• Sebastian Vettel alongside Williams tyro on front row
• Lewis Hamilton fourth on grid, Jenson Button 11th
Formula One’s famous five were in a state of mild shock here when pole position for tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix was stolen from them by the rookie Nico Hülkenberg.
It was the young German’s maiden pole and the first for the Williams team for five years. And it was no fluke. Hülkenberg, whose position at Williams next year has not been confirmed, produced a sequence of fastest laps to leave Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in their Red Bulls trailing and bemused in his wake.
Hülkenberg said afterwards: “I still can’t believe it. What can I say? It’s just amazing. It’s an emotional and historic moment. But I came into Formula One for a reason. It’s up to the team to decide whether they want to keep me or not.”
As far as the world championship is concerned his achievement is largely meaningless. Hülkenberg’s lead may be lost by the first corner, but it was still a stunning drive by the Hulk, who has never been higher than fifth on the grid before this.
Behind him, the picture is more familiar. Vettel and Webber, whose intense rivalry has now reached a new pitch, are next and they are followed by Lewis Hamilton and the championship leader, Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton led the field at one point, before the Red Bulls found their wings and before Hülkenberg’s stunning cameo. The British driver would like conditions tomorrow to be as wet as they were today, but the forecast indicates he will be disappointed.
Vettel will want to dispense with his tyro compatriot as soon as he can. But Webber will not be too disappointed with third since he is on the cleaner side of the track.
But there was disappointment for Hamilton’s team-mate and world champion Jenson Button, who failed to make Q3 for the first time in three months. On what was surely his last day before he becomes mathematically certain to relinquish his world title, for he trails Alonso by 42 points, Button said: “It has been pretty tough all weekend. The car was actually better in qualifying, but on the first lap it was all right and on the second the tyres were too damaged to get a time. But I have qualified further down here and finished all right. It is hard to play a supporting role from there. I’m disappointed. Not as disappointed as last year here, but disappointed.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton has not ruled out working alongside Alonso at Ferrari, even though the pair had a difficult relationship at McLaren in 2007, when the Spaniard was unsettled by the rookie brilliance of his team-mate.
Hamilton said: “I think we are so much stronger now to be able to deal with it. I have no problems having him as a team-mate. I am happy with the way I have things now. It’s fantastic but I don’t think it’s impossible for us.”
Hamilton is happy at McLaren. But that will only remain the case as long as the team continues to produce a competitive car. McLaren have won just three drivers’ world championships in the two decades since the late Ayrton Senna’s last title in 1991. Ferrari have picked up six in that time.
The chances of Hamilton and Alonso working alongside each other at Ferrari are still remote because Alonso runs the show at the Scuderia. He sees himself as the No1 driver in any team he drives for, and that is certainly the case now, as Felipe Massa takes a subservient role.
Hamilton added: “I wouldn’t be the Massa side of the team and I wouldn’t expect him to be the Massa side of the team either. I would want us to be equal as they are here [at McLaren]. At the end of the day Fernando has proved that he is one of the best drivers here. You say that we are all great drivers but he is one of the top, top drivers. One of the best.
“You are going to be very hard put to put someone next to him and find they beat him through raw talent. He definitely deserves it [a third world title]. He has come a long way. He drives for a great team and has achieved an incredible amount so you have to give him his dues.”