Vettel storms to pole position in Melbourne

The reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel kicked off his 2011 season in style by taking pole position in Melbourne.

Even without the aid of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System his lap around the 3.295-mile circuit was highly impressive with a time of one minute, 23.529 seconds.

Vettel’s sixteenth career pole position underline the performance of the Red Bull RB7. The gap between the young German and the next fastest was eight tenths of a second. A true dominate performance from the new world champion.

With a new exhaust system fitted to the MP4-26 after a disappointing pre-season testing – to improve the balance and handling – Lewis Hamilton rewarded the McLaren team with a solid second position.

Hamilton denied Red Bull Racing a front row start in the final moments of Q3 by beating Mark Webber by less than a tenth of a second, despite his Kinetic Energy Recovery System also failing during his last lap.

Home crowd favourite Mark Webber will start in third for Red Bull Racing, while two-time Australian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button is fourth for McLaren.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso could only manage fifth while his team-mate Felipe Massa suffered a troubled qualifying session with a spin at the end of Q3 and nearly being knocked out in Q1.

Vitaly Petrov took a superb sixth for Renault, while the Mercedes GP resurgence was not as dramatic as the final test had indicated. Nico Rosberg was seventh and Michael Schumacher missed out on a Q3 slot by the agonising margin of 0.089s after a poor run to his final Q2 lap.

Sauber and Toro Rosso showed their pre-season improvements were real as Kamui Kobayashi and Sebastien Buemi completed the top ten, with their team-mates Jaime Alguersuari and Sergio Perez not far off Q3 pace in P12 and P13.

Force India’s Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado in the Williams will start their maiden Grands Prix from P14 and P15 respectively, ahead of their experienced team-mates following mistakes by Adrian Sutil and Rubens Barrichello. Sutil miraculously avoided the pit wall in a spectacular spin out of the final corner, triggered when he activated his Drag Reduction System while hitting the kerb, unsettling the Force India.

Barrichello’s error was more embarrassing. The Brazilian touched the grass under braking for Turn 3 and spun into the gravel before he could set a Q2 time.

Renault’s Nick Heidfeld, who replaces the injured Robert Kubica this season, suffered a lack of pace in qualifying and will start in P18.

Last season’s new teams have so far failed to show any progress with Lotus back in its 2010 position behind the rest, but ahead of Virgin Racing, which were at least quick enough to make the 107 per cent cut in qualifying.

The same cannot be said to Hispania. Both Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan must rely on the kindness of the rest of the pitlane if they are to be given dispensation to race.

Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix is going to be intriguing especially the degradation nature from the Pirelli tyres. Will we see lots of pit-stop action? And what about the Drag Reduction System? Can this new adjustable rear wing aid overtaking? We will find out over the course of 58 laps around Albert Park, Melbourne.

Qualifying times from Melbourne:

1. Vettel    Red Bull-Renault    1m23.529s
2. Hamilton    McLaren-Mercedes    1m24.307s
3. Webber    Red Bull-Renault    1m24.395s
4. Button    McLaren-Mercedes    1m24.779s
5. Alonso    Ferrari        1m24.974s
6. Petrov    Renault        1m25.247s
7. Rosberg    Mercedes    1m25.421s
8. Massa    Ferrari        1m25.599s
9. Kobayashi    Sauber-Ferrari    1m25.626s
10. Buemi    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m27.066s
11. Schumacher    Mercedes    1m25.971s
12. Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m26.103s
13. Perez    Sauber-Ferrari    1m26.108s
14. di Resta    Force India-Mercedes    1m26.739s
15. Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth    1m26.768s
16. Sutil    Force India-Mercedes    1m31.407s
17. Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m26.270s
18. Heidfeld    Renault        1m27.239s
19. Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault    1m29.254s
20. Trulli    Lotus-Renault    1m29.342s
21. Glock    Virgin-Cosworth    1m29.858s
22. d’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth    1m30.822s
23. Liuzzi    HRT-Cosworth    1m32.978s*
24. Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth    1m34.293s*

*Liuzzi and Karthikeyan failed to meet the Q1 107 percent qualifying time – 1m31.266s.

12 thoughts to “Vettel storms to pole position in Melbourne”

  1. After taking his sixteenth career pole position, Sebastian Vettel has said he would not get over-confident following his impressive performance in qualifying. The speed in his Kinky Kylie (the new RB7 car name!) resulting in the young German to dominate with a margin over the rest by eight tenths. has the story.

    Sebastian Vettel said he would not get over-confident about his chances despite dominating qualifying for the opening grand prix of the 2011 season in Melbourne.

    The reigning champion was fastest in all three qualifying segments and took pole by 0.8s seconds.

    “We will see how we get on but we have done the first step, starting the season this way is a good step,” said Vettel.

    “We have worked hard to get the RB7 where it is now, mostly down to the people at the factory and ‘down under’ making it ready.

    “It was a pleasure today, I was quite fast and happy with the result. But we have zero points like everybody else so we have to see how we get on.”

    Having retired while leading in Melbourne last year, Vettel said he would not get too excited until he reached the finish – though he is certain Red Bull is not as fragile as it was 12 months ago.

    “I think the key is always to finish the race and see the chequered flag,” he said. “Last year halfway through we had to retire but I am quite confident, we had a very, very good preparation in the winter, had hardly any reliability issues.

    “It will be a hard race tomorrow, racing into the unknown. We can kind of guess how the tyres can behave, but we will see how it is.

    “It will be quite entertaining, a lot of things we need to keep an eye on and be focused on.

    “Today was the base and couldn’t have been any better.”

  2. After a disappointing pre-season testing, the new exhaust system fitted to the McLarens in the build-up to the Australian Grand Prix has dramatic improve the performance of the MP4-26 and with that Lewis Hamilton was absolutely delighted to qualify in second behind world champion Sebastian Vettel. has the details.

    Lewis Hamilton said he was “absolutely thrilled” after qualifying on the front row of the grid for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

    The McLaren driver surpassed expectations following a difficult winter and put his car alongside pole-setter Sebastian Vettel, who was untouchable in the Red Bull.

    Hamilton was delighted with the result and was thankful for the team’s decision to change its exhaust layout for the race.

    “I am absolutely thrilled to be up here today,” said Hamilton. “The guys at the factory have done an unbelievable job. We have really got ourselves on the right track.”

    He added: “A fantastic and super effort back at the factory, it was a very brave and tough decision to pull back what we did over the winter test. We decided to come back and go in another direction. It was very rare, we have never done that before, but the results from the wind tunnel looked good.

    “The guys work harder than ever, the car feels a huge improvement for us and a great stepping stone for us and a great foundation for us to step on.”

    The Briton admitted, however, that Red Bull, which didn’t use KERS during qualifying, was too far at the moment.

    “The gap if they didn’t use KERS is another half a second so it’s 1.3 seconds which is not normal,” he said.

    “We as a team have good a development rate over the years. We have seen us come from quite far back. We are at the front – at least we are in the fight and from there we can score good points. Our car feels fantastic so I can’t imagine what their feels like.”

  3. McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh believes Sebastian Vettel’s dominance of Australian Grand Prix qualifying was due in part to a KERS failure costing Lewis Hamilton time in Q3.

    Hamilton’s McLaren was 0.8 seconds slower than Vettel’s Red Bull, but Whitmarsh pointed out that as well as lacking boost, the KERS issue also upset the braking performance of the Briton’s car.

    “He had a KERS failure, so apart from obviously not having KERS hybrid boost, he would also have lost brake balance, so it is a little bit of a disadvantage,” Whitmarsh told the BBC.

    “I’ve got to say Sebastian was very quick, so it would have been difficult to beat Sebastian, but we would have been closer.

    “But nonetheless, from where we have been it’s not too displeasing to be second place and have Jenson [Button] in fourth.”

    Whitmarsh admitted that Button was not happy to be in fourth but is sure the 2009 champion will be more competitive in the race.

    “Jenson will be a little bit disappointed with that, he obviously felt that he should be able to get up into third, but he won from fourth last year,” said the team boss.

    “We’ve got two great race drivers, we’ve got to look after the tyres, make no mistakes and see if we can win the race tomorrow.

    “Jenson’s been as quick as Lewis all weekend. I think he wasn’t quite comfortable with the balance of the car in that session, so by his standards that was a disappointing performance. Jenson wants to be up there, he felt he could and should have been quicker than that. But nonetheless, you can win a race from there.

    “We’ve just got to push Sebastian hard tomorrow.”


  4. Competing in his 19th Formula One season Rubens Barrichello made an embarrassing rookie error which meant he missed out on qualifying in the top ten. The Brazilian spun his Williams at Turn 3 while braking. has the story.

    Rubens Barrichello admitted that the spin that cost him a shot at qualifying in top ten for the Australian Grand Prix was down to driver error.

    The Brazilian spun into the gravel at Turn 3 during Q2, after running wide on to the grass on the entry to the corner on the beginning of a fast lap.

    “I think it was a pure error,” the Williams driver told the BBC. “This morning we had a problem with the gearbox and things were a bit rushed.

    “The prime tyres had the time so it didn’t even matter, so I just went probably a little bit wide and made a mistake – a silly one.”

    Barrichello added that he had been surprised by the pace of qualifying, adding that he had expected to be faster.

    “The option tyres were fine but the pace was faster than what we thought,” said Barrichello. “So we need to see what is the final time because the car didn’t look that fast. Looking on the very positive we saved tyres. Who knows, tomorrow is a big doubt for everyone.”

  5. Lotus drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli are adamant that they will be much more competitive in race conditions tomorrow when they can generate some tyre temperature, as the team struggled to get near the midfield again in Melbourne qualifying.

    Despite optimism that Lotus had taken a big step forward over the winter, its drivers assumed their habitual 2010 positions in qualifying in Australia, with Kovalainen 19th and Trulli 20th.

    The team has struggled with tyre temperature issues all weekend, and Kovalainen was also hampered by a wing problem in Q1.

    “Unfortunately the rear wing was stuck in the high downforce configuration for the second run which definitely masked the real pace there is in the car,” he said.

    “We’ve also struggled with getting the most out of the tyres all weekend but I think the increased temperatures tomorrow will suit the car much more and we’ll be in good shape to show what we can really do in the race.”

    Trulli agreed that Lotus will move forward on Sunday.

    “We’ll clearly be much quicker when we can get the tyres up to full temperature so it’ll be an exciting race for us tomorrow and I think we’ll be in good shape to push the guys ahead who we were much closer to in the warmer conditions in pre-season testing,” he said.

    Team boss Tony Fernandes insisted he was content with the qualifying result.

    “I am happy with qualifying,” he said. “Obviously we are paying the price of the limited running we had in testing, but I have to admit I was a bit nervous before the session and having seen where we ended up I am pleased with what both drivers produced today.

    “We continue to learn all the time and as this is essentially a completely new car we have to work hard on a number of areas to help us achieve our full potential, particularly on tyre management – the car looks like it has Malaysian blood as it clearly prefers hotter conditions!”


  6. Home crowd favourite Mark Webber was mystified by the time gap to his Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel. The Australian was 0.78 seconds adrift from the young German. has the details.

    Mark Webber admitted he was mystified the 0.78s gap to his Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel in qualifying – after the German world champion stormed to pole position for the Australian Grand Prix.

    Webber who also lost out to McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton as well in Q3 said afterwards that he was disappointed to be only third on the grid for his home race.

    “I couldn’t do the times today,” he said, “I was disappointed with my performance.

    “Sebastian [Vettel] put in a good lap and I’m disappointed to get bumped off the front row. Mystified by the gap to Sebastian, and I’ll have to look at where I can improve. The guys have done a great job – not the best job from me but the bar has been raised.

    “Today didn’t go to plan. It was absolutely serious, we put everything forward and I wasn’t in the fight for pole so I need to address that and take it into tomorrow’s race.

    “The most important thing out of today is to see potential of the car,” he added. “The team has done a phenomenal job, looking forward to tomorrow, we will learn a lot – as we have learned a lot today.

    “We got a snapshot today of what we might expect, there are still some questions but not as many, we have had a reasonable build up of testing. The team has got some good data to lean on to go into the grand prix tomorrow and put that all there…”

    Webber did not rule out the possibility of winning in front of his home crowd but admitted that it would be more difficult starting from the second row.

    “It’s never impossible,” he said, “but unfortunately I have let Lewis on the front row as well, it is a long season, today you can get disappointed of course but we will go into tomorrow’s race trying to get best result possible.”

    After qualifying Red Bull team principal Christian Horner indicated that he had been surprised by the large gap between his two drivers.

    “It was a great performance by Seb and a great start to the season, but it’s difficult to understand where the time between the two of them is, particularly in the last sector,” he told the BBC.

    “There is nothing obvious, particularly in the last sector there has been a difference between of them so we need to have a look at the data to see why. It was phenomenal couple of laps that Sebastian has produced there.

    “I think we are in good shape,” he added. “Great to start the new season from pole.”

    Neither Red Bull driver used his KERS during qualifying and while Vettel indicated that his system had not been fully charged, Webber declined to elaborate on it.

  7. McLaren’s Jenson Button hails the team’s step forward in performance following a difficult pre-season testing. has the story.

    Jenson Button says McLaren has taken a huge step forward compared to winter testing, after the team enjoyed a positive start to the season in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix.

    Although McLaren struggled during winter testing, the British squad raised its game for the Melbourne weekend, with Lewis Hamilton qualifying on the front row.

    Button was fourth quickest, and the Briton admitted he was delighted with the step forward taken by McLaren.

    “We are very happy with that,” said Button after qualifying. “We didn’t get the best out of it, but we I think we should all be very happy with the package that we have.

    “It’s a massive step forward to what we had in testing, so we should all be very pleased with what we’ve done this weekend.

    “It’s still in the early state this car, because we haven’t done much testing, so for it to be reliable and reasonably quick we should be very happy.”

    Although Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took a dominant pole position, Button said it was too early to give up on his chances to win the race.

    “I’m really looking forward to the race. I think we can have a good race from fourth. I had a good race from fourth last year. We’ll see.

    “Sebastian put on a very good lap but we don’t know what their race pace is going to be like. We have to be positive and think we can win.”

  8. Michael Schumacher admitted after qualifying 11th for the Australian Grand Prix that he had expected his Mercedes to be faster this weekend after the strong form the W02 showed in the final pre-season test.

    The seven-time world champion failed to make Q3, unlike his team-mate Nico Rosberg who ended qualifying seventh, and hinted afterwards that inconsistencies with the Mercedes KERS had hindered his progress.

    “After winter testing coming to the first race we had expected certainly a different performance so naturally there is some disappointment,” Schumacher told the BBC. “I mean the times we did in testing were very clear and we had a good interpretation.

    “We haven’t matched this performance here, and we need to understand why that is and that is going to be the major job we have in front of us.

    “I don’t what the other guys would or wouldn’t have done but the soft tyre was working for more than one lap so I used that for the first qualifying and the second qualifying,” he added. “Then I went to a new set after that, but we had an issue with the KERS working then not working, so it was a bit of an inconsistent session.

    “But anyway I don’t know what exactly was the problem with Nico, but over the weekend we are not where we are supposed to be.”


  9. Following a strong pre-season testing, the Ferrari team was expected to challenge Red Bull Racing for qualifying but in Melbourne, the best that Fernando Alonso could do was fifth, 1.4 seconds adrift of Sebastian Vettel’s pole position time. has the story.

    Fernando Alonso does not believe Ferrari’s qualifying pace in Melbourne was really representative of what its car can do, as he lapped 1.4 seconds off Sebastian Vettel’s pole time on the way to fifth on the grid.

    The Spaniard admitted that Ferrari had been slightly conservative, and went into Q3 with only one set of softer tyres available after using an extra one in Q1.

    “We were not super competitive today from the practice,” Alonso told television crews.

    “For the qualifying we took a very conservative approach, we knew that if we took risks maybe we would be fourth, if we went safe we would be fifth or sixth so it was not the time to take any risks in the first race of the championship.

    “But unfortunately we found ourselves with only one [option] set in Q3. We tried to do our best and fifth position is more or less what we expected before qualifying.

    “The position we are happy with, the distance from pole we are not so happy. So this is what we have to look at and analyse tonight.”

    Alonso cited “overall grip” as the main thing Ferrari was lacking.

    “Yesterday we had more grip and more overall balance, today straightaway both Felipe [Massa] and I felt less grip,” he said, “maybe the track conditions were a little bit worse, but the other people were better than yesterday.

    “We need to understand it a little bit better. Also the distance from Toro Rosso, Sauber, Renault… we knew from winter testing and yesterday we were one second in front of them whereas today it was only two or three tenths. So it was something lacking in our car.

    “We will try and do a good race tomorrow and in Sepang we need to be close to the pole for sure.”

    Alonso also believes that Red Bull will not be as superior in the race as it was in qualifying.

    “You never know until the first qualifying session of the season, until then it is only rumours, it’s only a guess,” he said of the champion team’s pace.

    “Today it is true that the gap was very big, but yesterday it looked quite close to be honest, to them and to McLaren. I expect that this was not the normal pace from us, and we will get better and better tomorrow.”

  10. The popular Japanese racer Kamui Kobayashi believes he could have started in the top six following a strong performance in qualifying. The Sauber driver will start the Australian Grand Prix in ninth position. has the details.

    Kamui Kobayashi believes a place in the top six on the Melbourne grid would have been achievable had he been able to save some new soft tyres for Q3.

    The Sauber driver used the best of his rubber reaching the final part of qualifying, but still took ninth on the grid.

    “Overall performance wise we are not too bad and now we see what we have done in the winter was okay,” he said. “Of course there are still things to improve, but this is only the first grand prix and making it into Q3 is good. I want to thank the team.

    “I only wish I had a set of new tyres left for Q3, instead of the used set of soft tyres, as then I think P6 would have been possible. However, I believe today is positive news and I’m very happy to give that to Japan.”

    His team-mate Sergio Perez took 13th on the grid for his first Formula 1 race, despite a complicated qualifying day.

    “My first qualifying started quite well with P6 in Q1, and this was mainly because in the third free practice I couldn’t run on soft tyres and low fuel as we lost a lot of time due to a hydraulic problem,” he said.

    “In Q2 we were a bit tight on time after the yellow flag, and then on my last flying lap I had traffic in the final sector and could not get the most out of the tyres.

    “Today a better result was possible, and this is a shame. But generally I feel very comfortable and hope for a good race tomorrow with some points at the end.”

    Team boss Peter Sauber said Perez’s form on his debut had been particularly pleasing.

    “From Kamui we knew what he could do, but Sergio, our rookie, was a nice surprise,” he said.

  11. Renault’s Vitaly Petrov will start the season opening Australian Grand Prix in sixth and the Russian has admitted he was delighted with this qualifying result. has the story.

    Vitaly Petrov was delighted after qualifying on the third row of the grid ahead of tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix.

    The Russian, sixth quickest, was also the top Renault driver after a disappointing showing from team-mate Nick Heidfeld.

    Petrov admitted he was very happy with the result and confident of a strong race.

    “After all the hard work during a very tough winter for the whole team, it feels great to come here and qualify on the third row,” said Petrov. “There was a lot of pressure in Q3 because I only had one run, right at the end of the session. So there were no second chances and I’m glad I was able to deliver the lap.

    “The car has felt good right from the start of practice and we’ve improved it constantly during each session. I think we are in a great position for the race and that we can fight for some points tomorrow.

    “I’m not too worried about the tyres because they have been working well for us so far and we have not seen the drop off that we saw during winter testing.”

    Heidfeld was unable to move into Q2 after enduring a problem with his KERS and then getting stuck in traffic.

    The German will start from 18th position.

    “I’m disappointed to be starting the season from so far back,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy session and I had a problem with the KERS, which meant I had to change some settings, and that cost me one of my timed laps. Then, there was so much traffic and I tried to find some free space, but it didn’t work out for me.

    “It’s bad luck, but I must try and put that behind me now. As we have seen with Vitaly, the car seems to have good pace and the race is wide open, so hopefully I can move forward and fight for points.”

  12. Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan will not be allowed to race in the Australian Grand Prix after the FIA refused a request from HRT to let them race.

    Neither driver managed to get within 107 per cent of Sebastian Vettel’s fastest time from Q1, which meant they did not officially qualify.

    However, HRT lodged a request with the FIA to be allowed to take part because of ‘exceptional circumstances’.

    Following deliberation by the stewards on Saturday night, the FIA decided not to allow the cars in.

    HRT has had a difficult weekend, with Liuzzi’s car only being readied for an installation lap on Friday and Karthikeyan only getting out in the closing stages of third practice.

    In Q1, the 107% time was 1m31.266s – with Liuzzi managing just a 1m32.978s lap and Karthikeyan setting a 1m34.293s lap.


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