Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull charge to sensational Australia pole

Posted on March 26, 2011

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Sebastian Vettel will take his familiar position at the head of the grid for the first race of 2011 after storming to pole like the winter had never happened.

Sebastian Vettel is up to full speed in his defence of the Formula One title. Credit: Red Bull/Getty

The world champion was untouchable in qualifying, setting a 1m 23.529s, well clear of the field. Lewis Hamilton somehow managed to throw his McLaren on to the front row but Adrian Newey’s new Red Bull would seem to be as terrifyingly fast as the previous model. Despite double diffusers being banned, Vettel was even faster than in qualifying here a year ago. It’s extraordinary.

Given that result, Mark Webber will be disappointed to be starting in third in the second Red Bull, more than eight tenths behind his team mate. He’ll line up ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button in fourth.

It would appear the season starts in a straight fight between Red Bull and McLaren, who have worked a miracle on their car. The conditions are odd today, much colder than usual, and the tyres could throw up something unexpected tomorrow but both squads seem to have an extra step. It remains hard to see past Vettel for the win.

Ferrari looked unexpectedly disappointing. Felipe Massa was all over the shop, dropping the car on an outlap in Q3, while Fernando Alonso could do no better than fifth. Somehow, the Italian giants have slipped back behind McLaren.

Another stand out job was Kamui Kobayashi qualifying the Sauber in ninth. The Japanese is one of the most exciting drivers on the grid and it’s great to see him in the mix.

The Force India is the slowest of the established cars but Paul Di Resta has impressed on debut, out qualifying team mate Adrian Sutil at the first attempt. The Scot faces high expectations after a history of being able to beat Sebastian Vettel and the signs are all good.

Nick Heidfeld was poor in the Renault, dropping out in Q1 – while Vitaly Petrov in the sister car finished third in the first session. It’s curious given the German’s history of consistency but it underlines how much the team will be missing Robert Kubica. It’s impossible to imagine the Pole would be losing out to his much more inexperienced team mate. Petrov finished an impressive sixth after Q3.

Team Lotus will be disappointed to finish up in their usual position just ahead of Virgin and behind all the established teams. Mike Gascoyne has been Tweeting about a struggle getting temperature in the tyres and in testing they looked better than this. It’s curious.

Hispania had a predictable disaster. Neither car got anywhere near the 107% qualifying time as they were effectively shaken down in Q1. They look even further off the pace than they did last season. In 2010, allowance could be made for a team born out of chaos. Now, it is absurd. There is discussion they could get dispensation to race anyway but they are dangerously slow. Not racing will, though, make it even more difficult for them to attract sponsors – which will at some point finish them off.

FULL RESULTS:

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:25.296 1:24.090 1:23.529 16
2 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.384 1:24.595 1:24.307 19
3 2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:25.900 1:24.658 1:24.395 15
4 4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.886 1:24.957 1:24.779 18
5 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:25.707 1:25.242 1:24.974 19
6 10 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:25.543 1:25.582 1:25.247 18
7 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:25.856 1:25.606 1:25.421 17
8 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:26.031 1:25.611 1:25.599 18
9 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.717 1:25.405 1:25.626 17
10 18 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:26.232 1:25.882 1:27.066 15
11 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:25.962 1:25.971 13
12 19 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:26.620 1:26.103 11
13 17 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.812 1:26.108 9
14 15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:27.222 1:26.739 16
15 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:26.298 1:26.768 17
16 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:26.245 1:31.407 15
17 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:26.270 12
18 9 Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:27.239 10
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1:29.254 10
20 21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:29.342 12
21 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:29.858 10
22 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:30.822 8
23 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:32.978 11
24 22 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:34.293 11
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