Chinese GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Vettel leads Red Bull front row
Red Bull sent an emphatic message to their F1 rivals when they locked out the front row of the grid for the Chinese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel (1:34.558) hooking up a fine final lap to pip team mate Mark Webber (1:24.806) to top spot.
With the F1 paddock speculating since the start of the season that the team had a ride height control system on its car to explain its 100% pole position record, the FIA have recently issued a rule clarification banning such devices. As Vettel crossed the line Red Bull team principal Christian Horner shouted on the team radio, "Who needs ride height control!"
A delighted Vettel said: "I was struggling a bit in sector one and we made quite a lot of changes between practice and qualifying and I want to thank my mechanics, who got no lunch! We went a bit in Mark's direction with the set-up and suddenly I was quickest in sector one and I'm very happy with the lap." Webber acknowledged the strong final lap from his young team mate and said he was happy enough with his own lap and confident for the race.
Fernando Alonso's Ferrari (1:34.913) was the closest challenger to the Red Bulls, just a tenth of a second behind Webber. "I think our race pace is better," the Spaniard said. "I'm more comfortable with fuel in the car but I think we have maximised our one lap pace. We have done it by qualifying third in three of the first four races and I think that's the maximum we can do at the moment."
Nico Rosberg (1:34.923) was just a hundredth down on Alonso and almost three-quarters of a second faster than team mate Michael Schmacher (1:35.646) who could only qualify ninth. Rosberg has now outqualified his seven time champion team mate four times out of four and Schumacher admitted that he is still struggling. "I'm not quite there on the exit of corners and still not quick enough," he said. "We've been working on it this weekend and we have also had a new rear wing solution here which my team mate and I seem to have different opinions on."
After impressive performances in free practice both McLaren drivers were a little deflated, Jenson Button (1:34.979) just pipping Lewis Hamilton (1:35.034) and outqualifying him for the third time in four races as the MP4-25s qualified fifth and sixth. Both drivers had problems using the soft Bridgestone tyre to maximum effect.
"We lost 0.3s in the final sector and went backwards from Q2," team principal Martin Whitmarsh said. "We went slower in Q3 than in Q2 and so whether we had too much pressure or the tyre just got too hot, we don't know." Button confirmed that he found his tyres either not warm enough at the start of his two flying laps or too hot by the end.
Felipe Massa (1:35.180) qualified the second Ferrari seventh with Robert Kubica (1:35.646) again doing a solid job to put the first Renault eighth. Behind Schumacher, Adrian Sutil (1:35.963) once more gave Force India a presence in the top 10, while Rubens Barrichello only just missed out on the Q3 shoot-out by 0.03s to Schumacher and will be the first of those cars with freedom of tyre choice for the race.
Renault managed to repair Vitaly Petrov's chassis after his morning shunt and the Russian qualified it 14th, behind the closely-matched Toro Rossos of Jaime Alguersuari (1:36.047) and Sebestian Buemi (1:36.149).
Vitantonio Liuzzi blamed traffic for the second Force India being elimimated in Q1 along with the new teams. Honours for being fastest of those fell to Timo Glock's Virgin (1:39.278), a tenth clear of Jarno Trulli's Lotus (1:39.399).