Australian Grand Prix 2011: Vettel on pole from Hamilton
World champion unleashes stunning display of pace to seal first pole position of the new season for Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel secured his first pole as world champion after dominating qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The Red Bull driver was comfortably quickest in all three qualifying sessions as a late surge from Lewis Hamilton ousted the German’s team-mate Mark Webber by one tenth of a second for the resurgent McLaren after their pre-season troubles.
“It’s promising for Sunday, so we’ll see how we get on,” said Vettel. “We have made the first step and starting the season this way with a pole position is a good sign for the team.”
“We’ve been working very hard to get the RB7 to where it is now-it’s thanks to all those in the factory and those here, down under, for preparing the car. If you look at the points we still have zero like everyone else, so we need to see what happens tomorrow.”
“First and third for the first grand prix of 2011 is a very good start. Sebastian produced two stunning laps,” added Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
“Mark just lost out on the last run by less than a tenth to Lewis, but first and third on the clean side of the grid is a good place to be starting tomorrow’s grand prix. It should be a fascinating race tomorrow, especially with the new regulations. We’re delighted to achieve Pirelli’s first pole position on their return to Formula One.”
Vettel’s time of 1m23.529s came without using KERS and Hamilton also hit the front row without the recovery system after McLaren team principal admitted Hamilton suffered a KERS failure during qualifying.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be up here today,” Hamilton said. “The guys back at the factory have done an unbelievable job, really a massive step this weekend the car’s feeling fantastic.
“Of course we still have a lot of work to do but I think we’ve really got ourselves on the right track and a great foundation for us to build upon so I know the guys back at the factory will keep going but a big thank you to everyone at home; keep pushing.”
Jenson Button completed the top four ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, while his team-mate Felipe Massa could only manage eighth before spinning.
Vitaly Petrov was sixth quickest for Renault as the Russian embarrassed team-mate Nick Heidfeld, who is standing in for the injured Robert Kubica, with the German starting 18th.
Despite having the most powerful engine on the grid, Mercedes’ start to the season was below their expectations with Nico Rosberg seventh, while Michael Schumacher missed out on Q3 by just 0.089s after a final poor run in Q2.
Sauber and Toro Rosso consolidated their pre-season improvements as Kamui Kobayashi took ninth ahead of Sebastien Buemi, who rounded out the top 10. Jaime Alguersuari qualified 12th and Sergio Perez, the quickest rookie, took an impressive 13th.
Two other rookies Paul di Resta (Force India) and Pastor Maldonado (Williams) will start 14th and 15th, both qualifying ahead of their more-experienced team-mates.
Adrian Sutil had a huge 360 degree spin on the pit straight after getting the DRS wrong coming out of the final corner, while Rubens Barrichello -entering his 19th season in F1 -admitted to making a “school-boy error” after touching the grass under breaking into turn 3 and beaching his Williams in the gravel before setting a time in Q2.
Team Lotus failed to live up to their expectations and pre-season pace with Heikki Kovalainen qualifying ahead of Jarno Trulli.
Virgin Racing managed to qualify both cars after Timo Glock finished one second quicker than rookie team-mate JerÃƒÂ´me d’Ambrosio despite a poor showing in practice.
Hispania were not so lucky after failing to run their 2011 car before today, with both Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan well outside the 107 per cent qualifying time, leaving just 22 cars to take the grid for Sunday’s race.