Super-cool Vettel takes second pole in China (Chinese Grand Prix qualifying)

Sebastian Vettel put Red Bull on pole position for the first time

Sebastian Vettel put Red Bull on pole position for the first time

Sebastian Vettel took the second pole position of his career – and Red Bull’s first – using just a single lap in Q2 and Q3 to deliver a perfect performance.

Fernando Alonso surprised by grabbing second ahead of Mark Webber as Renault-engined cars locked out the top three – bumping back the Brawn duo of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button.


None of the drivers were able to get through the first part of qualifying without having to resort to the super-soft tyre.

After their Malaysian Grand Prix disaster Ferrari took care to ensure Felipe Massa got a second lap in and wasn’t eliminated before Q2.

This time it was Robert Kubica’s turn to suffer an early exclusion – the BMW driver slumped to 18th after making a mistake at turn 12 on his quick lap.

Lewis Hamilton, running a new front wing and diffuser on the MP4/24, showed much improved pace. But team make Heikki Kovalainen, who’d chosen not to run the new wing, only narrowly made it into Q2.

Aside from Kubica the drivers eliminated in Q1 were the usual suspects – with Sebastien Buemi once again getting the better of Sebastien Bourdais.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16. Sebastien Bourdais 1’36.906
17. Nelson Piquet Jnr 1’36.908
18. Robert Kubica 1’36.966
19. Adrian Sutil 1’37.669
20. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’37.672


Mark Webber set the early pace in Q2 while team mate Sebastian Vettel, unusually, hung back in the pits until two minutes before the end of the session.

But when he did set his single lap it was a flyer – 1;35.130, a few hundredths quicker than Webber’s.

They bumped the Brawns back to second – but Jenson Button’s failure to improve on his time from Q1 suggested he had time in hand.

Sebastien Buemi snatched the crucial tenth place by one hundredth of a second from Nick Heidfeld, with Kovalainen and Massa close behind. But video replays suggested he might have been delayed by one of the Red Bulls – in which case the stewards may get involved.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11. Nick Heidfeld 1’35.975
12. Heikki Kovalainen 1’36.032
13. Felipe Massa 1’36.033
14. Timo Glock 1’36.066
15. Kazuki Nakajima 1’36.193


Brawn and Red Bull were the only team to get both their drivers into Q3. They were joined by Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Jarno Trulli, Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton and Buemi.

Rubens Barrichello was fastest from Webber in the opening exchange of laps by 0.04s, with Button a further 0.2s behind. Vettel again hung back in the pits, biding his time and saving tyres.

Webber’s first effort took provisional pole position – Vettel beat him by 0.3s to give Red Bull their first pole position.

But their hopes of a front row lockout were dashed when Alonso pulled a surprise lap out of the bag to grab second – suggesting the Renault has rather more performance in KERS-free form. He was also aided by a revised diffuser added to the car only this morning.

This left Barrichello fourth and Button, pole sitter for the first two races, bumped back to row three. But how much fuel do they have on board? We’ll find out in a few hours.

Update: Fuel weights published – Alonso and the Red Bull drivers very light on fuel: Chinese GP fuel weights and strategies

Top ten drivers in Q3

1. Sebastian Vettel 1’36.184
2. Fernando Alonso 1’36.381
3. Mark Webber 1’36.456
4. Rubens Barrichello 1’36.493
5. Jenson Button 1’36.532
6. Jarno Trulli 1’36.835
7. Nico Rosberg 1’37.397
8. Kimi Raikkonen 1’38.089
9. Lewis Hamilton 1’38.595
10. Sebastien Buemi 1’39.321

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73 comments on Super-cool Vettel takes second pole in China (Chinese Grand Prix qualifying)

  1. StrFerrari4Ever said on 18th April 2009, 8:48

    Haha so i’m not the only Toro Rosso fan on here as Murray Walker would say Faaaaaaantastic Buemi delivering the goods hope he jumps Hamilton and gets some points tommorow :)

    • John H said on 18th April 2009, 8:50

      Buemi was fantastic. Bourdais’ constant moaning is beginning to get a little tiresome however!

    • SimonRS said on 18th April 2009, 9:16

      I really don’t mean to be rude but can you use some full stops? It’s really difficult to read your posts… Buemi will find it difficult to jump ahead of a KERS boosted McLaren at the start, I think Hamilton knows this and will be fueled heavy. I see him jumping up to 6th at the start and being a pain for the first stint of Buemi.

    • Macca said on 18th April 2009, 14:16

      Bourdais was heard on the radio as saying his lap was ruined by dust on the tyers but here’s a great quote from David Coulthard…

      Well if you stay on the black bits the tyres wont get dusty.

      Fantastic stuff from BBC.

  2. Raceaddict said on 18th April 2009, 8:49

    Maybe beefing up in the driveshaft area?

  3. schumi the greatest said on 18th April 2009, 8:50

    Great performance from vettel, one of the big talking points of pre season was the inter team battle between vettel and webber, i think vettel has got mark covered quite easily.

    good to see hamilton back in the top 10, amazing how things have changed, at last years chinese gp if hamilton had qualified 9th id be pretty peed off but now im delighted….i think he could have gone abit better too, looked like he made a few mistakes on his lap in q3.

    Stunning lap from alonso, wil be intresting to see the fuel loads…think its clear red bull are light, horner pretty much admitted as much to bbc after q3 but i suspect theyl do a short 1st stint on the super soft tyre. i think vettel has a very good chance for the race.

  4. Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 18th April 2009, 9:31

    Button will still win. :)

  5. m0tion said on 18th April 2009, 9:44

    schumi the greatest, lets wait for the fuel load. weight corrected Mark was faster in Malaysia

  6. Boy from ouagadougou said on 18th April 2009, 10:03

    North korea is reportedly planning a rocket attack on the shangai circuit during the race. It is said that it is a way to protest the usage of double decker diffusers by some of the teams. Max you deserve hell.

  7. Redbull drivers are most probably lighter and they are planning to use their super softs in the first stint of the race. They were fast in Q2 too, so they have a good chance of victory. Let’s wait the fuel loads to be published.

  8. schumi the greatest said on 18th April 2009, 10:19

    m0tion, really?? i didnt know this…i stand corrected intresting to see then…still think that vettel will have the measure of webber throught the season though hes a future world champ for definite. Do feel sorry for webber though, hes had bad luck all his career and when he finally gets into a front running car hes got 1 of the hottest properties in f1 as a team mate.

    • Macca said on 18th April 2009, 14:23

      Don’t count Webber out yet mate. Throughout his carrer he is yet to be beaten by a team mate.

      From looking at the winter testing and the first 3 race weekends, I would have to chalenge you on your comment and say that Webber has had the better Vettel.

      Just my opinion though.

  9. BaKano said on 18th April 2009, 10:20

    I’ve seen many people suggesting that Alonso is very light on fuel. I’m not so sure about that as he ran 21 laps, albeit the same as the Brawn’s, whcih he mean that he burned more fule during Q3 than the Red Bulls, so this mean he actually can have more fuel than Webber’s.
    As for Vettel, it’s very strange because he done so few laps, but I’ll be very surprised if he’s not the lightest car in the grid tomorrow.
    If this is the case, it will just show how gast he and the RB5 is.

    Even if I think Alonso has more fuel than most people, I still think he has not pace to match the Brawn, in what come to sheer speed at least, but one thig’s certain, Alonso has wonderfull race pace, so even if he’s car is slower he will manage to maintian the other behind if he has a good 1st lap, and since the car seems to closed the gap, I expect a good chanlenge from him.

    Brawn’s still good for the win. Red Bull is fast but looks a bit fragile, and Alonso won’t managed to hold’em during the pit-stops (he should go in rist for sure, then Brawn will up the pace and gain some time then).

    But accidents a side, it will be closer IMO, and very uncertain regardign the fight for the podium.
    Toyota will have great race for sure, Trulli will fight for the podium. This year Toyota is delivering.

    Hamilton will have a strong race too, and for sure he is heavy, so maybe he’ll surprsie after the first pit-tops and suddenly be running in the top-3.

    Wouldn’t it be lovelly if he clashes with Alonso on track? That would be a great fight, the 2 ex-temamates and the 2 best drivers currently (IMO).

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2009, 10:34

      I’m not so sure about that as he ran 21 laps, albeit the same as the Brawn’s, whcih he mean that he burned more fule during Q3 than the Red Bulls, so this mean he actually can have more fuel than Webber’s.

      Sorry I don’t understand your reasoning – they can refuel between Q2 and Q3 so the total number of laps he did during the session is irrelevant.

      We’ll be able to assess who did the best job in qualifying when the fuel weights are announced.

  10. Yeeeerrrrrrr ALONSO…….. i am a happy fan. do i need to say more !!!!

  11. Oliver said on 18th April 2009, 10:28

    The FIA had once handed penalties to both Mclarens for obstructing even though one was behind the other.
    I also noticed that Glock seemed to be in the way of Nakajima at one point.

    Pound for pound, the REDBULL seems to consistently be the best car on the grid.

    The Mclarens have yet to sort out their fundamental aerodynamic problems, hence the Double diffuser cant just propel them far forward.

    Its surprising the chief proponent of the KERS system isn’t making full use of it. They have a car that looks quite similar to the ForceIndia’s, but a bit better developed. I just wonder where they dropped the ball.

    Renault seem to have one of the more powerful engines on the grid, if not the most powerful.

  12. Dorian said on 18th April 2009, 11:00

    What a fantastic qualifying session!!!! Loving the fact that the Red Bulls are up the front though I’m sure that Brawn GP will make their presence known in the duration of the race. Great effort on the part of Alonso too.

    Shaping up to be a cracking race tomorrow, and lord knows we deserve a good race after Sepang!

  13. BaKano said on 18th April 2009, 11:04

    @Keith: Forget my theory! I was still thinking that the cars were refueled at the end of Q3, to the level at the start, hence considering Alonso was burning fuel to lighten the car… It is actually the other way around, if a driver does many laps during Q3 he has less fuel availabe for the race!

  14. BaKano said on 18th April 2009, 11:12

    The FIA had once handed penalties to both Mclarens for obstructing even though one was behind the other.

    I remember that. They had posted their fast times and were returning to the pits at very slow speed (to save fuel) but were on the racing line and that was the reason for the penalty. Coastin back to the pits on the racing line.
    The difference in speed was too much, and one or two cars had to navigate through them coming full-speed so it was a dangerous situation.

    I think that there is now a rule of a minimum time to come back to the pits on slowing laps, in order to prevent this kind of situations

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