Vettel claims pole ahead of Webber at South Korea GP


Yeongam (South Korea): Sebastian Vettel claimed the pole position Saturday for the inaugural South Korean Formula One Grand Prix ahead of championship leader and Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.

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The Red Bull duo meant business in the dying seconds of qualifying to steal the pole from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who is their main rival in a thrilling title race.

Webber leads the standings with 220 points from 16 of 19 races, ahead of Vettel and Alonso, who have 206 points each. McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are also in the frame with 192 and 189 points, respectively.

Hamilton was fourth Saturday while Button had to settle for seventh.

Red Bull stole the show yet again, occupying the front row for the second time in a row and and taking a 14th pole in 17 qualifyings.

Vettel clocked 1 minute 35.585 seconds on the new 5.621-kilometres Korea International Circuit course as he pipped Webber (1:35.659), with Alonso on 1:35.766.

“We had a strong qualifying all in all. It was important to stay cool after some problems Friday,” said Vettel after his ninth pole of the season.

“The job is done for today, now we must focus on tomorrow.”

Vettel had problems with a puncture Friday and came only 16th in practice Saturday as the team struggled to get the best set-up.

The Australian Webber was not fully satisfied as he will have to start the 55-lap race from the dirty side of the track which is seen as a disadvantage on a new race track.

“It would have been nice to get pole but it is a good place to start the race. Fernando will be pretty solid off the line, for sure. But that is not going to make or break the world championship,” said Webber.

The former two-time champion Alonso was happy with third place as Ferrari have struggled in qualifying for most parts of the season.

Alonso, who won two of the last three races, will be a real threat for Webber and possibly Vettel as well from the clean side of the track.

“P3 is our maximum potential today which in a way is good news because qualifying is not our strong point. But it seems we are closer to the Red Bulls here, which is good news for tomorrow’s race,” the Spaniard said.

With a victory worth 25 points and three races left in the season, Vettel and Alonso have an excellent chance to catch Webber, who knows that he can not afford any major slip-ups.

McLaren, meanwhile, have lost ground in recent races after Hamilton once led the standings. Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said he was “disappointed” as Saturday’s qualifying did not really indicate a turnaround.

Hamilton will have to start from the dirty side just as Webber. Button, who struggled with tyre temperatures all day, hopes to rebound from his seventh place from the clean side of the grid.