McLaren's Lewis Hamilton ended Red Bull's domination of 2011 qualifying in Korea, as he beat World Champion Sebastian Vettel to pole position at Yeongam. The result was Hamilton's first pole since last year's Canadian Grand Prix, and interrupted a run of Red Bull poles stretching back to Abu Dhabi last year.
Hamilton was quickest in the first two parts of qualifying, then topped Vettel's Red Bull by 0.03sec as they made their first Q3 runs.
Jenson Button briefly made it an all-McLaren front row with his final Q3 shot, and though Vettel managed to beat the Suzuka winner by improving to a 1m36.042s on his second run, Hamilton was already delivering a 1m35.820s to beat the Red Bull. Vettel was still satisfied on the radio, though, having adopted an unusual qualifying strategy by using super-softs in Q1 and saving a set of softs for the race.
Mark Webber abandoned his second flying lap and was fourth in the second Red Bull, ahead of the Ferraris. Felipe Massa outqualified Fernando Alonso for the second race in a row.
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Renault's Vitaly Petrov will share row four, with the Force Indias both reaching Q3 but choosing not to set times.
Rosberg was the only Mercedes driver in the top 10 as Michael Schumacher was squeezed out of the Q3 positions in a busy end to Q2. Troubled by a tire vibration on his last lap, Schumacher was shuffled down to 12th, between the two Toro Rossos, with Jaime Alguersuari narrowly missing out on the top 10 when di Resta jumped ahead in the closing moments.
Bruno Senna was 0.6sec down on Lotus Renault GP teammate Petrov in Q2 so ended up 15th.
It was a low-key session for Sauber, as Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez took only 14th and 17th, while Williams struggled again, Pastor Maldonado knocking team-mate Rubens Barrichello out in Q1 then only making it to 16th.
At the back, the Lotus, Virgin and HRT drivers lined up in familiar order, with Daniel Ricciardo unable to set a time due to a technical issue.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m35.820s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m36.042s + 0.222
3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m36.126s + 0.306
4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m36.468s + 0.648
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m36.831s + 1.011
6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m36.980s + 1.160
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m37.754s + 1.934
8. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m38.124s + 2.304
9. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes no time
10. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes no time
Q2 cut-off time: 1m38.254s Gap **
11. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.315s + 1.789
12. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.354s + 1.828
13. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.508s + 1.982
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.775s + 2.249
15. Bruno Senna Renault 1m38.791s + 2.265
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m39.189s + 2.663
17. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.443s + 2.917
Q1 cut-off time: 1m39.464s Gap *
18. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m39.538s + 2.013
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m40.522s + 2.997
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m41.101s + 3.576
21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m42.091s + 4.566
22. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m43.483s + 5.958
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m43.758s + 6.233
24. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth no time
107% time: 1m44.351s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2