F1 Valencia Quali Results & Report: Vettel Continutes to Dominate to Pole

What Happens When Domination is the Name of the Game

9:12am EST — Sebastian Vettel (1:36.975) took pole for the 2011 European Grand Prix, with the fastest lap ever set on the dusty streets of Valencia. He came under fire at the end of the session from teammate Mark Webber, who could not quite best the young German and had to settle for a front row start. Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, and Jenson Button complete the first three rows for Sunday’s race. Webber and Alonso were very nearly knocked out in Q1, attempting to save soft tires while Massa was forced to use his at the very end of that first session. Though Q2 was red flagged for Pastor Maldonado getting stuck in the middle of the circuit, there were no other major incidents.

Three different drivers of two teams posted the fastest time for each of the three practice sessions. Webber (1:40.403) led the Friday morning session, with Alonso (1:37.968) taking over for the afternoon session, and Vettel (1:37.258) on top Saturday morning with the fastest time of the weekend. Only Alonso was in the top five in each of the sessions, lapping at least third fastest in all three. Massa, Hamilton, Petrov, Heidfeld, Schumacher, and Button were all in the five fastest at the end of a session or two.

All three sessions were remarkably uneventful, with only Nico Hulkenberg causing much damage. The reserve Force India driver damaged the left-side suspension of Paul di Resta’s car Friday morning, allowing the Scot only ten minutes of running time in the afternoon. While there were many spins and slides, nothing caused such extensive damage. In possibly the most important news of Saturday, it is now against the rules to change engine mapping between qualifying and the race.

Heidfeld was the first to take that track for the twenty minutes of Q1, with di Resta following. Two thirds of the field was out within the first two minutes. Heidfeld’s (1:41.897) was the first time, with the other runners posting times immediately. Schumacher’s time put him second fastest, with Alonso going fifth. Times and the order changed often as drivers improved upon their own times. Webber’s (1:40.429) first time was good enough to go fastest, with Massa second fastest. Vettel soon overtook his teammate, by nearly a half second. Alonso then put his Ferrari second fastest in a session where fastest was not the most important position. Button (1:39.605) was soon fastest as the halfway point approached.

Vettel (1:39.356) led again when ten minutes remained, with Button, Massa, Alonso, Hamilton, Webber, Sutil, Petrov, Heidfeld, and Kovalainen completed the top ten. Liuzzi, D’Ambrosio, and Karthikeyan were in the knockout zone with Maldonado, Perez, Buemi, and Alguersuari who had not yet set times. Soon, Hamilton (1:39.244) was fastest as the times dropped, though they did not yet reach those set in the morning practice. However, Vettel reasserted his dominance and went fastest yet again, by just over a tenth.

With six minutes to go, Perez was fourth fastest on his first lap, on the softer tires. He was eclipsed by Buemi on his own first fast lap at the five minute mark. Trulli, Glock, Liuzzi, D’Ambrosio, and Karthikeyan were in the knockout zone and joined by Kobayashi with Alguersuaris’ first lap putting him tenth fastest. Massa, down in seventh, switched to the softer tires with time for another lap.

As the minutes and seconds ticked away, Kovalainen looked possibly able to move on to Q2, though Sutil was third fastest on the softer tires, with Maldonado fifth. The order continued to shift with the use of soft tires. Webber, though, was in serious danger down in seventeenth, improving only to fifteenth, with Massa then in seventeenth. The top seven pitted as the session ended, with Massa going fastest of all to get himself out of the danger zone and sacrificing a set of soft tires to do so. Trulli spun in the final trun as the session was ending, spinning about and going into the pit lane, but causing a local yellow nonetheless. Massa led at the end of Q1, with Vettel, Schumacher, Hamilton, Rosberg, Sutil, Button, Perez, Barrichello, and Buemi the top ten. Alonso was thirteenth, Webber sixteenth.

Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Alguersuari
19. Kovalainen
20. Trulli
21. Glock
22. Liuzzi
23. D’Ambrosio
24. Karthikeyan

Massa (on the same soft tires from Q1), Barrichello, and di Resta were the first out for the fifteen minutes of Q2, followed by much of the rest of the seventeen drivers participating in the session. Massa (1:38.566) set the first time of the session with eleven minutes remaining, with only Alonso then Webber going faster. Alonso was the first to post a 1:37, only to have Vettel go more than four tenths faster. Button, then Hamilton went second fastest as the drivers completed fast laps.

Vettel (1:37.305) led Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, Massa, Heidfeld, Sutil, and di Resta with nine minutes remaining. Only Petrove and Buemi had yet to set a time, with di Resta dropping into the knockout zone with Schumacher’s first time.

Red Flag:
Maldonado stopped in the middle of Turn 20, getting stuck in second gear after allowing a car through, bringing out yellow flags. With the marshals unable to get the car moved immediately, the session was red flagged with 7:59 left. At that point, di Resta, Barrichello, Maldonado, Perez, Kobayashi, Petrov, and Buemi were in the knockout zone. The latter two had not yet set a time.

The session restarted soon thereafter, with no one in a rush to get back onto the circuit. Kobayashi was the first out, along with Barrichello as those in the relegation zone looked to move forward. The top seven (Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, and Massa) remained in the garage with four minutes to go. Schumacher moved up to seventh, with Massa and Ferarri feeling the pressure and heading out “on new Options. ” The German soon moved up and dropped teammate Rosberg to seventh. The Force Indias, Barrichello, the Saubers, and Buemi were about to be knocked out as the seconds disappeared. Buemi aborted his final lap while Sutil managed to get tenth and move forward. Top five Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Alonso, and Webber all stayed in the garage and maintained their positions.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Petrov
12. di Resta
13. Barrichello
14. Kobayashi
15. Maldonado
16. Perez
17. Buemi

Alonso was the first out for the ten minutes of Q3, quickly followed by half of the ten men fighting for pole. Soon all but Schumacher, Heidfeld, and Sutil were out, though no times had been set with three minutes gone. Alonso’s 1:37.454 was the first time, with Massa second fastest. Button split the Ferraris on his first lap, with Hamilton taking provisional pole by less than a tenth. Webber went third on his first lap, only to have Vettel go fastest of all, and the first man into 1:36.975 (the fastest lap ever at Valencia) at the halfway mark of the session.

Vettel led Hamilton, Alonso, Webber, Button, and Massa s the top six and only men to have set times with five minutes remaining. Two minutes later, only Rosberg was on the track, with his first time only enough for seventh. Heidfeld was the first back out, for his only lap with three minutes to go. Webber soon rejoined, with Schumacher and Alonso out as well.

When two minutes remained, only Sutil was still in the garage as even Vettel began lapping again. Rosberg pitted, as did Heidfeld, with less than a minute remaining which left seven drivers on the track. Alonso was a tiny bit quicker then Vettel through his first sector, but lost it in the second. Webber, though, went second fastest on his final lap, forcing Alonso and Hamilton to abort their laps. In the end, Vettel also aborted his lap after no one was able to best his earlier time.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2011 European Grand Prix:

Driver Team Time Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:36.975 15
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:37.163 19
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:37.380 13
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.454 20
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:37.535 20
6. Jenson Button McLaren 1:37.645 14
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:37.231 15
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:38.240 18
9. Nick Heidfeld Renault no time 17
10. Adrian Sutil Force India no time 14
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:39.068 14
12. Paul di Resta Force India 1:39.422 16
13. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:39.489 19
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:39.525 17
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:39.645 10
16. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:39.657 13
17. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:39.711 8
18. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:40.232 5
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:41.664 10
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:42.234 9
21. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:42.553 9
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1:43.584 10
23. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing 1:43.735 6
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:44.363 9

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