German Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest time of the Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying session Saturday to take pole position. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) marked his comeback with the seventh spot.
AFP - German Sebastian Vettel upstaged returning Formula One legend Michael Schumacher and the other three world champions on show when he grabbed pole here Saturday for Sunday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 22-year-old rising star picked up where he left off last season, when he won the closing race in Abu Dhabi, by showing that a 19-years age gap does make some difference as he blitzed to the best time for Red Bull in the final minutes of a closely fought session.
Schumacher, 41, making his comeback after three years, wound up in seventh place and was outpaced by not only Vettel, but also his own Mercedes team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg, 24, who qualified fifth.
It was a better day for Schumacher's old team Ferrari who finished with Brazilian Felipe Massa second on the grid and new boy, two time former champion Fernando Alonso, third.
Lewis Hamilton won McLaren's private battle of the two British world champions by taking fourth place with team-mate and defending champion Jenson Button down in eighth after a stressful session.
Vettel's Red Bull team-mate, Australian Mark Webber, was sixth and Pole Robert Kubkica ninth for Renault with German Adrian Sutil taking 10th place for Force India.
On a fine, dry and hot day at the Sakhir circuit, where the air temperatures touched 33 degrees Celsius, there was high anticipation ahead of the first qualifying session of the season, notably to see Schumacher tackling the 'new' three-part format of the session which puts great onus on delivering single flying laps each time.
The veteran German admitted on Friday that he had struggled to find the rhythm and bite required in his driving for such a challenge after three years out of the cockpit in retirement.
The first mini-session, Q1, saw the two Ferraris deliver early fastest laps as the top teams calculated their tyre performances carefully knowing that all of the top ten qualifiers have to start the race on the tyres used to set their best times.
In effect, this could mean they go to the grid with worn or flat-spotted rubber unless they are careful with their performances.
The session ended with Alonso on top ahead of Vettel, Sutil and Webber with seven men eliminated - Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso, in 18th, heading the six cars from the three new teams Virgin, Lotus and Hispania. Of these, it was German Timo Glock who did best with 19th place ahead of the two Lotuses. Schumacher went through in ninth.
Q2 saw unexpected drama and tension for two of the champions with both defending champion Button and Schumacher scrapping in the final minutes to claw through to Q3 in the top ten.
Button was 11th but finally made it through in 10th spot as his race engineers held their heads in the McLaren garage and Schumacher finally took ninth. This time Vettel set the pace.
This session saw a further seven cars dropping out with Brazilian Rubens Barrichello winding up 11th for Williams and his rookie team-mate German Nico Hulkenberg 12th.
They went along with Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi (Force India), Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber), Swiss Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso), Japanese Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) and Russian Vitaly Petrov (Renault) filling the grid down to 17th.
The most impressive run was that of Sutil to go through to the top ten shootout in 10th place ahead of Barrichello, but the wily Brazilian veteran will start Sunday's race on the preferred harder-compound tyres and that could give him a surprise opportunity to score a podium for Williams.
Date created : 2010-03-13