Yeongam, South Korea, Oct 13, 2012 (AFP) - Mark Webber pipped his team-mate and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel to the line to grab pole position for Sunday's Korean Grand Prix, ensuring a front-row lock-out for Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton's McLaren will be on the second row, alongside Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, who leads the drivers' championship by four points over Vettel -- in South Korea on the back of successive victories.
Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus was fifth-fastest, followed by Alonso's Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa. They were ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg of Force India.
The Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher rounded out the top 10 at a dry but cool Yeongam.
A notable absentee from the top 10 shootout was Jenson Button of McLaren, who bowed out in the second qualifying session, along with the Sauber duo of Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi, who was third last week in his native Japan.
Vettel was quickest in the final practice and in the first two sessions of qualifying. He appeared set for pole until Webber left it late in the session to steam home in one minute 37.242 seconds, just 0.074 seconds ahead.
It was the 200th Formula One pole for Red Bull's engine supplier Renault and the second Red Bull one-two at the front of the pack in as many weeks.
"Very very happy to get the job done," said Webber, who started on pole at Monaco in May, but only after Schumacher was relegated five places on the grid for an incident in Barcelona. Webber won in Monaco, as he did at the British GP.
"It was a reasonable lap," added the cool-headed Australian, who goes into Sunday's race fifth in the drivers' standings with four races to go after this weekend. Mathematically he is still in the title hunt.
"It's been a tricky last few weeks for me," he reflected, having seen his championship ambitions slowly fade away after finishes of 20th, 11th and ninth in the last three races.
"It's a great place to start the race from. I'm looking to get off the first corner very well, that's important as there are two long straights after that."
After appearing angry, Vettel said he did not blame an engineer for a mix-up over the team radio that saw him run up against the back of Massa, slowing him down during his last run.
"Overall we can be very happy," he said. "We were quite quick in qualifying sessions one and two."
He added: "I thought that Felipe (Massa) was pitting but I don't believe that you can blame my lap time on Felipe or traffic in the last sector.
"It's true, it was not an ideal situation but if someone has to take the blame then it is me because I think that pole position was within reach today."
Alonso, who has seen Vettel close his lead at the top of the drivers' standings to the most slender of margins, said it was "a step forward compared to Japan" -- where he went out at the first corner with a puncture.
The Spaniard added that his Ferrari needed more pace -- something he has said since the start of the season.
"We must improve it and I expect to see some updates coming, right from the next race in India" he said. "It's no surprise to see the Red Bulls on the front row, it's not by chance they were fastest in Q1 and Q2."
He said of his aim in the race, "It's very simple -- to finish ahead of Vettel."
Mercedes were fined 10,000 euros ($13,000) for an "unsafe release" after Schumacher was involved in a near-collision with Hamilton in the pit lane.
The German seven-time world champion pulled sharply out of the garage, causing the McLaren man to swerve to avoid hitting him. Hamilton, who struggled badly in the first qualifying session, brushed off the incident.
"It wasn't a problem, I just -- instead of braking right down -- sort of drove around him. So it wasn't an issue," he said.
"We are not far off," he added of his chances in Korea. "I'm just happy to get a clear lap."
Hamilton, fourth in the standings and still in with a shout of the championship title, cautioned: "But Red Bull have some serious pace."
Below the times for the qualifying session:
|1||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing||1:38.397||1:38.220||1:37.242||17|
|2||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing||1:38.208||1:37.767||1:37.316||13|
|8||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:38.981||1:38.428||1:38.266||18|
|14||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:38.942||1:38.643||15|
|23||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT||1:42.881||7|
|24||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT-||No time||1|
|Q1 107% Time||1:45.082|