Vettel steals Malaysian pole position for Red Bull

Posted on April 9, 2011


Sebastian Vettel seized pole position from an electrifying qualifying session for the Malaysian Grand Prix with a sensational lap of the Sepang circuit.

The stage is set for a huge battle between the leading contenders. Credit: Red Bull/Getty

Against all expectations, the hour was a true dog fight between Red Bull and McLaren and it was only the brilliance of the German world champion which stole a tenth over Lewis Hamilton. The Briton split the Red Bulls for the second race in a row, with Mark Webber starting third ahead of Jenson Button in fourth.

The two teams seem neck and neck even though McLaren is still using its back of the garage exhaust and diffuser set up. It might not look nice but for the second race in a row, the pretty parts have been taken off and replaced. It’s truly remarkable and the Woking team worked a miracle ahead of Australia.

The stage is set for a wonderful race. It will, probably, rain heavily at some point tomorrow. The tyres will potentially disintegrate. The four leading cars and drivers will slug it out in extraordinary conditions and there is absolutely no way to know who will cross the line first. At the moment, this is a two horse race and no one else will get close.

Ferrari have admitted there are problems with their car and they were some way short of Red Bull and McLaren. Despite the apparent pace of the prancing horse in testing, they have not looked impressive so far – and fixing something fundamental is going to be difficult before Barcelona in May. That said, if anyone can make the most of it, it is Fernando Alonso. His run of wins at the back end of last season, which also followed a slow start, was sensational.

Mercedes remain in the wilderness. A team this well resourced, and a driver with the pedigree of Michael Schumacher, qualifying 11th is not what is supposed to happen. Nico Rosberg is a little further up but the car is not anywhere near the front.

At the back, Team Lotus were close to Q2 – just a few tenths off the pace of the Williams cars. The hot temperatures are helping them and they are well clear of Virgin and Hispania. It looked briefly like Heikki Kovalainen was going to make it after a red flag disrupted some teams Q3 runs but it was not quite to be. There are tracks where the drivers might be able to make the difference.

Reassuringly all the cars have qualified, with Virgin and Hispania making the 107% cut with both cars. These two teams are well off the back of the field but at a tough circuit for the qualifying rule it does, hopefully, mean it will be rare this season for cars to spend Sunday in the garage.

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:37.468 1:35.934 1:34.870 12
2 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.861 1:35.852 1:34.974 19
3 2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:37.924 1:36.080 1:35.179 17
4 4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.033 1:35.569 1:35.200 15
5 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:36.897 1:36.320 1:35.802 14
6 9 Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:37.224 1:36.811 1:36.124 9
7 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.744 1:36.557 1:36.251 13
8 10 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:37.210 1:36.642 1:36.324 9
9 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.316 1:36.388 1:36.809 17
10 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.994 1:36.691 1:36.820 13
11 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:36.904 1:37.035 12
12 18 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:37.693 1:37.160 13
13 19 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:37.677 1:37.347 12
14 15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:38.045 1:37.370 12
15 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:38.163 1:37.496 15
16 17 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.759 1:37.528 10
17 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:37.693 1:37.593 9
18 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:38.276 8
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1:38.645 8
20 21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:38.791 8
21 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:40.648 8
22 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:41.001 7
23 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:41.549 7
24 22 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:42.574 7