Hamilton ends Red Bull’s pole position domination

2011 Korean GP qualifying

Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Korea, 2011

Hamilton starts ahead of Vettel and Button on the grid

Lewis Hamilton ended Red Bull’s monopoly on pole position in 2011 by beating Sebastian Vettel in qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver was fastest in all three parts of qualifying on his way to pole.

He shares the front row of the grid with Vettel and their team mates line up behind them.


Hamilton was the quickest driver in the first part of qualifying, setting a time of 1’37.525 on soft tyres.

Unusually the Red Bull drivers used a set of super soft tyres for their first runs, but appeared not to push them too hard as they secured their places in Q2. Christian Horner later said they had driven to a target lap time.

Both Williams drivers stayed in the pits until the final five minutes. When they came out, Rubens Barrichello was initially faster than Pastor Maldonado, the latter falling at risk of elimination.

They had enough time for a final run each. But Barrichello abandoned his attempt at improvement, feeling the tyres had gone off, and Maldonado’s 1’39.436 was enough to knock his team mate out.

Heikki Kovalainen was the quicker of the two Lotus drivers, who line up in front of the two Virgins.

Daniel Ricciardo did not set a time due to a technical problem and will need permission from the stewards to start the race.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’39.538
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1’40.522
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1’41.101
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’42.091
22 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1’43.483
23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1’43.758
24 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth


Hamilton stayed on top in the second part of qualifying, lapping almost exactly one second on super softs than he had on softs in the first session.

Vettel could only get within seven-tenths of Hamilton’s time, which put him second.

Michael Schumacher only did a single lap and although he had the track to himself his 1’38.354 was ultimately not good enough to get him into Q3. He complained of a vibration on his car before starting the lap.

It put him ninth but later improvements from Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersauri and Paul di Resta left him out of the top ten.

Both Force India drivers secured places in Q3 but Alguersuari was eliminated along with his team mate. So were the two Sauber drivers.

They were joined by Maldonado and Bruno Senna.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’38.315
12 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’38.354
13 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’38.508
14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’38.775
15 Bruno Senna Renault 1’38.791
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1’39.109
17 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’39.443


Eight cars went out as Q3 began, both Force India drivers holding back in the pits.

Hamilton picked up where he left off in Q2, heading the times with a 1’36.130, his McLaren looking stable and changing direction beautifully in the fast sweeps of turns seven, eight and nine.

But Vettel was threatening – the Red Bull driver crossed the line just three-hundredths of a second off Hamilton’s mark.

Webber led the cars out for their final efforts, the front runners taking care not to end up missing their last chances as they did in Suzuka. Hamilton delivered a clean lap to lower the fastest time to a 1’35.820.

Vettel had to pass Di Resta during his lap but did not appear to be delayed by the Force India. He improved his time but, fell short of beating Hamiton by two tenths of a second.

Webber had a poor final run and Button took advantage to claim third on the grid. The Ferraris share the third row, Massa ahead of Alonso.

Top ten in Q3

1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’35.820
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’36.042
3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’36.126
4 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’36.468
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’36.831
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’36.980
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’37.754
8 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’38.124
9 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes
10 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes

2011 Korean Grand Prix

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171 comments on Hamilton ends Red Bull’s pole position domination

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  1. Keamo said on 15th October 2011, 7:22

    Fantastic qualifying from Lewis. He could have been on pole in Japan as well.

  2. It is finally some relief to see the end of redbull pole domination. Hamilton is very impressive this weekend. But with tyre degradation is gng to be very crucial in race, probably vettel & button may have edge on hamilton in race. what ever be, we are going to have some exciting race ahead with all tyre strategies at play.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th October 2011, 7:31

      yes, looking forward to see how it pans out. But a great result to see something other than a Red Bull on pole, good job Hamilton and Mclaren (shame about messing it up in Japan though).

    • Vinola said on 15th October 2011, 7:34

      yeah, Button was preserving his tires for the race (oh so smooth)..lol

    • Bleeps_and_Tweaks (@bleeps_and_tweaks) said on 15th October 2011, 13:47

      It’s very impressive from Mclaren, the performance of the MP4-26 has improved so much over the last 4-5 races. Hopefully this improvement isn’t all about the exhausts etc so they can carry through the aero improvements into 2012.

      I agree about the tyres though, I can’t help but think we’ll see Hamilton quick for 5-8 laps before his tyres begin to give up and he begins to struggle again. I really hope this isn’t the case.

      Ferrari could get on the podium again with a good start and some longevity on the super-softs. Plus despite not getting pole, it was very impressive from Vettel, thoroughly trounced Webber again, who looks like he’s almost switched off for this season.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 15th October 2011, 20:34

      I wouldn’t say their qualifying domination is over per se. It will take more than one spanner in the works to reverse the trend with any kind of decent impact. However, it’s a start!

  3. I’m so glad I stayed up all night for that.

    I hope McLaren’s tyre choices reward them too.

  4. xplr (@xplr) said on 15th October 2011, 7:26

    was this RBR doing different things/tests? I have the feeling they weren’t going fully for the pole…

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 15th October 2011, 7:48

      Yeah they definitely tried something different this quali session. If I had to guess, I would think they are trying to do a pit stop less than the Mclarens, and therefore have preserved all their soft tyres for the race.

      Cant wait for tomorrow’s race!

  5. David-A (@david-a) said on 15th October 2011, 7:27

    Very good job from Lewis, well done to him.

  6. John Cahill said on 15th October 2011, 7:28

    Did anyone notice how unhappy he (HAM) was after the session – just stood up and got out of the car, also wasnt happy during the press conf.

    • SparkyJ23 (@sparkyj23) said on 15th October 2011, 7:33

      Why should Hamilton be happy? – His working day outside the garage he is surrounded by folks who see profit in tearing him down. He’s about to be baited every second between now and race start by the media just waiting for him to fail. Wait and see what happens if he doesn’t win tomorrow. Actually even if he does win look for the critics to flap their gums.

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 15th October 2011, 7:35

      Difficult to say when it comes to Ham

    • I don’t think there was anyone who didn’t notice that. Not sure whether it had to do with all the bad press he’s been getting or with his unhappiness with his own performance lately. Possibly a combination…

      • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 15th October 2011, 7:47

        I think you still have to wonder what else is going on in his life that’s causing him issues. I don’t see this just being the lack of wins since he wasn’t like this in early 2009.

        I hope that, whatever it is, he can get it sorted and get back to the Lewis we’re all used to and all love/loath (he does polarise opinion rather!!) before 2012.

      • JOMcL said on 15th October 2011, 8:33

        well he knows that it is sunday that matters. With all the bad and unfair press he had, I understand he is trying to not show too much his feelings.
        Who are we to say he has trouble in his private life that may alter his performance? We are no shrink, are we?
        And now media are focusing on the “poor” performance of Alonso … ahh if we could only ignore them!

        • It’s really tough to judge why he looks unhappy other than the recent incidents and the bad press.
          And you’re right, we have no business in speculating about his private life.
          Also, his choice if management never seemed bright to me, maybe it’s time to change. I don’t know what good they’ve done him since they arrived.

          And about the “media”; whoever as much as suggests that Alonso’s performance this season has been anything less than stellar, needs to be slapped in the face with a shoe. The guy’s been driving the wheels of that Ferrari in each and every single outing and considering that it’s a little tough to stay motivated when you’re capable of winning titles but you’re in a slower car for almost the entire season, he’s driven like a champ.
          The top drivers this season have pretty much been Vettel, Alonso and Button. Not an inkling of doubt about that.

    • Daniel Thomas (@iamdanthomas) said on 15th October 2011, 9:48

      That’s how I acted when I was 15 and got dumped.

      Whatever it is, it was certainly odd. In all the interviews nowadays he seems subdued, like he’s afraid of being honest.

      Simon Fuller and XIX Management are surely doing him no good.

    • Randy (@randy) said on 15th October 2011, 11:55

      I don’t see his reaction as being unhappy. Remember he has got 18 poles in his short carreer, and suddenly he had to wait 27 races for his next one. It’s been a while. I think he was shaking in front of the camera when he got out of the car, there had to be some very strong emotions going on inside his helmet.

      It had to be especially hard for him when he saw Vettel going 0.5s faster out of nowhere, sometimes with just one Q3 lap. Surely Lewis was questioning his speed and capabilities after over a year of such struggle. Now he has beat him fair and square, finally, with a ballistic lap, i would be beside myself with joy. He must be thinking that this marks a turnaround now.

      • David BR (@david-br) said on 15th October 2011, 14:43

        +1 Exactly what I thought. Not taking the helmet off, he was clearly feeling the emotion. This combination of subdued or restrained and performing well is a good sign, it shows he’s maybe beginning to fight back with some determination and concentration.

  7. Eggry (@eggry) said on 15th October 2011, 7:30

    I selected Button as pole in prediction championship but it doesn’t matter. Vettel finally defeated!!(at least in qualifying)

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th October 2011, 7:33

      Initially I had Hamilton, but I changed it to Vettel in reflection of how qualifying went so far this year.

      Not often I have been this happy and satisfied with getting it wrong :-)

    • bananarama (@bananarama) said on 15th October 2011, 7:37

      Thats what I’m talking about baby! Just kidding, but since it was close many times already I’m quite delighted it finally happened. Good for Vettel to save a set of tyres but none of us know how the tyres will last, could have been good, could have been a waste. I hope Hamilton can stay ahead of Vettel for as long as possible (either until the end or long enough to get others ahead).

  8. Tricky (@tricky) said on 15th October 2011, 7:32

    Well done Lewis, now I am really looking forward to the race tomorrow.

  9. DT (@dt) said on 15th October 2011, 7:32

    Great lap from Lewis. Glad to see his old form come back again. He looked subdued though. wonder what is going through his mind after all the stick he got from the media. It certainly looks like the teams will be busy with multiple strategy scenarios. Looking forward to it. It will be great for Lewis mental stability if he does win the race.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th October 2011, 7:38

      And just that last thought is probably what is keeping Hamilton from being too exited right now!
      Quite understandable he wants to keep his expectations low and win it tomorrow to rebuild the confidence into the winter season.

    • panache (@panache) said on 15th October 2011, 7:50

      Subdued is the perfect word to describe Hamilton after getting his first pole of the season.

      I really don’t know what to make of his subsequent reaction. Throughout his career in the spotlight he has always been a very emotional and passionate driver who wears his heart on his sleeve.

      This is one of the things I like most about him so on one hand I hope dearly that he was not masking his genuine emotions and on the other I’m worried for him if he is truly not happy with this result.

      If he appears despondent straight after securing the only non-Red Bull pole position of the season then what is there left for him to enjoy in F1?

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 15th October 2011, 8:56

      Lewis has said as much himself. His head hasn’t been in the right place. He’s got it there this weekend so far. He’s probably just following the same tactics that brought this on. Keeping focused, keeping his feet on the ground.
      I think he may well be starting a process of reinventing himself.

      For all the trappings of being at the top of your game in a premier sports series it can have a powerful impact on the psyche. You just need to slip a little and everyone piles in with punches and blows. It’s a mentally harsh environment to keep on top. It’s another reason why drivers of top 10 calibre are few and far between.

      No, I enjoyed seeing the continued focus on the prize that matters. 1st part, done! 2nd part – bring it on!

  10. Jolene (@jojof1) said on 15th October 2011, 7:32

    Great lap from Lewis! I worry that we didn’t see the normally excited Lewis getting out of his car and in the post race interviews. Has his spirit already been broken? That would be a real shame. Woohoo, go Hami!

  11. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 15th October 2011, 7:33

    I wouldn’t go reading too much into this. We’ve seen drivers come from behind on the grid in the past, and Hamilton’s latest run of results doesn’t exactly promise too much.

  12. Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 15th October 2011, 7:34

    I could hear the sighs of relief from the Ham fanboys all the way down here in Oz. At least he’ll be well away from MAS.

  13. mikeycool said on 15th October 2011, 7:35

    He most likely just didnt want to get too excited as he knows its all to do tomorrow. I’m sure his recent form is making him an extremely cautious head in terms of expectations and optimism. If i was lewis and I know that my team mate is outracing me almost comfortably this year, I would take that pole with a pinch of salt also. Lets hope i’m wrong and he runs away with it. But honestly, I wouldnt say he is favourite for the race despite P1. Simply because of recent form.

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 15th October 2011, 7:48

      Agree with you on all your points, but he just RB’s string of poles. He should enjoy the moment, that’s about all I say.

    • panache (@panache) said on 15th October 2011, 8:03

      I think this is a fair assessment from a sports psychology perspective especially given how his high expectations have played against him earlier in the season, most notably during the Monaco race weekend.

      Crucially though, tempering his expectations and optimism shouldn’t take anything away from the delight of achieving his first pole position of the season, so his very subdued reaction is quite baffling.

  14. hamizors said on 15th October 2011, 7:36

    italian tv;
    tv host: can you tell us of the new rear wing?
    alonso: i am sixth.
    tv host: *long pause* ok, can you tell us more?
    alonso: i am telling you. *awkard silence*

  15. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 15th October 2011, 7:41

    Finally Something for me to cheer about on a Saturday!

    Why is Lewis all childish and moody though? Come on man lighten up, you just beat Seb on a Saturday! Manage a smile!? They said he was emotional, i don’t buy that.

    • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 15th October 2011, 7:50

      Why is Lewis all childish and moody though?

      You call it childish, others call it introspective. Either way, give the guy a break. I’d like to see how you’d cope with the amount of (VERY public) criticism he’s been getting lately.

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