World racing champion Sebastian Vettel (pictured) stormed to pole position in the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, overtaking McLaren's Lewis Hamilton on his final lap around the Sepang circuit.
AP - Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, setting up the German to start the Formula One season with back-to-back victories.
The defending world champion was the last man to complete his flying lap at the Sepang circuit and dramatically edged out McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton by just a tenth of a second. Red Bull’s Mark Webber was third and McLaren’s Jenson Button fourth, with the top four separated by just a third of a second.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will start the race from fifth, while Renault’s Nick Heidfeld qualified sixth. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi completed the top 10.
For the second race running, Michael Schumacher did not make it into the final session of qualifying - running more than six tenths of a second behind teammate Rosberg - and will start 11th.
Vettel notched his 17th career pole position, moving him equal on the all-time list with three-time world champion Jackie Stewart. However he cut it very fine, only crossing the start-finish line four seconds before the checkered flag fell to prevent anyone starting a lap.
“So very close in the end with the McLaren guys, so I’m very happy,” Vettel said.
He was quick to thank his mechanics, who managed to integrate the KERS power-boost system into the chassis, having been forced to forego the device in qualifying and race in Melbourne due to technical difficulties.
“That made the difference today,” Vettel said. “Without that, we would have been behind the McLaren guys.”
Hamilton was disappointed not to take pole, but still encouraged that McLaren got much closer to the Red Bulls here than in Melbourne, where Vettel was eight tenths of a second clear of the field in qualifying.
“I don’t think we can be disappointed,” Hamilton said. “We did a great job to even be up there with the Red Bulls.
“These guys (Red Bull) have a bit of an edge, but clearly we have closed the gap a little bit here.”
All 24 cars will start the race, as all drivers were within seven percent of the fastest car in the first sector of qualifying. The Hispania cars missed out in Australia due to that seven percent rule, but were comfortably inside the threshold on Saturday in an encouraging showing.
The first session of qualifying was red-flagged when the entire left engine cover of Sebastian Buemi’s car flew off dangerously, but thereafter qualifying was free of incidents.
The rain threatened but held off, meaning teams will go into Sunday’s race without any experience of the new Pirelli wet weather tires, and with showers forecast. Vettel was keenly aware of the threat of wild weather in the race.
“We know here its very likely to rain, and a lot of things can happen, so you can’t take anything for granted,” Vettel said.
The fight between Red Bull and McLaren has been more keenly contested in Malaysia than in the season opener, and Vettel said the team was still finding ways to improve.
“All weekend I was happy with the car, but never got to the point where I could prove it to myself, and never found the true rhythm,” Vettel said.
“I knew it was somewhere in there, and qualifying was the first time we had trouble-free runs, so I am very happy with the result.”
Date created : 2011-04-09