Mark Webber on F1 Pole
April 4, 2010
SEPANG, Malaysia — Red Bull driver Mark Webber took the pole position for the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix after a chaotic rain-swept qualifying session on Saturday, while the McLarens and Ferraris will start near the back after badly misjudging the weather.
Webber’s time of 1 minute 49.327 seconds around the Sepang circuit put him in front of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg— who will start on the front row of a grand prix for the first time — and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
The third and final part of qualifying was red flagged and suspended for 18 minutes due to the amount of standing water on the track.
When it restarted, Webber profited by being the only one of the top 10 drivers to take a risk and switch to intermediate tires rather than the full wets, and avoided the puddles to take the third pole of his career, and the third straight for Red Bull in the three races so far this season.
“I kept it on the black stuff and got the job done,” Webber said. “I didn’t know I was the black sheep, but we made the decision and it was about putting it together.”
LINEUP: Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying results
The rain jumbled the grid positions, with Force India’s Adrian Sutil taking fourth and Williams rookie Nico Hulkenberg in fifth, making it four Germans on the grid behind Webber.
Renault’s Robert Kubica qualified sixth ahead of Williams’ Rubens Barrichello and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi rounded out the top 10.
Ferrari and McLaren both gambled and lost in the first part of qualifying. Rain began to fall less than 10 minutes before the start, and while some drivers went out immediately to set a time in case the conditions deteriorated, Ferrari and McLaren waited, trusting in their radars that the conditions would clear.
However the rain got heavier, and the Ferraris and McLaren had no hope of matching those early times as the track got so wet as to force a swap from intermediate to wet-weather tires.
McLaren’s Jenson Button slid off the circuit into a gravel trap in the opening session, and while his previous time was good enough to technically make it into the second session, he could take no part and will start 17th.
“We read it wrong basically,” Button said. “We thought that first rain storm was it and there was nothing else coming, so we waited, and it was obviously the wrong thing to do.”
His teammate Lewis Hamilton will begin from 20th, standing no chance as the rain continued to fall.
“It was treacherous out there. We were sliding around and aquaplaning everywhere. Of course with hindsight we would have gone out earlier, but hindsight is a wonderful thing,” Hamilton said.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was critical of his team for not putting at least one lap in the bank early.
“For sure we need to avoid these type of mistakes,” Alonso said.
“We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the race is tomorrow — we saw last week in Melbourne that we can get results from the back of the grid so we will just have to make sure we do that.”
Massa also said “it was a mistake and the wrong call.”
On its official Twitter feed, Ferrari said: “There is not too much to say, we waited too long in the garage and, together with others, we made a mistake which was paid highly.”
Rosberg was anticipating a strong performance in the race, aided by having a few unlikely high qualifiers behind him and the Ferraris and McLarens.
“Its a special feeling being on the front row,” Rosberg said. “That is where I was hoping to be before the season so it’s nice to make that happen.”
Rosberg again outqualified his teammate and seven-time world champion Schumacher.
“I’m of course a bit disappointed because more could have come out of this,” Schumacher said.
“Eighth place is not quite optimal. But if the start works quite well, as in the other races too, then I should be able to get in front a bit at that time, and the race itself could suit me well.”
Vettel congratulated Webber on his bold choice of intermediate tires.
“Mark did the right decision at the right time,” Vettel said. “Going into Q3, I thought it was a little bit of a risk.”
The German also said it was the correct call by race authorities to suspend the final session of qualifying due to the dangerous conditions.
“It was impossible for all of us,” Vettel said. “There was too much standing water. The cars are so low that we ended up swimming instead of driving.”
Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying results
Qualifying results Saturday for Sunday’s Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix at the 5.543-kilometer (3.444-mile) Sepang circuit with driver, country, car, fastest lap time and laps completed:
1. Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull, 1 minute, 49.327 seconds, 18 laps.
2. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes, 1:50.673, 22.
3. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull, 1:50.789, 19.
4. Adrian Sutil, Germany, Force India, 1:50.914, 21.
5. Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Williams, 1:51.001, 22.
6. Robert Kubica, Poland, Renault, 1:51.051, 19.
7. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Williams, 1:51.511, 21.
8. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Mercedes, 1:51.717, 24.
9. Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Sauber, 1:51.767, 21.
10. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Italy, Force India, 1:52.254, 21.
Eliminated after 2nd session
11. Vitaly Petrov, Russia, Renault, 1:48.760, 15.
12. Pedro de la Rosa, Spain, Sauber, 1:48.771, 14.
13. Sebastien Buemi, Switzerland, Toro Rosso, 1:49.207, 15.
14. Jaime Alguersuari, Spain, Toro Rosso, 1:49.464, 16.
15. Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, Lotus, 1:52.270, 16.
16. Timo Glock, Germany, Virgin Racing, 1:52.520, 13.
17. Jenson Button, Britain, McLaren-Mercedes, no time set, 3.
Eliminated after 1st session
18. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Lotus, 1:52.884, 6.
19. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Ferrari, 1:53.044, 8.
20. Lewis Hamilton, Britain, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:53.050, 8.
21. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Ferrari, 1:53.283, 7.
22. Karun Chandhok, India, Hispania Racing, 1:56.299, 9.
23. Bruno Senna, Brazil, Hispania Racing, 1:57.269, 9.
24. Lucas di Grassi, Brazil, Virgin Racing, 1:59.977, 4.