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

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

  1. Adjusted Grid according to car’s weight:

    1 Rubens Barichello
    2 Jenson Button
    3 Jarno Trulli
    4 Sebastian Vettel
    5 Mark Webber
    6 Fernando Alonso
    7 Kimi Raikkonen
    8 Lewis Hamilton
    9 Nico Rosberg
    10 Sebastien Buemi

  2. Renault and Alonso should be thankfull for Piquet. Last year he gave the team the first podium finish, when he finished 2nd in Germany, behind Lewis. And it was thank to Piquet slamming his R28 into the wall in Singapore that Alonso won the first race! :-)

    1. I do remember that in singapore! I swear Alonso had that planned he was perfectly timed for that safety car. I’ll grant you he did well in Hockenheim. I remember me saying ‘he might hold up Hamilt…..oh he let him by….that was quick’. I just think there are some really good drivers who havent had there chance in F1. Its all been said on this site before!

  3. With so little fuel, even I could get pole… We’ll see in the race if the renault powered cars are as good as they ‘look’ like… NOT

    If this was as simple as taht, why then Kuica got the pole for Australia? He had 15kg less Button’s car, the same wieght differnece between Vettel and Button today, yet he “only” managed 4th place!

    Also in Malyasia, Vettel was 13kg ligther than Button, also the lightest car in Q3, but “only” got the 3rd fastest time.

    So, apart from Alonso who is really much lighter than usual, Vettel managed to beat the Brawn’s by 0,3s carrying a similar difference in fuel than in Malaysia, where he lost 0,4s, so for me it is still clear that it is an inprovement.

    Also Rosberg was the 4th lightest car in Q3 (to my surprise) and driving a double-diffuser car he finished 7th.

    So just saying that it was an easy pole just because he was low on fuel, yes very much simplistic.

    It was nevertheless the lighter car, a fantastic lap. He managed it in his only attempt, and with a nice advantage (for 2009 standards) for the others

  4. Don’t forget that Seb set his fast lap when only doing one run whilst everyone else did two… given that they all started on a stated weight this would equate to the others having reduced their load in the extra 3 to 4 laps they did…

    On the other hand Kimi and Buemi were on used super softs as they’d used all the alloted sets by the end of Q2…

    So true comparisons of Q3 need to take that into account…

  5. Clearly, Mclaren are tired of seeing stewards; I suppose that’s why there’s no mention of a Redbull blocking Kovi. If I was in their shoes, I would also just pretend it didn’t happen. Looks like they just haven’t had much luck in front of the FIA judging panels and their viceroy stewards.

    1. McLaren have nothing to be gained from a penalty in this instance (as Lewis and Heiki are so far down, and do they really want Alonso on Pole!!), so no real need to go to the stewards.

      To be consistent, they should award the 5 place penalty despite any teams having to say anything IMHO.

      I love Vettel, but I want consistency PLEASE!!

  6. Mclaren are in the right, they get a penalty. In the wrong, they get a penalty. If they get a case in their favour the FIA investigates how that can happen :-)

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