Hulkenberg ends Williams’ five-year pole drought

Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying

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Nico Hulkenberg took a shock pole position for Williams in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The rookie heads the Red Bull duo, Vettel ahead of Webber, with Hamilton fourth and Alonso fifth.

But Jenson Button faces a tough race after failing to reach Q3 and qualifying 11th.


More rain fell between the end of practice and the start of qualifying, meaning Q1 began on a wet track.

With more rain expected, all the drivers hit the track the moment the session began and most stayed out all the way through, some of them logging 15 laps.

But the rain held off until the final moments of the session and the usual six cars from the new teams were at the bottom of the times, headed by Timo Glock.

Once again Force India struggled for pace in Q1 and the battle to survive into Q2 was contested almost exclusively by their drivers.

Adrian Sutil, who already has a five-place grid penalty for the race, was beaten to 17th by team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi.

But he might have made it had he not been held up by Liuzzi when he rejoined the track after spinning off at Mergulho.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’20.830
19 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’22.130
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1’22.250
21 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1’22.378
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1’22.810
23 Christian Klien HRT-Cosworth 1’23.083
24 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1’23.796


The Red Bull drivers led the way as the track continued to dry in Q2. Webber led Vettel, Kubica, Hamilton and Schumacher.

But the drama of the session came as Felipe Massa and Jenson Button battled to avoid elimination.

A last-minute improvement by Massa got him into Q3 by just 0.088s.

Nico Rosberg also failed to make it into Q3, ending up 13th behind Kamui Kobayashi.

Team mate Michael Schumacher made it into the top ten shoot-out, as did both Williamses and both Renault.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’19.288
12 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’19.385
13 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’19.486
14 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’19.581
15 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’19.847
16 Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1’19.899
17 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1’20.357


All the ten drivers in Q3 started off on intermediate tyres for banker laps before switching to super-softs.

Lewis Hamilton was quickest to begin with on intermediates and re-took the top spot after changing tyres.

But Nico Hulkenberg produced a series of ultra-rapid laps on an ever-improving lap and incredibly moved the target time well beyond the reach of the championship contenders.

Fernando Alonso briefly took pole position back from him but Hulkenberg took it back again.

He still had one lap to spare and he used that to set a 1’14.470, over a second faster than any other driver.

The Red Bull pair line up behind him with Hamilton in fourth ahead of Alonso.

Top ten in Q3

1 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1’14.470
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’15.519
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’15.637
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’15.747
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’15.989
6 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’16.203
7 Robert Kubica Renault 1’16.552
8 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’16.925
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’17.101
10 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’17.656

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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110 comments on “Hulkenberg ends Williams’ five-year pole drought”

  1. Best qualifying in a while, really unpredictable and excitement all the way through.

    Congratulations to Hulkenberg and Williams !

    1. Remains Vettel in Monza 2 or 3 years ago.

      1. It reminds me of many years ago when Barrichello got pole at Spa in the Jordan. best qualification with season.

        1. Funny that I said the same thing before I even had a chance to read your post.

  2. Incredible job by Hulkenberg.

    I fear this could be the end of Barrichello’s career though, it would be tough to choose him for 2011 alongside Maldonado now even with his development experience.

    1. Maybe he could come back as a “consultant”?

    2. One of the best qualifying sessions I’ve ever seen; still can’t get over how THE HULK managed to be 1 second faster, despite having the ‘extra’ lap at his disposal.

    3. Dont be silly Ed. no one believed on hulkenberg and iam proud to say that i did.Barichello is a great driver being 2nd to him is no shame, people might say that it is another german on the grid but he had the best junior career possible so congrats for the pole despite not being a normal dry qually his set up decision and commitment gave him a sec over the “Touros Vermelhos”

    4. If Williams drop Rubens they will be nothing more than idiots… He may need a fair bit of emotional care, but his experience is second to none.

      1. Actually, I think because of Nico’s incredible pole, that you may not have noticed Rubens in 6th… Which is also rather fantastic as well.

    5. The end of Barrichello’s career? What? Why would you want to get rid of him? Rubens is 29 points ahead of Hulk. Besides, he already has a seat in Williams for 2011.

    6. Barichello did something similar for Jordan, at Spa, so many years back.

      The crucial thing was getting on the slicks early are building heat into it, and all they following cars would have to play catch up.

      Thumbs up to Williams for reading the track conditions and deciding to go for the slicks earlier.

  3. Brilliant! Simply fantastic. I have enjoyed this session more than any other this season! Great scenes from Interlagos. :) If the race is half as exciting as Qualifying we’re in for a treat!

    1. Agree with that, this is shaping up to be an amazing weekend again.

  4. Looking good for a good race tomorrow. The hulk should mix things up at the front there.

  5. Congrats Nico!!!!!!!!! Just Wow. What a thrilling qualifying.

  6. stunning last laps by Hulk …. not just the final lap… but the two past ones…incredible….

    he get a perfect felling on the dive in first corner…

  7. Raise your hand if you thought The Hulk was going to take pole…by OVER A SECOND!!!!!!!! Definitely the shocking result of the year.

    1. I think that just surpassed Webber’s backflip as the #1 highlight of the year…

  8. Incredible! The top guys were crossing the line a full minute after he did on a surely drier track, and they were still 0.9 slower. Almost 2 seconds over Rubens as well, who got the pole here last year.

    Nico will look at the names behind him on the grid and wonder how there’s any question over his place at Williams next year.

  9. A little disappointed Hamilton couldn’t get 2nd but the pole man made up for it!

    1. Younger Hamilton
      6th November 2010, 17:41

      Same here man Forget about the rest,Its about the Hulk tonight Brilliant just Brilliant dont worry he’s gonna help Lewis because he gonna be Holding up the Red Bulls

    2. Its about Hulk’s greatness is coming. Forget your Hamilton he’s not the topic. You might have clicked the wrong one. Anyway, I understand the site has new look… Don’t worry am happy he is 4th. He is strong to hold alonso to the front.. :)

  10. Thisll make it a fun, fun race….Nico wow, amazing.

  11. How many people predicted that in the Predictions championship?!
    I cannot wait for tomorrow!

    1. I bet that result played havoc with everyone’s predictions !

  12. Hallelujah! What a nice surprise! If Hulkenberg ends up getting demoted to HRT next year it’ll be a travesty

    OK, so we shouldn’t get carried away. His qualifying speed has never been in doubt, and he hasn’t scored as many points as we might have expected. But he clearly has star quality- something that the likes of Petrov, Buemi and Heidfeld lack. If he performs tomorow, I daresay Mercedes might put him on their shopping list

    1. I’d say it is more likely for Maldonado to end up at a revamped HRT next year.
      Surely Williams would not praise him, push him for a longer term (said to be 5 year) deal and then drop him after getting this pole, Weber will have non of that. And Rubens is still to much of an asset to lose.

      So Maldonado could conveniently be assesed by Williams in Abu Dhabi and then start fielding the cash to pay for the gearbox deal at HRT and drive next to Pedro d/l Rosa.

      1. Maldonado/De La Rosa would make sense for the latin team…

        I think it would be a massive mistake at this point to change the Williams lineup. Clearly Hulk has what it takes. With a little refinement he’ll be fighting at the very top. And Barrichello is a master tester/developer. Many believe that Button never would’ve taken the championship if it hadn’t been for his development abilities in season, and certainly today Hülkenberg owes his pole position to Rubens’ decision to switch to slicks when he (Nico) was still uncomfortable with the decision.

  13. Shocking performance by Hulkenberg. That was just unbelievable. Clearly the best qualifying we have had this season. Very unpredictable, and very exciting.

  14. Younger Hamilton
    6th November 2010, 17:25

    Speechless just speechless fantastic Phenominal and superb by the Hulk there all credit and headlines goes to him today no doubt no matter what happens this weekend HE IS driver of the weekend.Over a second ahead of the Two Red Bulls who would have predicted that in the whole course of the season and thats actually gonna play into Lewis’s and Fernando’s hands as long as he is in P1 during the race.Plus 60% chance of Rain could make the Grand Prix and title even more exciting and down to the wire

    1. Yeah, without a doubt the driver of the weekend. This is one of those moments that will likely be remembered for decades.

      1. The only thing that was missing was Murray Walker with He`s ” Yes Yes Yes unless Iam mistaken It`s the Hulk “.

  15. It’s great but do you think he will hold that position for longer then a lap?

    1. Exactly, it introduces an unknown at the start of the race. Will he hold up the reb bulls, can Hamilton use that to his advantage? Who knows. should be a good start to the race.

    2. If he makes it through the first sector, then yes. He was quickest through S2 all qualifying. ;)

  16. Great job by The Hulk and a really poor one by Massa & Button.

    How Fast is Hulkenburg going to be tomorrow? Can Lewis and Alonso jump the Red Bulls at the start.

    Can’t wait for the race

  17. Fantastic result for Nico, and great to see Williams get a boot. They really needed that.

    Not wanting to take anything away from Nico I am curious as to how he so out performed Rubens (who is great in the wet) at his home track. Is it possible that Nico had what the team considered was a more conservative setup for safety for him for wet qualifying, and that setup just came good at the end of qualifying?

    1. oops! Should be “Williams get a boost”. :)

  18. I actually said in the live qualifying section before it started: “I think that a Williams will be up there in the mix.” Well, it certainly was!

  19. Megawatt Herring
    6th November 2010, 17:28

    I think this was the best possible qualifying result, I’ve never seen so many people on this site so happy. At the end of the day everyone loves the underdogs to win.

    1. So true!! I almost feel sick because I only caught the last several minutes of qualifying, but I am just so happy about it that it’s okay!

      I hope Hulkenberg destroys everyone tomorrow. It’s the most impressive thing I’ve seen all year. Godbless Interlagos, it is one of the most exciting places ever.

      1. I hope he can hang on to a podium. He’ll really have to keep his head and drive the drive of his life to do that though.

  20. Stunning job by Hulkenberg and Williams. But also by Rubens, as Patrick Head said in interview: it was Rubens who chose the slicks and Nico had to be convinced to try them as well.

    I think the Williams team need to stick with them both for one more year at least, to get the most out of Rubens’ experience and the possibility that provides for Nico to learn at an accelerated pace from experience before mistakes are made, rather than from making mistakes by himself.

    1. I agree Ral, with improvements like these, the duo of Nico and Rubens could really bring the results to Williams next year.

      Patrick Head, this is a community of fans begging you not to race Maldonado next year, give him the reserve role, farm him out, do anything, but don’t give up the Hulk.

  21. Really super exciting qualifying..with in flash timing screens are going up and down. great job hulkenberg..he seems to be on different planet in last 3 laps..ABSOLUTELY BLISTERING PACE!!
    Anyhow he will realize that it is asking too much to end Williams wind drought also as his car is much inferior in dry. But still he sent some strong msg to williams and hopefully they retain him otherwise they may rue in long run.

  22. Alonso would be wishing that Vettel, Webber and Hamilton all go fighting into the first corner, especially with the in fighting in Red Bull and Hamilton aggressive nature. I am thinking Alonso wont be too dissapointed that he isnt in midst of that, though I am sure that he would rather watch that from his rear view mirror.

    Also Nico could do for Alonso what Massa could not.

  23. Somebody pinch me. Like, excruciatingly hard.

    1. Wake up! It is for real!! ;-)

  24. Funny that Q sessions can be more exciting than the race itselft. realyl love that Q formula.

    1. Yes! After all the various quali incarnations F1 has finally hit on a format that should be permanent (barring some unforseen changes in the sport’s nature that takes away from it).

  25. totally shocked for that qualifing.

    Honestly, how the hell saw that one coming????

    Impressive. Over a sec on the Red Bulls. Thumbs up for Nico!.

    Best performance of the year, not only for him but for all the non-top teams!

    1. I’d say the best performance of the year period. Top teams included. If Vettel had won pole by over a second everyone would be impressed, but no one would be shocked. Nico winning it by over a second in what is probably the 6th fastest car on the grid is absolutely incredible. I went in to the weekend hoping desperately that Felipe could be the hometown hero, but now all I can think of is the Incredible Hulk!

  26. Bigredbears10
    6th November 2010, 17:33

    Just saw the onboard of Hulk’s pole lap on Speed. Almost lost it big time at the 6-7 complex. Great drive, on the absolute limit.

  27. I’m just concerned that being fellow Germans, Vettel might have a word with Hulk asking him to conceed the place at the beginning and hold the rest up! Either that or Vettel will be so keen to ‘aim’ his car at Hulk like he so often does that Hamilton or Webber can sneak through. The race should be very exciting indeed.

    1. Can’t imagine that. I think Hülk would politely tell Vettel to go **** himself. I think Vettel’s smart enough not to ask in the first place though.

    2. I bet without a doubt that the Hulk will go hell for leather at the start, the two Red Bulls will tangle for position while Lewis slips into second into the Senna S, Lewis then takes first into turn three and then goes on to win.

  28. Oh Nico. What a legend. I am very happy for him, very well done. 1.1 seconds faster….


  29. STRFerrari4Ever
    6th November 2010, 17:36

    How I love Interlagos! Ah Hulkenberg you truly deserved that a blistering performance, no one else had an answer not even the almighty Bulls! A great day for Williams they were long overdue a pole position.

  30. Incredible Hulk!!

    1. That’s for sure. He’s lived up to that title today.

  31. While I’m glad for Hulk, as an Alonso supporter, this worries me a little.

  32. Also to be noted is that almost every year we have had one surprise pole. In 2008 Vettel, 2009 Fisi and now Nico in 2010. I hope this tradition of surprise pole keeps on. Its really good for F1

    1. Great point Rahul, I hope it continues as well, because it gets everyone excited. Could this be a one off pole like Fisi last year at Spa, or are we about to see a blistering ascent by one of the sports next great drivers like we saw with Vettel 2 years ago?

      Here’s to hoping for the latter.

  33. The first corner is going to be incredibly interesting…

  34. HULK SMASH!! [-ed his first pole lap] :-)

    1. but hopefully not into another car come first corner!

  35. I must say the risk of collision with bully Hulk will be greater than ever tomorrow, I suppose there will be one, but who’s going to be a victim? We’ll be interesting to watch.

  36. No dirty-side, thanks to the rain. A midfielder sitting pole. This is going to be a heck of a start.

    Williams is going to call up Maldonado and ask for more money now. If Hulkenberg does get the hook, based on today’s results, I think he should be sitting where Button is now. Button is in horrifying form now.

    1. Younger Hamilton
      6th November 2010, 17:53

      NO Maldonado is not getting any possible drive anymore after that.I do agree with you Jenson is just horrible at the moment its not his fault he cant find a good balance the MP4-25 of the McLarens is so hard to find a good setup on unlike the F10 of the Ferraris.Hell of a Race to come tomorrow

      1. Jenson is just horrible at the moment its not his fault he cant find a good balance the MP4-25 of the McLarens is so hard to find a good setup on

        It is his fault. Button, who’s supposed to the the “smart” guy can’t find a good setup. Hamilton in equal machinery, could.

        1. I think basically Hamilton can drive around any problems better than Button can.

          I’m really disappointed by Button’s performances during the back half of this season…and I count him as my favourite driver…

  37. Younger Hamilton
    6th November 2010, 17:47

    1.049secs and more ahead of Vettel and the rest just destruction i thought it was a battle between Lewis and the Hulk for pole i didnt expect Nico on pole though i dont where the hell the Two Red Bulls came in this they shouldnt be P2 and P3 they should be behind Alonso because they were absolutely poor.Lewis should of had P2 in the bag at leasst

    1. The RBRs should be P2 and P3. Why? Because they set faster laps than Lewis Hamilton.

  38. Just worked out quickly that if they finish in the same order, albeit with hulkenberg behind them all, the championship standings would be as follows:

    alonso 243
    webber 238
    vettel 231
    hamilton 225

  39. Hats off to the Williams Team! So nice to have new faces on pole this year. I hope the rookie won’t fumble on Turn 1 with Red Bull, McLaren & Ferrari is just behind him. :)

    1. Younger Hamilton
      6th November 2010, 17:56

      Thats the problem with Rookies they just panic with the top runners behind them and end up making costly mistakes.

      1. You mean like Hamilton did when he parked his car in the tiniest gravel trap he could find trowing the championship away?

        1. If I remember correctly, Hulkenberg has had more than one race this season in which he has kept a cool head keeping the big shots behind him. Granted at Monza, he was all over the place to keep Webber behind, but his car was soooo much slower than Webber’s he had no choice but to drive way over the limit to achieve this. I think his car will be better suited for keeping those guys behind him, especially RBR whose cars are tailor made for a sweeping, high-speed track like Monza.

  40. Just so you know Keith.

    “Nico Hülkenberg produced a series of ultra-rapid laps on an ever-improving lap track”

    1. That is why it should be noted that even if he had not improved in last lap he would have had pole position!

  41. Wow, just saw this on Autosport. Hulkenberg lamenting the difficulty he and Rubens would have in reaching Q3 today hahaha.

    From worrying about making the shootout to the biggest pole in years. This kid is something else.

  42. Who says the cosworth sucks! ;)

    1. To be fair, I don’t think anyone did :)

      1. Jarred Walmsley
        6th November 2010, 19:10

        I don’t think anyone said the Cosworth sucks its the xtrac gearboxes that do

        1. Still, it’s been a difficult decade for Cosworth. It’s their first pole since 1999! Who got it for them? Rubens Barrichello (Hulk’s teammate) in a Stewart (Jackie being an RBS ambassador – and he was in the Williams garage too!)

  43. Has anybody got any info on what he said at the press conference. I cant wait to find out!

  44. A fantastic drive from Nico, it’s probably a bit of a gamble set up wise, but still he was brilliant. Now I’m just waiting for Prisoner Monkeys response to this.

  45. Who saw the onboard view of Hulk’s last/pole lap? It was supernatural. One of the greatest laps I’ve ever seen. Talk about being “in the zone.”

    1. There where so many times it looked as if he was going to throw it off the track in that lap!
      The speed he took through Ferradura/Laranjinha was unreal! I’m surprised he kept it on!
      Awesome lap, to my mind one of the best of the season!

    1. Click ANY of the green area to see the underdog page.

  46. Let’s not get carried away here. He wouldn’t have been anywhere near the front on a dry track and would have probably been behind Barrichello (as he has been for most of the season) on the grid.

    Still, you’ve got to make the most of the correct tyre, water, downforce and grip combination when it presents itself to you.

    1. You’re acting like his setup was equivalent to some fluke gamble like going onto slicks in desperation and finding out the dry tires were good for an extra two seconds. He had a superior setup, but if he just got lucky he would have pipped the other guys by a tenth not a second. The way he was driving today, he probably would have been 4th or 5th conditions being equal. The Williams has been capable of top 8 for a while now. A great drive could easily put them up a couple spots on top of that.

  47. Now Red Bull will NOT break McLaren’s and Williams’ record for most poles in a single season! :D

    1. How appropriate that it’s Williams that denies them the chance.

  48. Amazing qualifying… Congratulations to Nico H

  49. The settings on the car by the crew, the settings on the steering wheel by the driver, the tire choice, the tire pressures, the track condition, all came together and matched the talent of the driver perfectly. Even though there were two spots where he got a tad sideways and lost a little time, he creamed the cream of F1.

    Oh, and IAN? If those drivers all got hit by lightning they’d all be dead too. Just as meaningless of a point.

  50. If the Hulk is that good, he’d be an idiot to sign a five-year deal with a team like Williams. Maybe he can weasel his way into Red Bull, when they dump Webber.

    1. Currently I don’t think the Hulk has any other realist chance other than Williams even he wins tomorrow. If Red Bull dumps Webber, there would not be a single top driver try to sit on that spot as one would be a destined No. 2 even before preseason testing starts…

  51. What’s interesting is that Patrick Head attributed Hülkenberg’s speed to him being on a fully dry setup. That should surely play into his hands come tomorrow afternoon, if everyone else is on a compromised setup? Should make for a riveting race.

    1. Me thinks the reverse, the rest are on dry while He`s on a wet setup. If He`s in the lead into lap 3 I`ll eat my keyboard.

      1. I suspect Patrick Head knows what setup his driver is on…

  52. So i guess no one predicted the pole sitter :p

  53. O.M.F.G.

    That’s all I have to say

  54. This will make the start of the race very interesting, he is more than 1.7 sec slower in the dry than SV, (see practice 2 in the dry) so there will be a train behind him from the start. the first person past him will have the advantage of pulling away by more than 2 seconds a lap (Hulk will be defending)An attempt of a too aggressive pass may also mean loosing your position!

  55. I have this horrible feeling Vettel and the Hulk will come together on the opening seconds of the race…

  56. Absolutely awesome quali session, can’t wait for the race ! This is shaping up to be one of the greats. All the more reason why Brazil should always be the season closer…

  57. Webber and Vettel were so effusive in their praise for Nico, one could almost be excused for thinking they were sucking up to him for the race, ‘we love you Nico just let the blue cars through easily when we come to pass, no more of those Monza antics.’

  58. Great qualifying can’t wait for the race to start. Nice job by Nico, Schumacher showed some good pace today hope that continues in the race as well.

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