Mark Webber (1:37.242) won pole for the 2012 Korean Grand Prix, taking the fastest lap from teammate Sebastian Vettel after the flag and leaving the German unable to respond. Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, and Kimi Raikkonen completed the fastest five qualifiers in the dramatic final seconds of Q3. In Q2, Vettel took charge and never looked back: sitting in his garage as the rest of the drivers went back out to fight.
In the end, Daniel Ricciardo pulled to the side of the track with a gearbox issue, forcing some drivers to lift in the middle of fast laps. Jenson Button dropped out in that session, qualifying only eleventh fastest. Q1 saw some drama at the end, as only a late scrubbed lap from Bruno Senna kept Alonso and Hamilton in the fight for pole. The Brazilian might have dropped Hamilton or both of the drivers out, but Williams called him to pit with continued front wing issues. Charles Pic will add a ten place penalty to his twenty-first qualifying position after Marussia changed his engine Friday night.
Hamilton (1:39.148) set the fastest time at the end of the first practice session, after Alonso had held the position for much of the session. The Spaniard set the fast time early and stayed on top by continually improving his time, while Hamilton dropped in late in the session in the middle of a long run. Webber, Massa, and Vettel completed the fastest five, showing good pace for Ferrari and Red Bull. Little disrupted the session as drivers cleared off the dust from the Korean track.
In the second Friday practice, Vettel (1:38.832) took control with teammate Webber just three hundredths slower. They continued to trade the top position all session after Webber took control for the team at halfway. Alonso, Button, and Schumacher rounded out the top five while first session leader Hamilton was only eighth fastest. Perez ended his session early with actuator issues, but no one caused a red flag or did more than spin during the running.
Vettel (1:37.642) led again in the final practice, setting a lap time a half second quicker than next fastest Hamilton. Button, Grosjean, and Raikkonen rounded out the top five, as Alonso, Webber, Massa, Maldonado, and Hulkenberg completed the fastest ten. Little beyond the typical time trading occurred, but for a software issue for Webber, according to the BBC’s Sarah Holt on Twitter, “A case of computer says no for Webber’s car in P3. Christian Horner explains a wrong code in the software meant the engine wouldn’t start.” Senna also had some issues with his front wing, but Williams quickly made the change.
The sky remained overcast as the twenty minutes of Q1 began, with Kovalainen the first out on track. Two minutes later, Maldonado and Di Resta joined him, as did the Lotus drivers soon thereafter. Five minutes into the session, only Kovalinen had posted a complete lap time, but nearly all the drivers were lapping. Only the Red Bulls, HRTs, Button, Massa, and Petrov remained in the garage. Soon Maldonado had taken over the top spot, as Di Resta slotted into second fastest. Raikkonen quickly took that position, with teammate Grosjean setting a rather slow first lap behind a Mercedes. Alonso’s (1:39.543) first lap put him fastest, beating Maldonado by two tenths. Meanwhile, some yellow flags were waving as Karthikeyan again had a brake issue, spinning dangerously behind another car. He radioed that he had a soft brake pedal, but soon continued on back to the garage.
Massa led just before halfway, more than a half second faster than his teammate, only to have Raikkonen (1:38.887) take the lead at halfway. Massa, Rosberg, Alonso, Di Resta, Maldonado, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, and Perez rounded out the top ten just before Button scooted into third fastest on his first fast lap. His teammate continued to lock up into the first turn, having not yet set a properly fast lap. Vettel and Webber joined the fray when nine minutes remained, just moments before much of the rest of the drivers returned to the garage. A minute later, Hamilton moved up to third, displacing his teammate by less than a tenth. Kovalainen, Glock, Pic, de la Rosa, Veettel, Webber, and Karthikeyan were all in the knockout zone with seven minutes to go, though neither Red Bull had yet set a time. Nor had Karthikeyan, who would not rejoin.
Vettel’s (1:38.208) first fast lap (third total lap) put him directly on top of the pile, as Webber soon joined him on an early provisional front row. Button snuck into second fastest at the six minute mark. As all likely drivers set times, Kovalainen, Petrov, Senna, Glock, Pic, de la Rosa, and the unlucky Indian were all in the knockout zone with five to go. Karthikeyan had suffered a broken brake disc. Vettel then led Button, Webber, Raikkonen, and Massa as the fastest five. Most of that relegation group were still in the garage two minutes later, but Senna continued to push to get out of Q1. Kovalainen and the others soon rejoined as well, looking to drop Kobayashi off the bubble and out. He did so, jumping up to twelfth. Meanwhile, both Alonso and Schumacher had already switched to the super soft tyres, sitting in the latter half of the top seventeen. Kobayashi moved up to fourth, only to have his teammate immediately displace him.
Even as Alonso dropped to fifteenth, and Schumacher seventeenth, Hamilton sat in the garage in fourteenth. Vergne put together a fast final lap to go sixth, dropping Schumacher out in Q1. He had only one sector left as the flag waved. He managed to jump up to eighth, as Alonso dropped to seventeenth. Alonso managed to move just up to sixteenth, with only Senna ready to displace him, as Hamilton dropped to the bubble. In the end, Senna aborted the lap. Vettel (1:38.208) led Webber, Button, Perez, Kobayashi, Vergne, Ricciardo, Schumacher, Grosjean, and Raikkonen as the top ten at the end of Q1. Alonso finished sixteenth and Hamilton seventeenth.
Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Bruno Senna
19. Vitaly Petrov
20. Heikki Kovalainen
21. Charles Pic
22. Timo Glock
23. Pedro de la Rosa
24. Narain Karthikeyan
No one rushed out onto the circuit for the fifteen minutes of Q2, though Perez and Kobayashi soon flew the flag for Sauber. Di Resta, then Vergne and Webber joined two minutes into the session, as did Alonso. Others quickly streamed out behind them. Four minutes into the session, only the Mercedes of Schumacher and Rosberg remained into the garage. Perez set the first time (1:38.981), only to be supplanted by four tenths by Kobayashi with ten minutes remaining. Di Resta slotted in between the two of them.
Most of the times came in just before halfway, with Vettel (1:37.767) leading Alonso, Hamilton, Webber, Massa, Grosjean, Button, Raikkonen, Kobayashi, and Di Resta in the top ten. Vettel had two tenths over Alonso, while they remained the only two dirvers in the 1:37s for qualifying. Rosberg, Perez, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Vergne, Maldonado, and Schumacher were all in the drop zone a minute later. Schumacher immediately moved up to seventh while most of the other drivers pitted for final changes.
Di Resta blinked first to head back out with just under four minutes remaining. Teammate Hulkenberg quickly followed, as did Ricciardo and Maldonado. All were in the knockout zone. Just before two minutes remained, only Vettel and Alonso remained in the garage. Alonso followed his teammate back onto the track while Vettel seemed contented with his fastest time. The drivers began their final laps as the final seconds ticked away. Hulkenberg moved up to seventh, dropping Di Resta to twelfth. Maldonado remained thirteenth, as Perez moved up from fifteenth to tenth. Ricciardo pulled off with a likely gearbox issue, forcing some drivers to slow during a section. Raikkonen moved up to fifth, but the biggest drama came from Button, who dropped down and out in eleventh. Vettel (1:37.767) led Alonso, Hamilton, Webber, Raikkonen, Massa, Gosjean, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, and Schumacher into the fight for pole in Q3.
Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Jenson Button
12. Sergio Perez
13. Kamui Kobayashi
14. Paul Di Resta
15. Pastor Maldonado
16. Daniel Ricciardo
17. Jean-Eric Vergne
Again, there was no rush to get out as the light went green for the ten minutes of Q3. However, thirty seconds into the session brought a massive rush to rejoin the track. Both Mercedes drivers sat for a long time to the side at the green light. Just over one minute into the session, all drivers had begun lapping. Though Hulkenberg went out, he soon returned to the garage having set just two sector times. Rosberg soon did the dame, despite some quick sector times, then so did teammate Schumacher. After the first early laps and halfway through the session, Alonso led Webber, Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, and Grosjean. Vettel (1:37.316) took provisional pole on his first fast lap, by three tenths over Alonso.
They all slowed on the next lap, returning to the garage. Hulkenberg was the first back out, with just under three minutes to go. Webber and Hamilton followed, as did everyone but Vettel and Grosjean. The former joined just before two minutes remained, as did the latter. Hamilton snuck out around a Mercedes, passing on the crew side of pit lane. All had time only for one timed lap. All made it across the line before the checkered flag flew, with Grosjean the last man on the track. Webber looked to have a solid fast lap, moving up to provisional pole. Hamilton moved up himself, but only to third fastest. Rosberg, despite a fast first sector, managed only eighth. Meanwhile, Alonso pushed, but was not able to make more than fourth. On his final lap, Vettel lost time in the first and second sectors to his teammate, leaving Webber the glory of pole and complaining about Massa on the radio after everything shook out.
Final Qualifying Times for the 2012 Korean Grand Prix:
Driver Team Time Laps 1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:37.242 17 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:37.316 13 3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:37.469 16 4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.534 19 5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:37.625 17 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:37.884 16 7. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:37.934 20 8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.266 18 9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.361 17 10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:38.513 18 11. Jenson Button McLaren 1:38.441 11 12. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:38.460 13 13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:38.594 14 14. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:38.643 15 15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:38.725 16 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:39.084 13 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:39.340 14 18. Bruno Senna Williams 1:39.443 9 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:40.207 7 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:40.333 10 21. Charles Pic* Marussia 1:41.317 8 22. Timo Glock Marussia 1:41.371 8 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:42.881 7 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT n/t 1
*ten place grid penalty for engine change