With a brand new engine on a brand new day, Sebastian Vettel set the qualifying pace and stuck his Red Bull RB5 on pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix of Turkey.
The young German posted the fast time in each of three qualifying sessions, set quickest lap of the day, 1 minute, 27.016 seconds, in the second session, popped out a chart-topper with four minutes left in the final session, and then pushed aside provisional pole holders Mark Webber, his teammate, and Brawn GP's Jenson Button, best qualifier four times this year, to set a 1:28.316 with the checkered flag out.
Each of the four previous winners of this race has won from pole. Vettel has won every time he has held pole, in last year's Grand Prix of Italy and in China this season. Vettel is the only driver to win this year besides Button.
"We had an engine failure and we were not able to do a lot of laps, but I had a good feeling for the car so I was quite confident today," Vettel said, crediting both factory and traveling technicians with applying needed parts to his car "at the last minute."
"I'm very pleased," he said. "Finally, we made it. Last couple of races we tried very hard and finally we are ahead of these white guys."
The "white guys" of Brawn GP, Button and Rubens Barrichello, line up all around Vettel with Webber completing the top four. With the disuse of this 3.3-mile track putting it on a par with Hungary as a solo race host, clean and dirty lines come into play at the start. But chief white guy Ross Brawn reckons Vettel is on lighter fuel than his runners so should have to stop sooner, giving the edge to Button and Barrichello.
For Button, just straightening out balance problems as well as lightening winds was welcome Saturday.
"We made some changes to the setup overnight, and as the wind calmed down, the car worked a lot better," Button said. "It's good to be on the front row."
Barrichello also said his qualifying went well. Choosing the harder of two Bridgestone tire compounds was his biggest gamble, he said. "You never know which one is better."
"I have a good car and I'm quite happy," he said.
Toyota's Jarno Trulli sits on the third row with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, one of two past winners at Istanbul Park. The other only winner at this track, Felipe Massa, might have missed a chance to walk into history by qualifying no better than fourth row, alongside Renault's Fernando Alonso, who saved a spin attempt at the four-apexed Turn Eight. Should Massa, fast runner in Saturday's final practice, be able to snatch a fourth consecutive victory Sunday, his name will line up with the greatest in the sport, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, as the only drivers to win four consecutive races at one venue.
Williams F1 and BMW Sauber own the fifth and sixth rows: Nico Rosberg, hinted to be nosing around at a ride at BMW Sauber next season, lines up next to Robert Kubica, in the top 10 for only the third time this season. BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld is behind Rosberg and next to Kazuki Nakajima, who ended his second quali session with an offtrack excursion.
Toyota's Timo Glock has the seventh row next to Heikki Kovalainen for Mediocre McLaren Mercedes. Kovalainen outqualified his teammate, World Drivers' Champion Lewis Hamilton, for a second consecutive race and for the third time this season.
Hamilton sits right behind the Finn after failing to come to grips with a twitchy MP4-24. "It's the car," Hamilton told the BBC. "We will bounce back next year." Hamilton is next to his pal Adrian Sutil of Force India on the eighth row. The final two rows go to Nelson Piquet of Renault and Sebastien Buemi of Scuderia Toro Rosso, Giancarlo Fisichella of Force India and Sebastien Bourdais of Toro Rosso. Rookie Buemi has outqualified his sophomore teammate six of seven times.
The grid is the third this season in which Mercedes-powered cars, Brawn GP and Force India, sit on front and back rows. As has happened all season, at least one Renault-powered Red Bull has outqualified a factory Renault.
Sunday's race is scheduled for 58 laps.