The change in the engine mapping rules didn’t stop Red Bull dominating qualifying again.
The pair locked out the front row of the grid with Lewis Hamilton third ahead of Fernando Alonso.
With the soft tyres offering a significant reduction in lap time compared to the mediums, the front-running drivers had to make some difficult decisions to avoid using a set of softs in Q1.
Felipe Massa opted to do a run on soft tyres and ended up quickest of all as a result.
Team mate Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber took the risky move of doing a second run on medium tyres, but were able to scrape through despite slipping through the order.
But they earned the benefit of saving a fresh set of soft tyres, as did Sebastian Vettel and, surprisingly, the two McLaren driver,s who had struggled on the medium tyres in practice.
It was the ‘usual suspects’ who failed to get through to Q2 – both the Lotuses, Virgins and HRTS plus, once again, Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
|18||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’40.232|
Sebastian Vettel went straight to the top of the times with his first lap on soft tyres. His effort was four-tenths of a second faster than the two closely-matched McLarens.
Fernando Alonso went fourth and was poised to improve his time when the red flags came out.
Pastor Maldonado had come to a stop with a technical problem on his Williams, and the session had to be stopped so the car could be recovered.
As Q2 restarted Vitaly Petrov and Sebastien Buemi were among the first out, having not done a time at the beginning of the session.
A late improvement by Adrian Sutil enabled him to knocked Petorv out of the last place in the top ten.
Paul di Resta was out-qualified for his team mate for the second time this year after a mistake in the final sector.
The other four drivers to be eliminated were Rubens Barrichello, Sebastien Buemi and the Sauber pair.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
|12||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1’39.422|
|17||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’39.711|
Vettel remained untouchable in the final part of qualifying, four-tenths of a second quicker than the McLaren drivers.
The Red Bulls, McLarens and Ferraris all did two runs but few improved with their second efforts – Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel all aborted their second laps.
Webber did improve and jumped up to take second on the grid alongside his team mate.
Nick Heidfeld and Adrian Sutil didn’t set times at all, preferring to save tyres, and will start on row five.
Top ten in Q3
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’36.975|
|2||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’37.163|
|9||Nick Heidfeld||Renault||No time|
|10||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||No time|
2011 European Grand Prix
- 2011 European Grand Prix: complete race weekend review
- Vote for your driver of the European GP weekend
- Red Bull: “Rules changed but not the result”
- Ferrari: Alonso says Red Bull up to a second faster
- McLaren: Only third-fastest in Valencia
- Mercedes: Schumacher takes blame for collision
- Toro Rosso: Alguersuari bounces back
- Sauber: Perez nearly grabs a point with one-stopper
- Renault: Boullier unhappy with single point
- Force India: Sutil cracks the top ten
Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images