Sebastian Vettel was left celebrating having narrowly secured an impressive ninth pole position from 17 races in F1 2010 ahead of Sunday's inaugural Korean Grand Prix, reflecting that it was a 'special feeling' for him after losing vital preparation time the previous day.
Despite challenges from title rivals Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes during both practice and Q1, from Q2 it started to become apparent that Red Bull Racing had a little in-hand for when they needed it, and whilst Fernando Alonso laid down a pole position marker during the all-important top ten shoot-out, both Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber subsequently blew that time out of the water to make it the eighth RBR front row lock-out of the campaign.
Even more significantly for Vettel, with world championship leader Webber beginning from the dirty side of the track on race day, the grand prix represents an ideal opportunity for him to at least halve the 14-point deficit currently separating him from the top of the title standings with two outings remaining after Korea. The battle is on.
“It's a special feeling to be on pole,” the young German confessed, having quipped after practice the previous day that he had experienced 'a crash-course in sliding around and drifting'. “It was a small margin for pole and very close, but it was enough and it was a good result as yesterday we didn't have smooth running. We had a puncture early on in FP2, so I hadn't done too many laps on the new track, which makes it harder to get into a rhythm.
“The track is good here; in the first sector there's not so much you can do – just hit your braking-points at the right time – but the second and third sectors are quite entertaining with nice flowing corners, and it's easy to make a mistake. Sector one doesn't look like our (Red Bull's) home ground – that's not in our hands – but we can fight back in the second and third sectors.”
Indeed, given that both Ferrari's F10 and McLaren's MP4-25 seem to have an edge over the Renault-powered RB6 through the first sector – with the 1.2km-long straight playing no small part in that – there are concerns inside the energy drinks-backed outfit that despite sitting one-two on the starting grid, it may well be neither Vettel nor Webber in the lead later on around the opening lap. The 23-year-old Heppenheim native insists all he can do is to get the most out of what he has underneath him.
“You have to take every race as it comes,” he stressed. “Japan was a good result, but now in Korea all the focus is on tomorrow's race. The car was quick today, no doubt, but you still need to get the job done and the most important thing is that you remain calm, which we all did as we knew what we had in us. We got the job done today, but let's see for tomorrow.”