Vettel on pole for Korean Grand Prix

By Alan Baldwin

YEONGAM, South Korea (Reuters) - Red Bull's Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole position at the Korean Grand Prix on Saturday while closest title rival Fernando Alonso qualified only fifth for Ferrari.

Vettel, who chalked up his third pole position in a row, will have Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes to keep him company on the front row for Sunday's race but the German's car was once again comfortably quicker.

Vettel's flying lap of one minute 37.202 seconds was 0.218 seconds faster than 2008 world champion Hamilton, who had kept him off the top of the timesheets in both Friday practice sessions.

The German is 60 points clear of Alonso in the standings, with five races to go after Yeongam, and is chasing his fourth consecutive win with a fourth successive title fast approaching.

Alonso would have been further down the grid had Australian Mark Webber, Vettel's team mate, not collected a 10 place penalty for taking a post-race 'taxi ride' on the Spaniard's car in Singapore two weeks ago.

Webber, who was on pole in Korea last year, qualified third but will start outside the top 10 with even more of a mountain to climb than Alonso.

"I think it was fairly close. I had a very good lap in Q3 (the final phase), on my first attempt. I knew it would be tricky for me to beat that time, for myself" Vettel said after celebrating his 42nd career pole.

"As expected Mercedes was very strong. So it's a tight battle ... we have got the balance right this weekend and I improved the car from yesterday as I was not entirely happy after practice."

Qualifying conditions were cooler than in practice, although Vettel was also quickest in the final session on Saturday morning, and Sunday could see some rain although the threat of a typhoon has receded.

"I don't mind, it's not a disaster if it starts to rain, we have rain tyres in the garage," said the 26-year-old.

"When I arrived on Wednesday, it was very windy but it has died down since then and I think the typhoon has changed direction."

STORMING STARTS

Vettel and Alonso are the only drivers to have won in Korea since the race made its debut in 2010 and Red Bull's triple champion is chasing his hat-trick at Yeongam.

Alonso has made storming starts his trademark this season and was confident he would have plenty of overtaking opportunities even if he might have to bide his time.

"Here, for the first corner there is not enough space to really attack and so we pass one by one through turn one. So we will try to attack in turn three and turn four," he told reporters.

"(It) will be not too difficult to overtake with the two DRS (drag reduction system) points. So the start will not be as crucial as maybe Singapore," added Alonso.

The Spaniard will have both Mercedes drivers ahead of him with Nico Rosberg lining up in fourth place and Lotus's Romain Grosjean in third, right behind Vettel.

"We got the most out of the car. It has been a good qualifying for us and hopefully tomorrow we will be able to fight with them (Red Bull)" said Hamilton. "There's threats all around but I'm looking forward.

"A couple of years ago, I was on pole and Seb got past me at the start, so I'd like to repay him on that one."

Both the Saubers made it into the top 10, with Nico Hulkenberg to start seventh.

For only the second time this season, neither of the McLarens made it through to the final session with Mexican Sergio Perez qualifying 11th and 2009 champion Jenson Button alongside in 12th.

Both Williams drivers, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado and Finland's Valtteri Bottas, failed to make it through the first phase.

Marussia's French driver Jules Bianchi was reprimanded and given a three place demotion - meaningless since he qualified on the back row anyway - for impeding Force India's Paul Di Resta, who qualified 15th.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford/Amlan Chakraborty)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

The former England batsman will have to lead the franchise as he is out of the match against Bangalore with a finger injury. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

Kiwi all-rounder wants to utilise the India leg to explore the country’s tourist attractions. More »

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Says his mother made him change his mind. More »