Chinese GP: Renault powered cars to start 1-2-3
A jubilant Vettel, who last year captured sister team Toro Rosso's debut pole and win at Monza, played it cool with very few laps throughout the session to beat Fernando Alonso to the front row and lead a Renault 1-2-3 on the grid.
Alonso's Renault has been fitted with a new 'double' diffuser in Shanghai on Saturday, having been flown from the UK in the back of Flavio Briatore's own jet.
Vettel's teammate Mark Webber is third, ahead of both Brawns, with Australia and Malaysia winner Jenson Button just fifth.
"It's not quite as good as I expected," Button told the BBC. Referring to Red Bull's pace, the Briton added: "They're competitive. It's not us driving around slowly or with a lot of fuel."
World champion Lewis Hamilton said he was happy to be inside the top ten: an achievement not managed by either BMW and Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
The BMW Sauber F1 Team faces a challenging Chinese Grand Prix with Nick Heidfeld having missed the final qualifying session by just a hundredth of a second and Robert Kubica starting from only 18th. The evaluation of the data from Friday’s Free Practice sessions indicated using KERS would not give Kubica’s F1.09 a lap time advantage at Shanghai. The Pole will therefore not have KERS on his car for the rest of the weekend. Due to its advantage Heidfeld will go into the race with KERS.
Toyota's Timo Glock qualified just fourteenth, and his penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change drops him nearly to the back of the grid.
“I’m very, very happy – it’s unbelievable," said Vettel.
Indeed, solid if understeer-afflicted final runs from both drivers in Q3 were trumped by Vettel, Webber and an inspired performance by former double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, consigning Barrichello to the second row of the starting grid and Button to the third, just under four hundredths of a second further in arrears. The latter fears the Milton Keynes-based squad’s turn of speed is no flash in the pan.
“We struggled in Q2 compared to the Red Bulls,” the 29-year-old is quoted as having said by ITV-F1. “They seem to be very competitive .You’d say they were probably [faster] by three tenths; that’s quite a lot of time, so I don’t know how it’s going to go tomorrow. We don’t know what fuel loads they’re on, but I’m guessing it’s going to be pretty similar to us.
“Our car feels good around here, but there were a few cars quicker than we expected in qualifying. You could see in Q2 that the Red Bulls were very strong in the high-speed corners, and we knew then that we would have a fight on our hands. It’s going to be interesting to see how the different strategies work out in the race. Of course we would rather be on the front row of the grid, but we will give it our best shot in the race tomorrow and see what happens.
“Our race pace, looking at it today and yesterday, seems to be a bit better than the Red Bull’s, but we’re behind and that’s always very difficult. It’s not a disappointment because we’re still up there – we’re still fourth and fifth – so it’s not really a big issue, and for sure it’s going to make the race very exciting. It’s just going to be very tough tomorrow to come away with a victory, especially starting fifth on the grid.”
“For me it was a big, big surprise – a good surprise in a way, because it ends this bulls**t conversation about diffusers a little bit. Our car is good because it’s good; Red Bull has done a fantastic job to put the car up there. When [engineer] Jock [Clear] said on the radio ‘you’re in front of Jenson’, I said ‘I am in P1?’ and he said ‘no’. Then the radio cracked and I said ‘I must be second’, but he said ‘no, you’re P4’.
“It was a bit of a shock, but I’ve got to say Red Bull did a brilliant job. They will be tough to beat, but we believe we have a good strategy. Both Jenson and I know the way to the podium here, so let’s hope we can repeat that tomorrow.”
“A tougher qualifying session in Shanghai today than we have experienced in the first two races,” agreed team principal Ross Brawn. “We have always said that our competition would catch up quickly, and the evidence of that is clear to see today. Our car is working well around this circuit, although both Jenson and Rubens experienced too much understeer on their final runs.
“We are still well-placed in fourth and fifth positions on the grid and looking forward to a challenge tomorrow. Many congratulations to Red Bull for their first pole position in what is proving to be a very exciting season.”
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