It was as-you-were in qualifying for this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul, as F1's man of the moment Mark Webber did it again to see off all his rivals and make it three pole positions in swift succession – and with it maintain Red Bull Racing's peerless 100 per cent qualifying record in 2010.
In the all-important top ten shoot-out, Lewis Hamilton stole some of RBR's thunder by setting the early pace, but whilst Sebastian Vettel couldn't dislodge the McLaren-Mercedes star, his team-mate Webber could. All eyes, then, switched to the drivers' final runs, and it was Webber who headed out first.
Lowering his own benchmark time by just over two tenths of a second as he bade to successfully defend both his pole and his pole record, the Aussie was looking good, but Hamilton was also flying – only for an off-colour middle sector to disrupt the Briton's momentum and leave him short of snatching the advantage. Vettel, too, had no answer to Webber's searing pace and wound up third – the best part of half a second adrift – with Jenson Button ably backing Hamilton up in P4.
Michael Schumacher got the better of young team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes Grand Prix battle as the pair placed respectively fifth and sixth, though the elder German would end his session beached in the gravel trap following a high-speed spin at the end of which the record-breaking seven-time F1 World Champion only narrowly kept his MGP 001 out of the wall.
Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov ended up sandwiching Ferrari's Felipe Massa in seventh, eighth and ninth, with Kamui Kobayashi doing a good job to grab the final spot in tenth for Sauber. Not quite as good a job, however, as the pole-sitter, who has had to contend this weekend with an engine failure, hydraulic issues and handling woes – and yet still fought back to top the timesheets when it really counted. Should the New South Wales native remain trouble-free on Sunday, he could just install himself as new F1 2010 World Championship favourite.
Ahead of the top ten showdown, Red Bull and McLaren had turned Q2 into their own private internecine duel, as Messrs. Vettel, Webber, Hamilton and Button went at it hammer-and-tongs for the honour of setting fastest lap, with the German getting the verdict ahead of his team-mate, Hamilton, Mercedes' Rosberg, Massa and Button.
Rosberg, indeed, was outside the top ten with just three minutes to go but hauled himself to safety, but without doubt the greatest shock was the disappearance of double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, who got it all wrong on his penultimate effort, leaving himself under pressure on his final flyer – which, ahead of Ferrari's 800th grand prix, was good enough only for twelfth place.
The Spaniard was joined in exiting the fray by Adrian Sutil in eleventh, Pedro de la Rosa in 13th, Sébastien Buemi 14th, Rubens Barrichello Jaime Alguersuari and Nico Hülkenberg, all of whom had similarly flirted with danger in Q1. Completing the top ten were Petrov notably ahead of Renault team-mate Kubica – to secure the young Russian's first-ever appearance in Q3 – Kobayashi an excellent ninth and Schumacher just saving his skin by narrowly sneaking in to grab P10.
Earlier on in Q1, meanwhile, whilst the Red Bulls of a charging Vettel and only slightly slower Webber perhaps unsurprisingly set the pace – after a fashionably late entrance – ahead of Button, the impressive Petrov, Rosberg, Hamilton, Schumacher, Kubica, Alonso and Sutil, there was less good news for the sister Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi, who endured an 'off-piste' moment en route
to a lowly 18th spot, missing out on the Q2 cut by some four tenths of a second on his final effort.
The Italian was joined in the drop-off zone by the usual suspects of the three new teams Lotus, Virgin and Hispania, with one-lap specialist Jarno Trulli stealing the advantage for the former by almost three tenths of a second, ahead of team-mate Heikki Kovalainen – thereby securing the third Lotus new team 'front row' in the last four races – Timo Glock, Bruno Senna impressively getting the better of the second Virgin of Lucas Di Grassi for 22nd and Karun Chandhok bringing up the order after a brief 'off' of his own at Turn Ten.
To see the qualifying times in full, click here