Mark Webber snatched the pole position from teammate Sebastian Vettel as Red Bull dominated qualifying for the South Korean Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday.
Webber clocked 1 minute 37.242 seconds for the 5.615km lap on the Korea International Circuit to earn his second pole of the season.
Two-times reigning champion Vettel was unable to better that mark after making a small mistake and being held up by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in his final lap.
Vettel had 1:37.316, ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton (1:37.469) and championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari (1:37.534).
Alonso tops the standings with 194 points from 15 of 20 races, but Vettel is just four points behind after winning the past two races and can reclaim top spot on Sunday for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus ranks third on 157, Hamilton has 152, Webber 134 and McLaren’s Jenson Button 131.
Vettel seemed a little annoyed with his team that he wasn’t informed about Massa but later shrugged off the incident as a “misunderstanding.”
“The pole was possible. (But) you can’t blame Felipe and traffic.
I wasn’t at my best in the second sector (of the final lap). Now I will concentrate on tomorrow,” the German said.
Vettel will go top in the championship with a repeat win in Yeongam regardless how Alonso, who won the inaugural Korean race in 2010, fares, as the winner gets 25 points to the 18 for a runner-up.
“I think second is a good position to start with. There’s a long straight after the start so it could be interesting tomorrow,” Vettel said.
The second straight front row for Red Bull underlined the team’s current strength and Webber was happy to earn his first pole on the track this season after inheriting it (and winning) in Monaco because of a grid penalty for the fastest qualifier Michael Schumacher.
“I’m happy to get the job done reasonably well. We did it when it counted and that’s what it’s all about. I’m happy to start on pole, but tomorrow is the main day,” he said.
Hamilton said he expects a difficult race because Red Bull “have clearly made a very big step” forward. But there was also disappointment at the McLaren camp because Button failed to make the final qualifying round and will start from 11th.
Ferrari and Alonso were happy with fourth place as the Scuderia has struggled in qualifying almost all season, and they will hope that their good race pace will lift them over the 55 laps on Sunday.
“We have made another step in the right direction in qualifying.
The target was to start from the second or third row at least and we have. Now we focus on the race,” team principal Stefano Domenicali said.