17.0741’18.9361’19.2461’19.2461’19.4941’19.5451’19.5571’19.9391’20.6851’21.9581’22.1341’22.2811’22.7811’23.0071’23.527
Driver Car Ultimate lap Gap Deficit to best Actual position
1 10 Nico H???lkenberg 0.016 1
2 5 Sebastian Vettel 0.309 0.756 2
3 6 Mark Webber 0.412 0.771 3
4 2 Lewis Hamilton 0.688 0.605 4
5 8 Fernando Alonso 1.175 0.360 5
6 9 Rubens Barrichello 1.473 0.276 6
7 11 Robert Kubica 1.593 0.505 7
8 3 Michael Schumacher 1.894 0.577 8
9 7 Felipe Massa 2.162 0.485 9
10 12 Vitaly Petrov 2.620 0.582 10
11 4 Nico Rosberg 4.482 0.550 13
12 1 Jenson Button 4.792 0.042 11
13 23 Kamui Kobayashi 4.792 0.139 12
14 22 Nick Heidfeld 5.040 0.405 16
15 16 Sebastien Buemi 5.091 0.302 15
16 17 Jaime Alguersuari 5.103 0.024 14
17 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi 5.485 0.418 17
18 14 Adrian Sutil 6.231 0.145 18
19 24 Timo Glock 7.504 0.172 19
20 18 Jarno Trulli 7.680 0.116 20
21 19 Heikki Kovalainen 7.827 0.097 21
22 25 Lucas di Grassi 8.327 0.029 22
23 20 Christian Klien 8.553 0.076 23
24 21 Bruno Senna 9.073 0.269 24

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47 comments on How H???lkenberg snatched pole position

  1. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 6th November 2010, 22:08

    More twists in the tale, a number of weather sources are giving mixed predictions for the race tomorrow.

  2. Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 6th November 2010, 22:12

    I fell asleep and missed it all :( But when I saw Hulk had gotten pole I was sure it was the timing of his pole lap on the track.

    I like the Q2 vs Q3 side by side comparisons. A car that is a second a lap slower on pole… who ever gets around the Hulk first is going to run away from the pack.

    • US_Peter said on 6th November 2010, 23:37

      If Vettel gets the jump into the first corner he could be off into the sunset before Webber/Hamilton/Alonso can get past the Hulk. It’ll be a gripping start in any case.

      • Agree,it is going to be tough for all three of them particularly for Alonso.
        I think his luck is going to run out…unless the RBR screw up again

  3. SoerenKaae (@soerenkaae) said on 6th November 2010, 22:12

    Alguersuari is the first inside 107% of Hulks time. Imagine an 16 car grid :(

    • But that’s not what counts in the 107% rule. It’s the Q1 times, in which the track was wetter and everyone was slower.

    • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 6th November 2010, 22:28

      If that were the case I think everyone outside of 107% would be allowed to start, given the changing conditions. Such force majeure was used in the 1999 French GP, for example, because four or five drivers were all outside of the 107% limit.

      Besides, won’t the 107% limit apply only to Q1 times, not to Q3?

  4. How sure we are Williams is not using a wet set up for today’s qualification? We will see this tomorrow during the race in the first three laps…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th November 2010, 22:27

      Like I said on the article, if he is, why wasn’t he quicker in Q1 and Q2 where it would have helped him more? Also, you’d expect his speed trap figure to be lower than it is. So I’m not convinced.

    • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 6th November 2010, 22:35

      Patrick Head also said Hulkenberg was on a fully dry set-up

    • Kubica was saying that Renault had very low downforce setup for Q session and race to benefit from f-duct, which made dificulties on slick while the track was not fully dry, hence poorer times in Q3 after the tyre change.
      So perhaps it was the same case for other top teams, and contrary by Williams – bigger downforce and higher grip means they drove better than others in slick tyres.

      • So are you guys saying his pace was genuine?

        • I am saying Williams had setup for more grip than top teams that seek the speed on the straight (mostly by f-duct) so when track was drying but still not fully dried, the higher grip Williams had on slicks gave them advantage.
          Had the track dried earlier, Williams would be beaten like in dry practice sessions – this is my understanding, but I wish someone from paddock try to answer this phenomena professionally.

        • BasCB said on 7th November 2010, 10:27

          It sure looks like he was. He just kept stringing together 9 great sector times in three consistently improving laps.
          All the way he was driving without sliding, going wide, misbraking, etc. to string together an amazing lap. A bit like Senna could do for pole.

          The other guys on track at the same time had someting of a mistake or wobble at one or more points in each of their laps, they just could not string it together as consistenly ono the slippery track.

    • I think he was in a full dry setup, so when the track got dryer he got the best of it,
      as Keith is pointing out. thats the only explanation. only the difference on setup can explain 1.1″ of difference
      and it was a dry setup

      • DeadManWoking said on 7th November 2010, 14:01

        His penultimate (1:15.519) was good enough for Pole (.057 faster than Vettel’s lap which he completed after Nico did this one)and he finished it with 2-3 seconds remaining on the clock. This gave him 1 more lap on a much drier track than anyone else with optimally heated tires and he improved a further 0.992 to 1:14.470. As BasCB said, 9 perfectly executed sectors in a row, altogether a remarkable performance.

    • BasCB said on 7th November 2010, 10:23

      Yesterday the Williams team stated, that they are on a full dry setup, which might be the reason why they were pretty far of in the wetter conditions of Q1 and Q2.

      I just hope the Hulk can keep the pack behind him for a while while they have a try at sorting out their running order with a few passes between them.

  5. Alexi (@alexi) said on 6th November 2010, 22:18

    Great perf from Nico.

    Random predictions for the race tomorrow – Nico gets P4 and Barrichello crashes into Button.

  6. I hope this is a sign for next year! Can you imagine if Williams get into a position to fight for wins? If Renault keep going the way they are (improving slowly), Mercedes are more competetive, McLaren are there, Ferrari and RedBull, what a season it could possibly be. What a dream if 6 different teams win a race! (even better, 12 different drivers, but very unlikely).

  7. DeadManWoking said on 6th November 2010, 23:22

    Keith, the formatting for the Qualifying “Ultimate Laps” Tables has been off for the last few races while the Practice “Ultimate Laps” Tables formatting has been fine.

  8. Bartholomew said on 6th November 2010, 23:25

    That was great for The Hulk! I am always very happy when a new young driver makes his presence felt in a dramatic fashion! may you have many more days like this in your career.
    One of the most celebrated videos in all of YouTube is of the Hulk when he celebrates his birthday party with the Terminator – chocolate cake and reefer!
    LOL you just gotta see this !

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viyNrDU1fks

  9. cheers said on 6th November 2010, 23:26

    All the driver and team comments were consistent on the conditions and lap time. They all said that any small moment off the racing line took the tyre temperatures and lap time away and everyone but Hulkenberg seemed to have one. Webber and Alonso and Barrichello had big ones so they did good just getting the times they did.

    Interesting Sauber’s and Williams comments on Hulkenberg. Maybe one year out to pasture at Sauber for him and then back to Williams as lead driver? You can see the lead driver difference with Rubens being the first of the field to make the right call to go with the dries and Hulk having to be talked into it by his engineer. 3 great laps smack on the racing line make him a bankable future prospect though. I can’t help remembering that iffy performance trying to keep Webber behind him and think Williams see him as needing another full year before he could lead them.

    What I would really like to see is Webber leaving RBR and returning to Williams as World Champion. Maybe Newey will some time soo decides that he already has enough money too ?????

    • US_Peter said on 6th November 2010, 23:44

      I think Webber has even less love for Frank and Patrick than he does for RBR, so I don’t think that’ll happen.

      • cheers said on 7th November 2010, 6:24

        Frank was making concilliatory sounds to Mark and saying he got it wrong earlier this year. He’s got a contract though and Williams are tight for dosh so it’s unlikely.

  10. schooner said on 6th November 2010, 23:54

    It appears to me that Williams may have gambled on a fully dry, lower downforce setup for Nico. His Q2 times, while it was still pretty wet, seem to reflect that idea. They really had nothing to lose by doing so, especially given the forecast for a dry race. The championship contenders on the other hand, were perhaps not as willing to roll the dice. Even with the probability of a dry race, they might have felt obliged to set up for a wet qualifying session to ensure decent grid positions. Should make for a great race!
    That said, and regardless of the different strategies, Nico was simply brilliant today! F1 qualifying is almost always a great show these days, but this was the best of the year. I’m hoping to see Nico get his first podium.

    • cheers said on 7th November 2010, 6:27

      The thing that tipped it for me was Schumachers comments on losing temperature in the tyres and a competetive time by going just off the racing line to let Vettel and Webber through on their hot laps. All the other coments from drivers and those offline incidents shown on the TV fold under that. I think his lap came from being on the rails and the Williams being good getting temps up. Rudens went way off so he wouldn’t have been a factor on what Schumacher was saying.

  11. troutcor said on 7th November 2010, 2:18

    As a Scuderia fan, Williams drove me crazy when they were on top, but I sure have missed them. Good to see an old-school team make good (and I wouldn’t mind if they were to create a tangle for RBR and LH, either!).

  12. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 7th November 2010, 2:54

    A dry race today won’t favour Williams so I hope that he ends up on the podium at least.

  13. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 7th November 2010, 9:31

    How Hülkenberg snatched pole position

    He drove the best lap in Q3 with tremendous skill.

    • David BR said on 7th November 2010, 10:32

      Combination of both. There was a window of a few minutes with the track drying that meant the Williams could outperform the other top teams. But as Barrichello showed – and he’s a good wet weather driver at one of his favourite circuits – that alone wasn’t enough. A slight slip and the tyre temperature was lost. Hulkenberg’s two laps were phenomenal, on the edge perfect. Best qualifying session in a long, long time!

      • and everyone is over looking the fact that Hamilton screwed up (too slow, lost heat) his out lap and those directly behind him (inc Rubens)….

        Still a brilliant three laps from the Hulk so happy for him and Williams… just wish they could be it at least every other race.

  14. All Brazilians were outpaced by their teammates!

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