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LIVE COMMENTARY: 2010 KOREAN GRAND PRIX - QUALIFYING
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
Korea
Korea © Sutton
04:45 Hello everyone and welcome back to AUTOSPORT Live as we continue blow-by-blow coverage of the inaugural Korean Grand Prix weekend from the all-new Yeongam circuit in the south west of the country.

The practice sessions have been completed and now it is time to qualify for round 17 of the 2010 FIA Formula 1 world championship.

Overnight track modifications were semi-successful this morning, during a frantic and enthralling final practice period. The drivers started off the session by altering their line into Turns 16 and 18 slightly, but as the hour continued they realised they could start taking more and more of a bite out of the apex of each of the corners, which began to damage the freshly-laid concrete.

With no time for further modifications, the final sector of the lap could be the most important place to keep an eye on as the session unfolds. Qualifying is always about gaining as much of an advantage as you can, and the drivers will have no choice but to cut these two corners as much as possible.

Up front the battle is extremely close between the Red Bulls, McLarens, Ferraris and Robert Kubica, who is continuing to perform heroics in the Renault. We are set for an epic battle between these top seven drivers this afternoon.

Kubica was on top form this morning
Kubica was on top form this morning © Sutton
04:47 Robert Kubica threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the Formula 1 field by taking the fastest time as the soft tyre runs dominated the final minutes of practice.

Under heavily overcast skies, the cars rolled out onto the circuit this morning for the standard round of installation laps. A period of brinkmanship soon followed, but Jaime Alguersuari broke the silence and was the first to complete a serious run of laps in the Toro Rosso.

The benchmark time changed hands at least 10 times during the course of the hour, but it was the Pole - cruelly robbed of a race up front at Suzuka two weeks ago by a loose wheelnut - who blasted his way to the top of the charts with a lap of 1m37.354s during a final surge of soft tyre, qualifying simulation laps.

Lewis Hamilton once again underlined that he will be a threat this weekend by finishing just 0.048 seconds behind Kubica, with Alonso third for Ferrari after being balked badly by Rosberg on his final run. Championship leader Mark Webber was fourth with Rosberg fifth, Massa sixth, and Jenson Button in seventh position.

The top four drivers were covered by less than one-tenth of a second, setting us up for a potentially fantastic Q3 scrap this afternoon.

Kubica tops final practice in Korea

04:49 Conditions remain overcast but dry as we go into the all-important knockout qualifying battle.

The heavy cloud cover this afternoon will limit maximum temperature to just 19 degrees Celsius, while humidity climbs towards 80 percent.

Light rain is on the move towards the Yeongam circuit, but is not expected to reach the Korean peninsula until after dark.

04:50 Keep up to speed with our minute-by-minute commentary on the move with the AUTOSPORT app.

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04:51 Here is how the qualifying battle is shaping up within the teams:
Qualifying head-to-head

Button          5 - 11     Hamilton
Schumacher	3 - 13     Rosberg
Vettel		9 - 7      Webber
Massa		4 - 12     Alonso
Barrichello    11 - 5      Hulkenberg
Kubica	       15 - 1      Petrov
Sutil	       14 - 2      Liuzzi
Buemi	       11 - 5      Alguersuari
Trulli		8 - 8      Kovalainen
Senna		5 - 0      Yamamoto
Heidfeld	1 - 1      Kobayashi
Glock	       14 - 2 	   Di Grassi
McLaren's revised rear wing is helping take the fight to Red Bull here
McLaren's revised rear wing is helping take the fight to Red Bull here © Sutton
04:53 A fascinating qualifying battle is in store with McLaren, Ferrari and Renault all looking to halt Red Bull's charge to pole thanks to the contrasting nature of the circuit at Yeongam.

Red Bull's rivals are very strong through the first sector, which features three long straights, ideally-suited to an optimised F-duct. However, Webber and Vettel are clawing back much of the time through the twisting final segment that plays to the strengths of the RB6, meaning there is no clear favourite for pole heading in to the grid-deciding hour.

The teams also have to contend with a tricky tyre strategy for the race tomorrow. The softer tyre compound provided a considerable advantage for the best laptimes during final practice, but the slippery surface - thanks to clouds of dust emerging whenever a driver clips the surrounding grass - is proving a challenge for Bridgestone's rubber.

"When the dust gets on the racing line, then the grip drops too much," Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima told AUTOSPORT. "That is causing the graining we have seen. So the best story like that would make the race like Bahrain. But in the worst case, if it is still dusty, then it could maybe be worse than Canada."

Those in the pole position shootout will have little choice but to deploy the softer tyres, but they will go into the race tomorrow with clear concerns about the durability of the rubber on full tanks of fuel.

04:55 There are just five minutes to go until the qualifying battle gets underway in Korea.

04:55 The track temperature is up slightly to 28 Celsius this afternoon.

04:57 Workers have cleaned up and re-painted that additional concrete patch on the kerb at Turn 16.

04:58 An estimated 60,000 people are at the circuit, as Sebastian Vettel gets ready to put on his balaclava and helmet ahead of the start of the session.

04:59 There has been no support action on track since final practice, with a local Hyundai championship only scheduled to run later today.

0 min: The qualifying hour is underway in Korea.

0 min: Heikki Kovalainen is the first man out of the pits this afternoon.

1 min: Many of the drivers are waiting for a minute or two before going out.

1 min: Petrov joins Kovalainen on the circuit.

1 min: Nico Hulkenberg brings his Williams onto the circuit. He is followed out by Jaime Alguersuari and Bruno Senna.

1 min: Kobayashi is now also out in his Sauber, with Glock in the Virgin also starting a run.

2 min: Sakon Yamamoto is followed out by Barrichello and then Schumacher as Vettel slowly gets ready in the Red Bull garage.

2 min: Traffic is expected to be a problem in this segment, with a queue through the tight walled section likely to cause some anger.

2 min: Nico Rosberg joins the fray and he is followed out by Sebastien Buemi, bringing the total to 17 cars on track.

2 min: Kovalainen is on his first flying lap.

3 min: The key in this first phase of qualifying will be to get a clear lap and to make sure you stay on the road. An off-track incident here will kill the tyres.

3 min: Kovalainen already has the much quicker soft tyres on his Lotus. He sets the first time at a 1m45.450s.

4 min: Alonso is the first of the championship contenders to head out, with hard tyres on the Ferrari.

4 min: Schumacher posts the fastest first sector time so far as he bids to make an early mark in the Mercedes.

5 min: Alguersuari moves to the top of the list with a lap time of 1m41.270s.

5 min: Schumacher takes over at the front with 1m40.557s ahead of Alguersuari.

5 min: Hulkenberg slots in seventh place after his first effort with team-mate Barrichello down in 10th.

6 min: Alonso is on his first flying lap but he is catching traffic in the form of Heidfeld's Sauber.

6 min: Nico Rosberg caught traffic on his first effort and only managed 13th place with a time of 1m46.440s.

6 min: Alguersuari hammers round for another lap and he lowers the benchmark to 1m39.690s.

7 min: Alonso is forced to back off as Senna adds to his traffic problem.

7 min: Petrov is up to third quickest with the fastest first sector in his Renault.

8 min: Hamilton grabs the benchmark time with a lap of 1m38.677s.

8 min: Vettel and Webber have only just driven out of the Red Bull garage as they join the high-speed traffic jam.

8 min: Nico Hulkenberg is now quickest with a lap time of 1m38.561s.

8 min: Alonso secures 10th with his next effort after being forced to back off by yellow flags.

9 min: Kobayashi is second so far with Hamilton third, Petrov fourth, Alguersuari fifth and Schumacher in sixth.

9 min: Nico Rosberg pops up to third position in the Mercedes after posting a lap of 1m38.178s.

9 min: Hamilton is warming up to speed now on the hard tyre and he clocks a quick 1m37.517s - quickest so far.

10 min: Massa is now second quickest in his Ferrari.

10 min: Alonso pips Hamilton to take over at the top with a 1m37.395s.

10 min: The Red Bull duo are taking things carefully on this first lap. Vettel manages 1m38.509s for fifth.

10 min: Webber is down in ninth position after a lap of 1m38.813s.

11 min: Button is only just heading out for his first run. Kubica remains in the McLaren garage.

11 min: Glock and Kobayashi have been adding to the challenge with dusty offs in the last minute.

11 min: Jaime Alguersuari ran wide and kicked up the dust on his latest lap around the Korean International Circuit. The Spaniard was able to continue without damage.

11 min: Vettel is now up to second position with a lap time of 1m37.487s.

12 min: Hamilton is pushing for another time with a quick 52.443s first sector.

12 min: The order is now Alonso at the top of the tree with Vettel in second position, Hamilton third, Massa fourth, Rosberg fifth and Webber in sixth.

13 min: Hamilton takes back the leading time with a 1m37.113s, despite a couple of small wobbles through the closing half of the lap.

13 min: Kubica is finally heading out for the first time.

13 min: Sebastian Vettel is on the move and the German moves up one spot to second with a lap time of 1m37.123s on hard tyres.

14 min: Button has banked a time to go 14th and is now pushing to join the lead pack, but he is catching some traffic in the form of Petrov.

15 min: Mark Webber is pushing hard on this lap and he moves up to fourth position with a time of 1m37.373s.

15 min: Button moves up to 10th but he will be looking for more than that.

16 min: All 24 drivers have now laid down a time, with Nick Heidfeld joining the six drivers from the three new teams in the drop zone.

16 min: Kubica takes 11th with his first effort but has now encountered Senna. Both are on flying laps.

17 min: Kubica is forced to back off and find space for another attempt.

17 min: Heidfeld is in 18th position on 1m41.174s after a poor string of laps so far. His next target is Tonio Liuzzi in 17th place.

17 min: Heidfeld is on a much better lap this time using the soft tyres and he is set to move up the order.

18 min: Alonso is heading out for another run to help his knowledge of the track conditions.

18 min: Heidfeld moves up to 11th position and that puts Liuzzi in the drop zone in 18th.

19 min: The two Force Indias are in 17th and 18th. Barrichello is not safe yet either in 16th position.

19 min: Petrov and Hulkenberg clock faster times and are now seventh and eighth.

19 min: Schumacher improves to take ninth quickest in his Mercedes.

20 min: Liuzzi moves up from 18th to 15th and that puts his team-mate Sutil in the drop zone.

20 min: Barrichello pulls himself clear of the danger zone as the flag comes out.

20 min: Sutil is now on his best lap so far, and this could return his team-mate Liuzzi to the drop zone if he improves.

05:21 Button improves slightly but is still down in eighth.

05:21 The Force India game of musical chairs continues as Sutil moves up to 13th, putting Liuzzi in the dreaded 18th position.

05:21 Kubica is also edging forwards, taking sixth quickest in his Renault.

05:21 Liuzzi is on his final effort now ... he does not improve and remains in 18th position. He is eliminated.

05:22 Button says on the radio that he is struggling to get temperature into the harder tyres.

05:22 Jarno Trulli improved on his final effort to maintain 19th position for Lotus with a lap of 1m40.521s.

05:23 Up front, Hamilton topped the times from Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Massa and Kubica.

05:23 The first period of qualifying has been completed. The following seven drivers have been eliminated:

18) Liuzzi
19) Trulli
20) Glock
21) Kovalainen
22) di Grassi
23) Yamamoto
24) Senna.

05:25 Liuzzi fails to make it through to Q2 yet again. The margin on this occasion was 0.334 seconds.

05:25 Toro Rosso drivers Alguersuari and Buemi scraped through in 16th and 17th in the first period.

0 min: Q2 is underway in Korea.

0 min: The drivers that have made it through are now ready for the next challenge. They will have just 15 minutes to try and secure a berth in the top 10 shootout.

0 min: Massa is straight out to join the early runners.

0 min: Hulkenberg and Alguersuari are immediately out onto the circuit. They are followed by Buemi and Sutil.

0 min: Kubica is off to bank a time on the hader tyres, with Massa already going for soft rubber.

1 min: Vettel, Webber and Barrichello join them as the action begins early in Q2.

2 min: Alonso has hard tyres on his Ferrari as he heads around to bank a time.

2 min: Hulkenberg flashes across the line to begin his next timed lap on soft tyres.

3 min: Alguersuari posts 53.7 seconds in the first sector, but Hulkenberg is able to beat that by six-tenths of a second.

3 min: Massa is slow though the first sector as he begins his first flying lap on softs.

3 min: Alguersuari is the first man over the line in the 1m39.234s.

3 min: Hulkenberg soon sees off the threat from Alguersuari as he manages 1m38.058s.

4 min: Kubica sets the fastest first sector, where the Renault has been vying with McLaren for supremacy.

4 min: Hamilton has outbraked himself for the first corner, spoiling his first lap on hard tyres.

4 min: Vettel is the next man to top the list. The Red Bull driver clocks 1m37.224s.

4 min: Alonso takes the leading time with a quick 1m37.096s.

5 min: Michael Schumacher is using the soft tyres for this run of laps and he goes into third position with a time of 1m37.396s behind Alonso and Vettel.

5 min: Massa is looking quicker on his second lap with the soft tyres - 1m36.672s for the Brazilian on the much quicker rubber.

6 min: Vettel returns to the top of the list after a lap of 1m36.457s.

6 min: Hamilton slots in third quickest, demoted to fifth by improvements.

6 min: Mark Webber makes a Red Bull Racing one-two as he moves into second place with a time of 1m36.581s.

7 min: Rosberg is also on the softer tyres and he goes into sixth with 1m36.895s.

7 min: Button is only ninth fastest after his first attempt on hard tyres. He may need to deploy the soft rubber to get out of danger.

7 min: So Vettel tops the order with his team-mate Webber in second, Alonso third, Massa fourth, Hamilton fifth and Rosberg in sixth position.

8 min: Neither Sauber driver has been on track yet and both are clearly looking to do a single run.

8 min: The leading drivers are back into the pits for a change of tyres. Rosberg is the only driver on the circuit currently and he is also on his way back in.

8 min: Heidfeld finally heads out on soft rubber to take advantage of the ever-improving track conditions.

9 min: Alonso heads out with soft rubber on his Ferrari.

10 min: Kubica is also trying soft tyres for the first time this afternoon.

10 min: The Sauber drivers currently enjoy a clear track, but the front runners are likely to come out for their final run as Heidfeld and Kobayashi are trying to set a quick time.

10 min: Button's McLaren is fired up and he heads out to try and move out of his current ninth position.

10 min: Heidfeld crosses the line to start his and timed lap and immediately has Jenson Button in front of him down the long straight.

11 min: Button moves aside to give Heidfeld track position as the German continues round with soft tyres.

11 min: Kobayashi is now also on his timed lap but the Japanese driver will have to deal with much more traffic.

11 min: The timing screen reads OUT from top to bottom as everyone scrambles to take advantage of the best grip levels from the evolving track.

12 min: Heidfeld isn't pushing the Sauber too hard on this first lap. He posts 1m41.093s and launches into another tour.

12 min: Button has some clear space but Hamilton is closing on Algusuari's Toro Rosso on this first flying lap.

13 min: Alonso is on course for improvement with his best first and second sector times. He tops the order in 1m36.287s.

13 min: Kobayashi crosses the line and all 17 drivers have now set a time. Petrov, Hulkenberg, Alguersuari, Sutil and Buemi join the Sauber drivers in the drop zone.

14 min: Heidfeld improves with a lap of 1m37.970s but only moves up to 13th position.

14 min: Button finally moves up on the soft tyres. He's now seventh, but three-quarters of a second off the pace.

14 min: Kobayashi does much better with a time of 1m37.748s. He goes 11th, but is immediately replaced in that position by Nico Hulkenberg.

14 min: Vettel improves his time with a 1m36.437s in second for Red Bull.

15 min: Massa topples his team-mate with a new best of 1m36.169s.

15 min: The flag is out but the laps continue ...

05:42 Barrichello is 10th and living dangerously at the moment. Heidfeld improves again and is now 12th.

05:42 Hamilton is now the fastest man through the first sector and on course for a big improvement.

05:42 Alguersuari does not improve and he is eliminated in 15th position.

05:43 Vettel tops the times with a 1m36.039s as Hamilton slots in third.

05:43 It's all change again at the top as Webber takes over in 1m36.039s.

05:44 Kubica made a late improvement but only managed ninth.

05:44 The second period of qualifying has been completed. The following seven drivers have been eliminated:

11) Hulkenberg
12) Kobayashi
13) Heidfeld
14) Sutil
15) Petrov
16) Alguersuari
17) Buemi.

05:45 Michael Schumacher managed a late effort of 1m37.077s to go eighth and that was the lap that demoted to Kubica to ninth.

05:46 Vitaly Petrov's qualifying effort was destroyed when the Russian spun on his penultimate timed lap.

05:46 Petrov will drop to 20th on the grid after his penalty for the startline shunt in Japan is applied.

05:46 Nico Hulkenberg was looking good to join his team-mate Barrichello in the top 10 shootout, but the young German ran wide on his final effort.

05:48 Up front, it looks set to be a fascinating battle for pole with times very close between the championship contenders.

05:48 So these are the top 10 drivers who will fight for the best places on the grid for tomorrow's inaugural Korean Grand Prix, in the order that they finished Q2:

Mark Webber
Sebastian Vettel
Felipe Massa
Lewis Hamilton
Fernando Alonso
Nico Rosberg
Jenson Button
Michael Schumacher
Robert Kubica
Rubens Barrichello.

05:48 Massa is also on strong form this afternoon and will be looking to do some damage to Ferrari's rivals. He has used two sets of softs though.

05:50 The battle for a vital pole is underway at Yeongam.

0 min: Mark Webber is the first driver out onto the circuit and he is on a set of soft tyres.

0 min: Hamilton, Button and Alonso join the race out of the pitlane.

1 min: Alonso is disputing track position with Button on this outlap but will have to back off and find some space.

1 min: Vettel is also on soft tyres and he rolls out of the garage some time after the early group of runners.

1 min: Massa, a set of tyres down on his rivals, is waiting in the Ferrari garage.

2 min: Mark Webber flashes across the line and he is the first man to begin a timed lap in the shootout.

2 min: Webber hits the apex of Turn 3 nicely and he barrels down the next straight towards the twisty part of the course.

3 min: Alonso sets a very rapid first sector at 51.973s.

3 min: Webber's first sector time is slow at 53.0 seconds- we think after a slight error at Turn 1.

3 min: Webber sets the ball rolling with 1m36.917s.

3 min: Hamilton beats Webber with his 1m36.167s.

4 min: Alonso is quicker still with a very handy 1m35.927s.

4 min: Barrichello slots into an early sixth position with a time of 1m38.148s.

4 min: Kubica grabs third in 1m36.824s.

5 min: Massa is finally heading out on his sole set of fresh tyres.

5 min: Vettel pulls out a rapid final sector as he go second to Alonso,with a time of 1m36.000s.

5 min: Button is only sixth after a dusty mistake on his flying lap.

6 min: Hamilton has had a moment of oversteer heading back into the pits and has bounced over the grass.

6 min: So after the first round of laps it's Alonso heading the order with Vettel second, Hamilton third, Kubica fourth, Webber fifth and Button in sixth.

7 min: The cars are starting to head out again on fresh tyres.

7 min: Mercedes drivers Schumacher and Rosberg have chosen to complete just one run this afternoon. They join the racetrack now.

7 min: Massa is well off his team-mate's sensational first sector time and he goes fourth quickest.

8 min: While Schumacher and Rosberg begin their timed laps, Webber is also out on the circuit again with another set of soft tyres.

8 min: Webber starts the lap that he hopes will put him on pole position this afternoon, but he has a lot of work to do from sixth.

9 min: Massa's first sector is poor on his next lap and he is unlikely to improve further.

9 min: Webber now moves into the part of the track that will suit his Red Bull RB6, but he is 0.292 seconds down on Alonso after the first sector.

9 min: Alonso is slightly off his earlier best in the first sector.

9 min: The flag is out but the laps continue ...

06:00 Webber continues to hammer round and he crosses the line ... he moves up into second position with a time of 1m35.973s.

06:00 Alonso clocks a 1m35.766s. Can he hold on to pole?

06:00 Hamilton stays fourth with a 1m36.062s.

06:01 Kubica stays seventh as the Renault again fades when it matters.

06:01 It is the Red Bull duo versus Fernando Alonso for pole. Vettel is very close to Alonso's time after two sectors ...

06:02 Vettel crosses the line and blasts into pole position with a lap time of 1m35.585s and he takes pole for tomorrow's Korean Grand Prix!

06:02 Mark Webber produced a great late lap to go second with a time of 1m35.659s and it's another Red Bull front row.

06:03 Fernando Alonso was shot out of pole position in the dying moments by the Red Bull duo and he will start in third position tomorrow.

06:04 Hamilton grabbed fourth on the grid with Rosberg fifth, Massa sixth and Button down in seventh position.

06:05 Robert Kubica set the pace in final practice this morning but in qualifying he is only eighth on the grid.

06:05 Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello could have a fiery opening to the race tomorrow after an alleged blocking incident during the session. They will start tomorrow's race from ninth and 10th.

06:07 The top four on the grid are covered by less than half-a-second and we are set for a mighty battle between them.

06:07 But Jenson Button has a lot of work to do from seventh position. He will have to negotiate his way past Massa and Rosberg before he can get onto the tail of the championship contenders.

06:08 Here's our report on a dramatic qualifying hour:

Vettel heads all-Red Bull front row

06:12 Qualifying for the inaugural Korean Grand Prix ends with Red Bull once again leading the pack. It is clear that Webber will have to beat Vettel at some point over the next three races to secure the championship, but he has lost the qualifying battle and will start on the dirty side of the track tomorrow.

With Hamilton also starting from the dirty side of the circuit, Fernando Alonso can see the potential of profit at low cost, as he hopes to follow Vettel into a good position at the start.

The McLaren drivers have it all to do and Jenson Button said after qualifying that he could not get any temperature into his tyres on either of his two runs in the shootout.

So it's all to play for as we go into an interesting evening, with the potential for rain between now and tomorrow's race. Join us for all the action from Yeongam at 04:30 GMT tomorrow.

  OVERVIEW QUALIFYING  
Session length: 60 minutes
  CURRENT WEATHER
Overcast High Temp: 22°C / 72°F
Track: Dry
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Monday 18 Oct Start GMT
 Korean Grand Prix Weather 15:00
Friday 22 Oct
 Friday Morning Practice 00:45
 Friday Afternoon Practice 04:45
Saturday 23 Oct
 Saturday Morning Practice 01:45
 Qualifying 04:45
Sunday 24 Oct
 Race day at Yeongam 04:30