Vettel takes pole position in China

After topping the times in each practice session Sebastian Vettel set the pace in qualifying ahead of tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix to take a dominant pole position with a new lap record.

The session was dominated by news emanating from the Red Bull pit garage with Vettel’s pole overshadowed by his teammate’s woes; Mark Webber failed to make it out of the first session and will start 18th. The Australian was unable to get his harder prime tyres up to temperature in the opening 20 minutes and had the embarrassment of joining the Lotuses, Virgin’s and HRT’s at the back of the grid.

It has been a very tough start to the year from Webber and he is once again hampered by having KERS problems with his car which will mean that he will race without the system.

The second session was dominated by McLaren at the top of the timesheets and a late session red flag that scuppered any chance for significant improvement from the midfield runners.

The red flag was caused by Vitaly Petrov after the Russian was forced to stop his car just off the racing line on the run down to turn four. Petrov had just set a time that would safely see him through to qualifying three but his mechanical misfortune effectively ended the qualifying hopes of his team.

His teammate, Nick Heidfeld, had planned on making just one timed run in Q2 and had started his run when Petrov halted the session. Heidfeld’s plan was to save an extra set of softer tyres for the race but he was forced back to the pits without setting a time.

He came out, with ten other runners, to try to set a top ten time but was unable to do so. The end of Q2 resembled the start of a race with 11 drivers jockeying for position but ultimately getting in each other’s way.

Michael Schumacher was the other big loser from the red flag. The German had set a time earlier in the session on the harder tyre but the traffic on his outlap and a mistake at the hairpin, caused by another DRS failure on the Mercedes, cost him dearly and he finished the session 14th.

The stars of Q2 were the McLaren’s and the Toro Rosso’s both of which safely made it through to Q3.

Force India’s Scottish rookie, Paul di Resta, had another superb qualifying session. He, once again, outqualified Adrian Sutil and made it through to Q3 for the first time. With Petrov unable to set a time di Resta split the Toro Rosso’s to qualify eighth with the Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa on the third row.

The Prancing Horses were barely been able to get out of a trot in qualifying with the team once again struggling for outright pace as they lined up 1.4s off the pace.

Nico Rosberg had his best qualifying result in a year with the fourth fastest time behind the McLaren who look to be in good shape ahead of the race. Learning from his Malaysian race that was blighted by being forced to run an extra stint on the harder tyres Lewis Hamilton saved an extra set of the option tyres for tomorrow’s race. Speaking after qualifying the former world champion said:

“We are in quite a strong [tyre] position: the options I just qualified on, a new set of options and a new set of primes and a decent set of options as well,” Hamilton said. “I just wanted to increase chances for the race because that is what counts.”

He will line up behind his teammate, Jenson Button, who clearly has his car working well this weekend.

Unfortunately for Button he does not have his car working quite as well as Vettel whose stunning lap registered the 18th pole position of his career.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap 
 1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m33.706s
 2.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m34.421s  + 0.715
 3.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m34.463s  + 0.757
 4.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m34.670s  + 0.964
 5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m35.119s  + 1.413
 6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m35.145s  + 1.439
 7.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m36.158s  + 2.452
 8.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m36.190s  + 2.484
 9.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m36.203s  + 2.497
10.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              No time
Q3 cut-off time: 1m35.858s Gap **
11.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m35.874s  + 1.388
12.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m36.053s  + 1.567
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m36.236s  + 1.750
14.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m36.457s  + 1.971
15.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m36.465s  + 1.979
16.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault              1m36.611s  + 2.125
17.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m36.956s  + 2.470
Q3 cut-off time: 1m36.147s Gap *
18. Mark Webber            Red Bull-Renault     1m36.468s  + 1.196
19. Heikki Kovalainen      Lotus-Renault        1m37.894s  + 2.622
20. Jarno Trulli           Lotus-Renault        1m38.318s  + 3.046
21. Jerome D'Ambrosio      Virgin-Cosworth      1m39.119s  + 3.847
22. Timo Glock             Virgin-Cosworth      1m39.708s  + 4.436
23. Tonio Liuzzi           HRT-Cosworth         1m40.212s  + 4.940
24. Narain Karthikeyan     HRT-Cosworth         1m40.445s  + 5.173

107% time: 1m41.941s
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