Vettel wins pole for Bahrain GP
Driving the latest Adrian Newey Red Bull creation, Sebastian Vettel waited until the final minutes of qualifying to secure pole for Sunday's Bahrain GP.
It was the sixth career pole for the young German, who many say is the fastest driver in F1 today. His cause is certainly helped by the fact that designer Adrian Newey is the best, having designed championship winning cars for many teams, teams that became backmarkers the day he left.
Lewis Hamilton was 4th in his McLaren and Nico Rosberg rounded out the top-5 in his Mercedes. Michael Schumacher, who came out of retirement to return to F1, was 7th.
Vettel on Saturday said it was a "big surprise" to head qualifying for the Bahrain grand prix.
The German's Red Bull was in front of the two Ferraris in the decisive and newly low-fuel 'Q3' session, with the returning Felipe Massa four tenths quicker than his new teammate Fernando Alonso.
The first McLaren was Lewis Hamilton in fourth, a few tenths quicker than reigning world champion Jenson Button but a worrying 1.1 seconds from Vettel's pole.
"I was surprised with that result. We don't have the same pace as Red Bull and Ferrari. It's downforce -- we are weak in the middle section where we lose about a second," Hamilton told the BBC.
"I am satisfied with seventh place today having been away from Formula One for such a long time," said Schumacher.
"By coincidence, it's the same grid position that I had when I started my career at Spa in 1991. It was fun to work with my new team and I appreciate all their efforts to support me as I get back into the swing of things. The boys are really good and I feel that we've improved step-by-step over the weekend. I'm looking forward to the race and I expect even more to come."
Further back, F1's three new teams dominated the stragglers in the 'Q1' session, with Timo Glock winning the battle to be the best of the newcomers for Virgin.
A handful of seconds behind that came the hapless HRT outfit, with Karun Chandhok bringing up the rear after finally getting at the wheel of a functioning single seater.
"We just wanted to check if all the gears went up and down. There are so many things we can improve, I'm not even comfortable in the seat," said the Indian rookie.
"These are all things we should have done two months ago."
His quicker teammate Bruno Senna said just getting his virginal car through all the practice sessions is a "big victory".
"With more practice we will get better and I am sure we will be a lot closer to the other new teams," said the nephew of the great Ayrton Senna.
Lewis Hamilton (4th, 1:55.217): "I'm surprised by this afternoon's result: while we didn't have the pace of the faster cars, I definitely wasn't expecting to be fourth quickest. But it's a good starting point and tomorrow I hope to keep the position or gain at least one more. I don't think a win is going to be on the cards - but we'll be giving it the best we can. We've struggled in the middle sector - we're lacking a bit of downforce - but I know the guys back in the factory will be pushing as hard as they can. And this is a much, much better position to start the season in than the one we found ourselves in last year. Managing the tires tomorrow is going to be very tricky. I don't think people perhaps understand how tough it is to look after them in these conditions - it's unbelievable how quickly they drop off. We'll take the race one step at a time."
Jenson Button (8th, 1:55.672): "I really struggled with front locking this afternoon - but we cured that problem throughout the sessions. I was getting happier with the car throughout each stint, but in Q3 something didn't feel quite right. The engineers are looking at the data to see what it was. It's been a surprise to us to see the pace of the quickest cars. Today, we saw which cars are fast over one lap; tomorrow maybe we'll see a slightly different picture because these cars work very differently on higher fuel-loads. Besides, your strategy isn't decided on the Saturday any more - we'll need to see what the others are doing in the race. There'll be a lot of heavy cars going into Turn One tomorrow, but hopefully I'll pick a nice line and get through cleanly. I'm looking forward to the challenge and it's going to be a very different one to what everybody has been used to. It'll be a long race tomorrow."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "We had a few issues with grip and ride in qualifying today - especially in the middle sector of the lap over the bumps. That being the case, both our drivers did a fantastic job - and as a result Lewis will start tomorrow's race from the second row and Jenson from the fourth row. It'll be a hot and tiring Sunday afternoon for all 24 drivers, but Jenson's and Lewis's fitness and determination will benefit them throughout the 49 laps."
Nico Rosberg (5th, 1:55.241): "To be honest, we were hoping for a bit more today although we were lacking the pace to challenge right at the front so I guess we should not be too disappointed. It was so difficult out there with the tires overheating. If you made a small mistake and got oversteer, then you lost a lot of grip for the next few corners. It's going to be very important to look after the tires tomorrow in the race. Overall it's a good start for me and with a bit of luck, we should be able to challenge for a podium place tomorrow."
Michael Schumacher (7th, 1:55.524): "I am satisfied with seventh place today having been away from Formula One for such a long time. By coincidence, it's the same grid position that I had when I started my career at Spa in 1991. It was fun to work with my new team and I appreciate all their efforts to support me as I get back into the swing of things. The boys are really good and I feel that we've improved step-by-step over the weekend. I'm looking forward to the race and I expect even more to come."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "It was a reasonable qualifying session today although we hoped for more after this morning's practice. The balance of the car suffered between practice and qualifying, possibly due to the increasing track temperatures, and we lost some pace as a result. Nico drove very well today in all sessions and Michael, taking part in his first qualifying session since 2006, is getting back into the rhythm as he gets more miles in the car."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Not a bad start to the first race weekend for MERCEDES GP PETRONAS in achieving fifth and seventh position in our first qualifying session. I think we looked stronger this morning - and it is our target to be better again during tomorrow's race. Nico has done a great job since lap one of the weekend and Michael, who is starting his first Formula One race after three and a half years, is one place ahead of reigning World Champion Jenson Button. The race tomorrow will be extremely tough for the drivers, the cars and their engines and we hope to be well prepared for the battle."
Sebastian Vettel (1st, 1:54.101): "It's a big surprise to get pole; we didn't know where we were with performance during the winter testing. Yesterday was a tough day for us, as we didn't do as much running as we would have liked. It was a long night for the mechanics and there were some tired faces this morning, but everyone was still so keen. I knew we had a good car, Qualifying went smoothly and I'm very happy to be on pole. Thanks to the team, they have been so busy during the last month with a lot of testing - to be on top now is a nice feeling."
Mark Webber (6th, 1:55.284): "I did my worst lap at the most important time today. It was going well until Turn 16, but it wasn't so good from there on. Seb did a good job for pole position; there was more in the car than sixth today. It's disappointing, but all is not lost and it's a long race tomorrow."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A brilliant job today. It's great to be starting the new season in pole position. Sebastian drove faultlessly through all three sessions and delivered three laps that were good enough for pole; it's testimony to all the hard work that's gone in over the winter. The guys have worked wonders within Red Bull Racing and first on the grid is a great place to be starting the new race format tomorrow. Mark was looking good in the first and second qualifying sessions, but unfortunately he dropped a bit of time in the mid-sector of his last lap, which was the difference between the front row and sixth. I'm sure he'll be strong tomorrow."
Fabrice Lom, Renault: "It's such a great result for the beginning of the season. We were in a bit of a fog over the winter as we didn't know where we were regarding performance. This is such a good answer to all the questions. We are quick and this is good. It's a shame for Mark he was very quick until the last lap in qualifying, but first and sixth is a good start. I think we're set for a good season."
Felipe Massa (2nd, 1:54.242): "It's great to get back to being so competitive after such a difficult time. It's a good way to start the new season and a nice reward for all the work the team has done over the winter. The race will be very difficult, but I am happy to be in with a chance of fighting for the top places. Yesterday, we did good work in preparing for the race and I think we went in the right direction, but this is only the first Grand Prix and there are still many unknown factors to work out, for example, finding the right moment to change tires. Today, I gave it my all, doing a great lap on my last run, while the previous ones had not been so good. I wish to thank Sebastian for what he said about me at the start of the press conference. It pleased me a lot and shows the great respect that exists between we drivers."
Fernando Alonso (3rd, 1:54.608): "Up until today we did not have a clear reference as to how competitive we were: with our cars on the first and second rows we can be satisfied because it means our championship is getting off on a positive note. I am pleased with my qualifying debut for my new team. The F10 was strong in Q1 and Q2, but then Vettel managed to do better than us. On my last run I lost precious time in a couple of corners, losing a couple of tenths, which can happen when you are fighting for pole. I am not surprised to find Felipe ahead of me: he is my team-mate and we all know how good he is round this track. We know we have a good car which we fine tuned during the February tests: today we showed its potential and now we have eight months of work to develop it."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "It's a good result, coming at the end of a very closely contested session. I want to thank all the staff of the Gestione Sportiva, who have worked hard these past few months to try and close the gap to what were the top teams at the end of last season. At least today, we have returned to breathing in the air at the top of the pack, even if we are well aware that the final figures are only totted up on Sunday afternoon after the race. We can expect quite a long and tough race, during which the number one priority, as always, will be reliability: with such hot weather, cars, drivers and tires will be put under a heavy strain. It will also be important to manage the race as well as possible, finding the right moment to change tires. I think this is something of an unknown for everyone, given that we will be experiencing very different conditions to those we experienced in the February tests. I am very satisfied with the way Fernando has integrated himself within our team: it seems as though he has been with us for years rather than months. And I am delighted that Felipe's return to racing will start from the front row of the grid: it is well deserved after everything he went through last year."
Chris Dyer: "I am happy to be able to say there's a whisker of disappointment after this result, given that I can hardly remember the last time we managed to get both cars into Q3! Two cars on the two front rows is a good basis to start from and tomorrow's race looks like being very interesting. We had some minor problems on the cars during the day, but the team did a good job of managing the situation as well as possible. During yesterday's long run testing, our cars seemed to be pretty consistent in terms of performance and we didn't see anyone who looked particularly stronger than us."
Rubens Barrichello (11th, 1:55.330): "I think Williams did well today, not as well as any of us would wish, but we have had some minor problems and we lost some running time yesterday. This meant we were playing catch up this morning. But our general direction is good, we have a good understanding in the garage and we have real belief in the team. So we almost made it to final qualifying - I was just a little bit behind Jenson, so it was not so bad and of course I have some new tires for tomorrow, which will be helpful."
Nico Hulkenberg (13th, 1:55.857): "I had hoped to achieve more in my first qualifying session, but we didn't get the car quite perfect and I didn't manage to put the good lap together. This combination is very costly as you would expect in Formula One and we didn't therefore make it into Q3. It is probably not worth speculating too much on the race tomorrow, the only thing I can say with certainty is that it will be tough for everyone and I believe the key thing will be managing our tires well."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "We thought we should be able to get through to Q3, but it wasn't to happen today. Rubens did well to make up some ground after practice and it was Nico's first Formula One qualifying session. Our focus is now on the race, using our normally competitive starts to make position on the first lap and then race hard for points. Thank you also to our mechanics who've put in some really hard hours trackside over the last three days."
Robert Kubica (9th, 1:55.885): "The first target for today was to get into Q3, so we can pleased with that part of the qualifying session, but I am actually a bit disappointed to be only ninth on the grid. I did two good laps in Q1 and Q2, but on my lap in the final part of the session I had a big snap oversteer in the hairpin at turn 16 that cost me about four tenths. On the positive side, we have a clearer picture of where we stand now, and it looks pretty positive when you see the cars around us on the grid: the R30 clearly has good potential. It will be a long, tough race tomorrow but our target has to be to move up the field."
Vitaly Petrov (17th, 1:56.619): "For my first ever qualifying session, this is a normal result, but I really enjoyed today. Our first target was to make Q2 so we achieved this, but we were not very lucky in Q2 and could not continue. Tomorrow is race day and it will be very interesting to see how we do - we will certainly try our best."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "Vitaly had a solid qualifying session for his first Grand Prix weekend. He went comfortably through Q1, which was good. In Q2, he went into turn 9 a little bit too quick on his final timed lap, so he will start P17 tomorrow. As for Robert, he had a solid, untroubled Q1 and Q2 and then went comfortably into Q3, which was what we had hoped for. On his Q3 lap he had a bit of oversteer in turn 16, which cost him quite a bit of time. Overall, we are pleased with the performance of the R30 today and we know that the car works well with high fuel loads and has good straight-line speed. We look forward to a strong race tomorrow."
Adrian Sutil (10th, 1:56.309): "I'm very happy. I think it was a great achievement to go into Q3 at the first race: our best start to the season for a long time. The team should be very proud of it, I am very proud of this, so let's see how it goes tomorrow. Our goal is now to finish in the points. At the moment I'm in tenth and hopefully we can make one or two positions up as I'm the only car on the hard tire so it may be an advantage. I'm surprised that the others were on the soft tires so our decision could pay off tomorrow. We are strong under heavy fuel loads but we were very fast in Q1 and Q2 when everyone was on soft tires so there are a few more positions we could gain. We worked very hard over the winter and over the last four years and it's nice to see it giving dividends now."
Vitantonio Liuzzi (12th, 1:55.653): "I am a bit disappointed as we didn't know what had happened to the car since free practice. In the morning it seemed to have a pretty good balance and we didn't change very much but then we went into qualifying and we had a problem with the traction. That was the main reason we couldn't go through to Q3. Now we have to work on this and understand what happened but we believe in the race that we should be really strong as yesterday we were quick on the longer runs."
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal: "I think the whole team can be very proud of this result; it's a great start to the season and a mark of how much progress we have made over the winter. Last season we didn't get through to Q2 in this race and this year we've got both cars in the top 12. Of course that's not a precursor to getting points, which is what really matters, but it does give us a much better chance. Particularly positive is that Adrian is starting the race on the harder tire, unlike the rest of the top ten, so should be well-placed to capitalize as the softer tire degrades in the warm conditions. I can't wait for tomorrow's race now!"
Sebastien Buemi (15th, 1:56.265): "It's pretty much what we expected and we appear to be fighting with Petrov, the Saubers and the Williams. As always I felt I could have done better, but not by much, maybe two tenths. Tomorrow for the first race, I would hope to finish in the points, which this year means getting to tenth. That would involve moving up five places, which is not an impossible task, given that it will be a long race and anything could happen."
Jaime Alguersuari (18th, 1:57.071): "We hoped to be in Q2 but I made a mistake on my fastest lap on the soft tires. The grip level was quite low, I was pushing hard and it caught me out, going too fast into a turn. There is room for improvement of course and I hope I can have a good race tomorrow and move up the order a bit, but it looks like it will be tough to score points. We will have to do better next time."
Giorgio Ascanelli, Technical Director: "I am disappointed with the fact we were not able to give Sebastien any running yesterday, but today, I am actually quite happy that we did better than seventeenth and eighteenth, which is what I had expected. Jaime had traffic and made a mistake, which can happen, so he is capable of better. With only limited running in free practice, Seb didn't get the best out of himself and the car, but I am happy with what both drivers did. There is no reason to expect a better race pace, but it will be a tough afternoon during which I hope we will be sustained by our reliability."
Jarno Trulli (20th, 1:59.852): "All in all not too bad considering the amount of running we had this morning. We had some bad luck this weekend but the team has operated very well, in a very professional way, and we just need a bit more time to make the step forward we need in terms of performance. Tomorrow we need to try and finish the race, collect some useful data to find out more about what is right and wrong with the way the car behaves, and make that our main aim - finishing."
Heikki Kovalainen (21st, 2:00.313): "Pretty much what we expected. The car was very reliable, which is good, and the performance was roughly where we knew we'd be. I'm reasonably happy - it probably isn't the best qualifying lap I've ever done, and maybe I didn't get everything out of it I should have done, but we have a good base to work from tomorrow. In practice yesterday the car felt like it would be good over long runs, and with the good reliability we have had we'll see what happens tomorrow. The most important thing is to finish the race, and then we'll see where we are."
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: "I'm happy, very very happy. It was fantastic to see Lotus back on the grid after a 16 year absence, and with the potential for so many things to have gone wrong, it's just great to have finished our first qualifying session. Jarno broke the two minute mark and that's a great achievement in itself. It was great to see Emerson, Mario and Nigel today. It shows we have credibility and it's a great endorsement from these legends that they see what we're doing and, in whatever way, want to be a part of it. The dream continues and long may it last!"
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "It's a little bit mixed emotions today - we wanted to be the best of the new teams, and we just missed out on that by a fraction, but as the last of the new teams to have been given an entry, only six months ago, it's a fantastic effort by the whole team to have finished our first qualifying session. We now look forward to the race and with the strength of our reliability, and two very experienced race drivers, now it's all about finishing."
Bruno Senna (23rd, 2:03.240): "It was certainly a relief to continue to add laps to this car when others have already completed thousands of miles in testing, we only have 26 laps on board. We have already learned a lot and will continue to do so with every lap we complete. I want to congratulate again my mechanics, engineers and the whole team for their incredible hard work to ensure we are in a position to be racing tomorrow."
Karun Chandhok (24th, 2:04.904): "I still cant believe that we will be on the grid tomorrow. It was not looking good in the morning and I was not sure if we would make it to the qualifying session as well. I didnâ€™t expect to be driving the car for the first time in qualifying but as I have always said these are the circumstances and we made the best of it. For me it was just a string of installation laps and to finish just a second slower than Bruno is definitely a huge achievement. I think I might be the only driver in the history of F1 to go straight into a qualifying session of a race without even having done a shakedown of the car! Once again I think the team has done a brilliant job so am very grateful to them."
Colin Kolles, Team Principal: "Our mechanics and engineers worked miracles and were awake for 38 hours preparing for our first outing. Having never run the car before this weekend we have had the usual new car technical challenges which we would normally have solved during pre-season testing. But we are determined to work through this usual process as quickly as possible, even though it may well be in the public eye. In a way, we are treating this race as a test session and this is a great success for the entire team to even be here with both cars running. On Monday we will go home with lots of important data and valuable information which we will be using for big steps forwards as the season moves on and hope to make consistent improvements. The focus today for the team was to run both cars on track. We are focused on safety, reliability and then performance will come. I would like to thank everyone for their dedication we have taken an historic first step."
Pedro de la Rosa (14th, 1:56.237): "I can't say I'm satisfied because before we came here we expected to be a bit higher up. But we already knew yesterday this is a bad track for us with the new infield. I have to blame myself for losing a couple of tenths, because I made mistakes on my very last lap when I just pushed too hard because at this time there wasn't much to lose. So this was not good and it will be a tough race tomorrow for the drivers and teams, especially in terms of tire management. I'm afraid they will overheat from lap one. Well, despite not being happy with the result, in a way I have to say I still enjoyed my first qualifying after three years."
Kamui Kobayashi (16th, 1:56.270): "After winter testing we thought we would be quicker, but we are really struggling with the bumpy new part of the track. Of course the temperatures are much higher here, which is also something new as we now see what the effect is between the car and the tires. We have to work really hard for improvements. Tomorrow's race will be hard but I still hope our car will not be hard on the tires and we can move up a bit. There is always a chance for points."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "After our promising testing I expected more from the first qualifying of the season. The problems with this track, which we had already seen yesterday, could not be solved for qualifying."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director: "Based on the results in winter testing our goal was to get one car into Q3. However, we missed that by a big margin. We will now try to make up positions in the race using the right strategic options which are now allowed by the new rules. Before the next races we have to improve the car significantly."
Timo Glock (19th, 1:59.728): "It's great to be the best of the new teams here today and I'm very happy with what we have achieved. This is a Team result and a credit to everyone who has worked so hard in really difficult circumstances to get the best out of our first race package. To also be just 2.7 seconds away from teams with many more years of experience is even better. We have a big mountain to climb but we go into our debut race having achieved our first target and I think this will give us the momentum we need to keep on pushing. It just goes to show we are going in the right direction and all we have to do is focus on overcoming the hurdles we were bound to come across along the way. Thanks to everyone at Virgin Racing."
Lucas di Grassi (22nd, 2:00.587): "First of all I'd like to say a big thanks to the team. They have put in so much effort to make this team and today happen for us. For us to be here with a healthy car is fantastic. For me it was still the very beginning, I only did three laps in the session this morning due to the issues we had. I'm quite happy to have done my first qualifying in F1. I know there are a lot of opportunities for us and plenty of scope for improvement."
Sir Richard Branson, Team Owner: "Both the car and the team are in their infancy and like all infants some of our first steps may falter. But unlike other teams when things go wrong we won't be throwing our toys out of the pram, but we'll pick ourselves up and get right back into the playground! That's exactly what the team did here in Bahrain today after the setbacks they experienced over the weekend. Not only did we qualify as the fastest of the new teams, we came so close to the more established teams and on a fraction of their budget. This not only shows the technical brilliance of Nick Wirth and his team but true grit!"
Nick Wirth, Technical Director: "For the first time in a while, Timo managed to complete his full planned program in Free Practice 3 this morning. We had a problem with one of the wheel guns, which meant the left front and rear wheel nuts were not correctly torqued. Unfortunately Timo lost the front wheel, which thankfully didn't hit anyone and he managed to get the car round without any further damage. We were pretty confident that the car was capable of a mid to low 1min 58s lap in qualifying, but our early runs and tire choice was affected by the rubber from the previous race, which changed the track conditions early in the session. Nevertheless, he managed to use the slower prime tire to secure the top qualifying slot for the new teams, which was our target. Lucas did a great job in qualifying today given that we had a sequence of overnight problems on his car which resulted in him losing any meaningful running in - not an ideal way to prepare for your Formula 1 qualifying debut. However, he did a solid and professional job under that extra pressure and we're so happy to give him his deserved debut as an F1 driver. All in all a good day and we hope to carry that momentum through to our first race tomorrow and leave Bahrain with smiles on our faces."
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