Super Sebastian Vettel steals pole in China

Qualifying top 3 (L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing, second; Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, pole position; Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari third. Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix,

Qualifying top three (L to R): Mark Webber second, Sebastian Vettel pole position and Fernando Alonso third

Apr.17 (YF1) Sebastian Vettel pulled the proverbial rabbit out the hat with another magnificent last gasp effort that saw him steal pole position in the dying moments of qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai International Circuit.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates his pole position in parc ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China,

Sebastian Vettel celebrates his pole position in parc ferme

The young German, fresh from victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix, left the best for the very last as he turned the tables on a strong showing from the McLaren Mercedes duo and his own team mate Mark Webber who briefly topped the timing screens before Vettel once again made it count when it mattered. He knew it to, as he crossed the line the 22 year old German whooped, “Yeah baby!”

With Webber in second, Red Bull Racing will once again hog the front row of the Shanghai grid for the start of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) who was relatively subdued up until the final moments of qualifying was third fastest and will head up the second row with Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) beside him in fourth.

The McLaren duo who looked feisty all session will be disappointed that their best in Q3 was only good enough for fifth and sixth, for Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton respectively. The reigning champion getting the better of his team mate who up until Q3 was dominating proceedings and seemed destined for top spot, alas for him destiny had other plans.

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 in parc ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China,

Jenson Button emerges from his cockpit after qualifying

Button said, “At the start I struggled with balance but it got better at the end, which is better for tomorrow. The set-up we have for the car is probably better for the wet conditions.”

Hamilton was stumped at his loss of form in the final stint, “We were doing so well in practice, Q1 and Q2, then the car started bottoming a lot more in Q3. I really don’t understand what was wrong with the car. We have to go and analyse it.”

Next up, seventh quickest, was Felipe Massa (Ferrari) who has simply been unable to match his team mate Alonso all weekend, and in qualifying he was down a quarter of a second on the Spaniard.

Renault will again be happy with Robert Kubica mixing it with the big four and snatching eighth fastest lap, although almost a second down on fellow Renault powered Red Bulls up at the front.

Once again Rosberg comprehensively outshone Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) who could only manage the ninth best time despite a last gasp effort which interestingly had Mercedes boss Norbert Haug smiling broadly and punching the air as the seven times world champion crossed the line. For what one wonders?

Schumacher admitted, “It was pretty tricky, I didn’t find the balance of the car all weekend.”

Boding well for the race is the fact that four different constructors will are in the top five positions on the grid, testimony to how close it is at the top among the big four.

Q1: No big surprises apart from Liuzzi

There were no big surprises in Q1 apart from Vitantonio Liuzzi (Force India) who failed to make the cut and would have been a blow for the Italian whose team mate eventually made it into Q3. Liuzzi, of course, had an excuse which perhaps he thinks only afflicted him, “The problem is again being caught in traffic with a Hispania and Williams in front. Maybe I’m not too shiny in their mirrors. Hopefully we are quick tomorrow and we will get better. It is a shame because we were fast this morning.”

The six drivers in the three new teams were locked at the wrong end of the timing sheets with Timo Glock (Virgin Racing) fastest in 19th, albeit almost three seconds off Hamilton who was top of the timing screens in the early session.

Glock said of being quicker than the Lotus duo, “P19 and both Lotus behind me. Last lap was a real hit. Quite satisfied and looking forward to tomorrow.”

The Lotus duo were next up with Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen 20th and 21st respectively.

Bruno Senna was up next, quickest of the Hispania Racing pair, with Karun Chandhok at the foot of the timing sheets.

Q2: Big guns make it through

Again no real big surprises in Q2 which saw both Williams’, both Toro Rossos, both Saubers and Vitaly Petrov (Renault) eliminated. Rubens Barrichello gave it his best shot until the dying seconds of the session and was actually in the Q1 zone until Sutil edged him out by a fration.

Hamilton again topped the timing screens and was the first driver to berak into the 1 minute 34 seconds bracket at that stage. The scene was set for the final Q3 showdown…

Qualifying Lap Times

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 5 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:36.317 1:35.280 1:34.558
2 6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:35.978 1:35.100 1:34.806
3 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.987 1:35.235 1:34.913
4 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:35.952 1:35.134 1:34.923
5 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.122 1:35.443 1:34.979
6 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.641 1:34.928 1:35.034
7 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.076 1:35.290 1:35.180
8 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1:36.348 1:35.550 1:35.364
9 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:36.484 1:35.715 1:35.646
10 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:36.671 1:35.665 1:35.963
11 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:36.664 1:35.748
12 17 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:36.618 1:36.047
13 16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:36.793 1:36.149
14 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:37.031 1:36.311
15 23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.044 1:36.422
16 10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:37.049 1:36.647
17 22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.050 1:37.020
18 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:37.161
19 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:39.278
20 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:39.399
21 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:39.520
22 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:39.783
23 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:40.469
24 20 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:40.578