Chinese Grand Prix: Vettel storms to third pole of 2011
World champion takes his third pole position in three races in 2011 at the Shanghai International Circuit
World champion Sebastian Vettel again showed he is the man to beat this season as he secured his third pole position in three races in 2011 at the Chinese Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver left it late in Shanghai but delivered a stunning lap time of 1m33.706s to trump the McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton who were seven tenths slower.
“We have done it again, but every single time is tough,” Vettel said. “I think today wasn’t as straightforward as we planned, especially in Q2; I made a bit of a mistake in the run I did then.
“In Q3 I was confident that we were able to improve quite a lot. Obviously today we did a good job, but it’s just eight metres on the track tomorrow. It will be a long race, but I think we can be happy with the car.”
Button, who enjoyed his best qualifying of the season, was happy with second but conceded that he had no chance of beating Vettel for pole.
“After Q2, I thought we’d have a shot at pole today, but, looking at Sebastian’s final lap time, second place was realistically all we could do,” he said. “Still, it’s great that we got two cars into the top three, we really extracted the maximum from the package today.
“Overnight, we made some improvements to the car; I think there are still areas where we need to improve to challenge Red Bull, but I want to say a big thank-you to the guys in the garage and back at the factory, they’ve been working really hard and have given us a car that we can really build on over the next couple of races.
“For tomorrow, I think our race pace will be a little bit closer to Red Bull than our qualifying pace. We can have a good race from this grid position.”
Nico Rosberg was finally able to harness the pace of the W02 to take fourth for Mercedes GP, half a second ahead of the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
Both Toro Rosso cars made it into Q3, taking advantage of the misfortune of others. Jaime Alguersuari took seventh, while team-mate Sebastien Buemi was ninth as the Red Bull sister team sandwiched birthday boy Paul di Resta, who again outpaced experienced Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil to secure a stunning eighth place.
Russian Vitaly Petrov took 10th for Renault, but was unable to take part in Q3 after his car came to a stop on track just two minutes before the end of Q2 causing the session to be red flagged.
With a number of drivers close to dropping out, it triggered a frantic battle as 11 drivers took to the pit lane to line-up their final push when the track reopened.
Such was the competitive nature of qualifying, Massa even dared to overtake Sauber’s Sergio Perez on the outside of the hairpin in a bid to get some clear air and be the first to get a lap in.
Sutil led the drivers who missed out on Q3, closely followed by Perez, Kamui Kobayashi, Michael Schumacher and Williams duo Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado, who were 15th and 17th.
At the back of the grid, Mark Webber will start from 18th on the grid after a continuing KERS-related electronics issue.
“It’s a very frustrating day. We didn’t have a smooth P3 or Q1 and we paid the ultimate price at end of the day,” Webber said.
“We thought we had enough to get through on the prime tyres, we have the pace, but I couldn’t get the tyre working on my second run.
“I can’t remember the last time I was out in Q1. It was a long, long time ago, so it was a bad day for us.”
Heikki Kovalainen again won the battle of the Lotus drivers by half a second to Jarno Trulli, but was 1.7 seconds slower than the nearest midfield team.
Virgin Racing, meanwhile, found pace to get both drivers ahead of a resurgent Hispania, with Belgian rookie JerÃƒÂ´me d’Ambrosio six tenths quicker than Timo Glock.
Hispania managed to qualify for their second consecutive race and were unlucky not to mix it up with Virgin, with Tonio Liuzzi just half a second slower than Glock. Narain Karthikeyan was a further two tenths behind.