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

  1. dam00r (@dam00r) said on 15th October 2011, 7:44

    Greatest qualifying we’ve had this year?

  2. sngt2 said on 15th October 2011, 7:45

    Qualifying has become a farce.. Teams are sacrificing pace in quali for the race, Jensen is a great bet for a win, considering the high degradation, and i think that alonso will be flying past massa for a podium fight. Can’t wait.

  3. F1fanNL (@) said on 15th October 2011, 7:48

    Stunning lap from Vettel once again, don’t know what he was doing in a McLaren though. Nice pole nonetheless.

    Seriously though, excellent qualifying. A shame Vettel got held up by Di Resta but I don’t think he lost 3 tenths there, maybe a tenth or so.
    Good to see Hamilton on pole and fastest through all qualifying sessions. Surely this should be a nice start of getting back in the groove. It was a bit strange to see him so emotionless after the race though, perhaps McLaren replaced him with a T-1000….

    Vettel did well by once again outperforming Button in the faster McLaren proving he is indeed a qualifying specialist like Senna was.

    It will be interesting to see what RBR’s tyre strategy does for them in the race. Hopefully they can stay close to the McLarens and make the race exciting and not like Suzuka where they wrapped a nice big bow around the victory and handed it to Button.

  4. Oliver said on 15th October 2011, 7:49

    Well Mclaren can can still wreck his race as is their wont lately. Button will still get priority treatment.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 15th October 2011, 7:59

      By saying Button has “priority treatment”, I’ll just read that as Button has “had the upper hand” still, Hamilton’s in a good position to close the ponts gap tomorrow.

      • mattr said on 15th October 2011, 8:20

        no buttons been getting treatment ever since his 2 dnfs in a row.ppl forget that after the first 10 races lewis was ahead of button having finished ahead of him 7 out of 10 times.probablty would have been 8-2 if it wasnt for his bad luck in quali in monaco.but after those 2 dnfs the team seemed to focus alot more on getting things right for button.
        today tho,things were back to normal,hence the quali result.but i still expect them to mess his strategy up,or a pistop.

        • JOMcL said on 15th October 2011, 8:43

          I agree. Lewis’ side of the pitwall is always massively messing up, more than Jenson’s side…

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 15th October 2011, 9:44

          He finished ahead 7-3 up until Germany, but since then, Button has driven better. The last 5 races can’t just be swept under the carpet because you claim Button’s had better treatment. As I said, Hamilton could well end that run tomorrow.

        • Randy (@randy) said on 15th October 2011, 14:29


          By your logic McLaren’s pit crew thinks “Ok, we know how to make the cars faster in the race, so we’ll apply this treatment to Jenson and deny it to Lewis, just so Jenson would feel better. Yeah, that’s great idea, let’s not make one of our cars as fast as possible even though we can do it.”. Cheers and applause ensued.

          Just how long you’ve been watching this sport?

        • ob1kenobi.23 (@ob1kenobi23) said on 15th October 2011, 21:36

          Lets be PC. Should that not be toilet break.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th October 2011, 8:49

      Why should Button get any priority? Hamilton is up front, so he will have first choise of pitstop.
      They might be on slightly different strategies to better fit either of them and maximize their chances.
      But I do not think McLaren would be less happy to see Hamilton win it then they would be if Button jumped him and Vettel to win it. On the contrary, having Hamilton win will be good for the team spirit and their drivers confidence.

      They will be looking at getting Hamilton and Button on the top 2 steps of the podium. Nothing more, nothing less.

      • The team has nothing to gain by giving priority treatment. The drivers championship is over and all that matters now is the constructor’s point. Hamilton 1st, button 2nd or 3rd and vice versa will amount to the same points to the team.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th October 2011, 9:54

      Button will still get priority treatment.

      Care to provide any examples of that being the case earlier this year?

      • Oliver said on 15th October 2011, 11:22

        But the priority treatment started since last year and has been debated on this site in it’s various guise.
        How many instances have Hamilton’s chances of winning a race been messed up by Mclaren as they pit Button when they could have given Hamilton priority, all to ge Button into the higher points positions when he finds himsef starting from 10th position.
        Abu Dhabi last year, they could have used the under cut for Hamilton but no.

        You have most of the race data Keith, and if Hamilton is running ahead, he hardly gets the optimised pit call all in the name of equality.
        But I noticed the team didn’t make any attempt to use the under cut for Hamilton in Japan, rather they kept him out too long as Button was giving the optimum pit window.
        Button has done a better job this year but also, the team has been more sympathetic to his cause than they have Lewis.

        Withmarsh has over done his equality thing to the extent that Hamilton is being handicapped.
        Withmarsh wants Button to be the one to win the driver’s championship in a Mclaren.
        And the best way to boost Button’s confidence is if he is beating or is very close in performance to Hamilton.
        That is why even when Hamilton wins a race, he first praises Button for an oustanding driver finishing 3rd or 4th then recognision of Hamilton’s performance is an after thought.

        He is also the first to blame Hamilton for anyhing that happens that you wonder if he is being forced to retain him as a driver.

        Button and Hamlton are the best pairing I can think of, Withmarsh is the one harming their potential. Oh even I hear Button calling himself the team leader. Nice.

        • JOMcl said on 15th October 2011, 11:37

          Whitmarsh did not mention Hamilton in his interview to the BBC (at least I did not heard it). I found it strange to not praise his driver much more after how he defended him from critics…

          I am not sure the team favour Button. I rather think it is the race engineer of Lewis that screws up. I never understood why McLaren re-shuffle the team after 2008 anyway …

          • Oliver said on 15th October 2011, 13:52

            I wasn’t talking about this qualifying bt in general.
            He has a habit of openly criticising Hamilton that the BBC team race there at the slightest hint of any issue.
            Regarding Hamilton’s race engineer, either he is inept or is deliberately kept out of the decision loop. He often gives Hamilton a conflicting information to that Button gets. All we har from Withmarsh eventually is that the engineer was under the wrong impression.
            How can that be if they have their race strategy meetings. Plus they never listen to the driver and easily misinterprete his car issues.
            I have never seen a team place obstacles in the path of their driver than Mclaren seem to do frequently.

          • JOMcl said on 15th October 2011, 14:06

            yes i agree with what you said!
            Was it in Malaysia last year when team decision about tyres ruined Lewis’ race?
            What has to be observed is that Hamilton gives his best in every quali. When he fails in quali it is almost because of the team (Monaco while failing to put a “banker” before Perez’ accident and then letting him in the pit lane with an engine getting the heat, Japan and failing to warn him about the time – like RBR did today with Vettel indeed – just to name a few). Race’s accidents always seems to be the result of missed quali (but for Spa)
            McLaren is not the same since Ron left :( An experienced team like McLaren should be like redbull operation-wise.

        • chandra70007 (@chandra70007) said on 15th October 2011, 15:43

          Exactly true. The problem is not the drivers, but Whitmarsh. He praises Button just for a podium finish, but if Lewis wins he praises the team/car. Miss Ron a lot.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th October 2011, 16:07

          You have most of the race data Keith

          And having paid close attention to it, and all the practice and qualifying data all year long, and throughout last year when they were also team mates, I see nothing to support this claim that Button gets favourable treatment or Hamilton unfavourable treatment.

          For example:

          the team didn’t make any attempt to use the under cut for Hamilton in Japan

          Given how quickly Hamilton’s tyres went off in the first stint they would have to have brought him in on lap five. So by lap 16 he’s run out of super soft tyres and is facing doing two-thirds of the race on the slower compound and making at least one extra pit stop than he actually did. Obviously not a credible strategy.

          The ‘undercut’ was never going to save Hamilton’s race. Of course, Hamilton did pit before Button at the end of the first stint – the only time in the race when they were racing for the same position – but his tyres were already gone by then.

          There’s no mystery why this was. You could see from the data on Friday Hamilton wasn’t getting the same life out of his tyres Button was. It’s been the case at several races this year, and no amount of nice words from Martin Whitmarsh is going to make one iota of difference to that.

          None of the claims of favouritism I’ve seen have any basis in fact. Most of them come from the fact that when McLaren speak to the press they prefer to stress the positives in their performances – and most of those is recent races have come from Button’s side of the garage.

  5. Mike (@mike) said on 15th October 2011, 7:51

    Lewis (finnally) did what he does best. Fantastic.

    Part of me feels sorry for Vettel. He did put in a fantastic lap. Pity about the Force India.

  6. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 15th October 2011, 7:51

    Peter Windsor reported that RBR used just the one set of options for Q1; Q2 and the first Q3 run. If that’s correct they could be in massive shape for tyres tomorrow.

  7. mcmclaren said on 15th October 2011, 7:53

    I always had faith in lewis…I put a score on him to take pole last night …I got 4-1

    these tiers are sure going to be important tomorrow so I have a feeling he might struggle a little

    as for his body language after..he almost looked as though he was physically shakeing as he got out of the car. he was happy…real happy

    but how misserable did the recently crowned double world champ look…I guess he wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to do with his finger. what ever it was I think it was clear he was expecting poll what ever redbull say to the contery. I think redbull may have 3 new sets of prime’s but I think of the top 3 they are going to need them the most

    i’d love to see lewis win tomorrow but its great to know buttons on the pace if he can’t

    today just goes to show there’s nothing wrong with lewis’s skill, I just hope he can sort his head out for next year and somehow I think today went a long way in doing that…l

    red bull 15
    lewis 1
    everybody else 0

  8. Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 15th October 2011, 8:09

    The ONE Qualifying Session i miss of the whole season has to be a Driver other than a Red Bull Driver on Pole Position Amazing has to summarise everything today,Amazing Pole Lap from Lewis if you havent seen it check it out here :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug_2Ih3_V38 – Thats my Youtube channel by the way

    Back to the main topic Honestly,I don think Seb getting caught up behind Di Resta hampered him that much maybe a tenth or two but nonetheless amazing.Jenson right up there again,Great job.I’ve heard RB have 3 New Sets of Options avaliable which shapes them up great for the race but a McLaren victory/dominate weekend is not out of the question.

    Fernando,Very subdue today,A second off pole & out-qualified by the out-performed Felipe Massa,I think Massa is slowly beginning to pick himself up well at least in Qualifying(out qualified him in 4 Occasions of the 2nd half of the season ; Hungary,Spa,Suzuka & Korea) lets hope he can get it together in the race

  9. dcjohnson (@dcjohnson) said on 15th October 2011, 8:21

    The world is back to normal again, with Hamilton is +0.3 faster than Button, as we always knew is the true difference in base speed . The tyres (or so called race craft/smoothness) will even things for Button tommorrow, so it should be close. The big question is when will Massa pull over to let his bossman through. And when will journos move on to the realatively poor performances of Webber (aka. no wins in overall best car) and Massa (no podiums, although renault have managed one). Hopefully the feeding frenzy of the journos will move on, once it kicks in that they realise there is no more meat on the bone ?

  10. DT (@dt) said on 15th October 2011, 8:24

    A win tomorrow will shut Hamilton’s critics up

  11. lubhz (@lubhz) said on 15th October 2011, 8:32

    What happened to Bruno Senna? He is so behind Petrov.

  12. SafirXP said on 15th October 2011, 8:43

    He’s just concentrating on his job and keeping his mouth shut. That’s what he needs to do. We’ll see the spark when he wins, nothing to worry about. First time in his career he’s been out paced by his team mate, its a very humbling lesson. He’s digging deep to come back and my best wishes go with him. I’m glad Button’s doing this to him. If he really is one of the best drivers I think he is and want him to be, he has to rise up to these challenges.

  13. leotef (@leotef) said on 15th October 2011, 9:18

    Good work Hamilton. Feels he still keeps the mojo when he do want and exert. But want to see consistent race tomorrow too.

  14. Hamilton is the miserable spoilt brat,ive ever seen on tv as a sportsman.
    Nothing to do with his colour,but he really does think the world owes him a favour.wipe the miserable smirk off his face tomorrow jenson or seb..

    • *Sighs* why come read an article about Hamilton and then write such poor comments. He was quite clearly emotional because this is one of many steps Hamilton needs to take for him to get his game back.

      I think he’s had enough from the media let alone people like you writing crap like this.

      I personally am not a fan of Alonsos attitude but I do not go shouting around in forums / websites.. Why because I still respect he is a top driver, just like hamilton. So pay a little respect because I hardly think you know the first thing about the psychology of an F1 driver!

    • JOMcl said on 15th October 2011, 10:58

      he never said such things as the world owes him… he wouldn’t thank his team after a good performance otherwise.
      I wish I was a mind reader like you, you must be so successful in life thanks to that skill…

    • @andy.. i’m guessing you are a super psychologist in the league of Freud et al… how did you arrive at this baseless conclusion? The guy has been through a lot lately so allow him to show his real emotion. I bet you won’t survive an hour in his shoes

    • Mikeoxlong said on 15th October 2011, 11:21

      Terrible troll is terrible

    • Schumi the Greatest (@schumi-the-greatest) said on 15th October 2011, 12:16

      might be something to do with all the negative press he gets everytime he makes a mistake. nothing i said when button was struggling to get near him earlier in the season. Button has been great the last few races i have to say but the media hound lewis and not jenson. He knows he got the job done today and he knows a win tomorrow will only start to silence his critics. its a lesson for hamilton and i think he will bounce back stronger than ever. Comments like that are just pathetic how was he being spoilt? dont have to wag your finger every time you have pole.

      • SundarF1 (@sundarf1) said on 15th October 2011, 15:30

        Hamilton’s rookie season sent the expectations soaring, whilst Button has had a much less spectacular career, hence people don’t expect him to outpace Hamilton day in and day out. The same thing has happened to Schumacher, the expectations have been unrealistic and the press has been ruthless. If Massa started beating Alonso regularly you can bet the knives would be out for the Spaniard just as it was for his predecessor.

  15. Fixy (@fixy) said on 15th October 2011, 10:34

    So why’s di Resta ahead of Sutil?

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