Following his last win back in October in Abu Dhabi, Sebastian Vettel proved in Saturday's qualifying for the Grand Prix of Bahrain that he will be one of this year's favorites for the Formula One World Championship. The Red Bull driver clocked...
Following his last win back in October in Abu Dhabi, Sebastian Vettel proved in Saturday's qualifying for the Grand Prix of Bahrain that he will be one of this year's favorites for the Formula One World Championship. The Red Bull driver clocked his third and final qualifying session in a 1:54.101, just edging out the Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, who finished the session second and third respectively.
"It is a big surprise to get pole," said Vettel afterwards." We did not know where we were with performance during the winter testing. It was a long night for the mechanics and there were some tired faces this morning, but everyone was still so keen. I knew we had a good car."
For Massa, who missed seven races at the end of the 2009 season, it was almost a perfect return, and the front-row starting position showed that the Brazilian had lost none of his speed after his horrifying accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
"It's great to get back to being so competitive after such a difficult time," he reflected. "It's a good way to start the new season and a nice reward for all the work the team has done over the winter. The race will be very difficult, but I am happy to be in with a chance of fighting for the top places."
"I am pleased with my qualifying debut for my new team," the Spanish veteran said. "The F10 was strong in Q1 and Q2, but then Vettel managed to do better than us. On my last run I lost precious time in a couple of corners, losing a couple of tenths, which can happen when you are fighting for pole."
Lewis Hamilton was fourth in the final session, over six tenths of a second behind Alonso, and 1.1 seconds of the pole position time. Hamilton complained of lack downforce, but the former world champion still managed a second-row position for McLaren.
Mercedes, nee Brawn GP, got off to a strong start as well, but was not quite on 2009 form in spite of the slick new "Silver Arrows" livery. Nico Rosberg, who moved over from Williams, carried the flag for the German team in its first qualifying session, taking fifth 0.024 seconds behind Hamilton.
Rosberg's drive somewhat muted the much-anticipated return of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, who could only manage a seventh place on the grid, 0.171 seconds behind his Mercedes teammate. Red Bull's Mark Webber also slotted between the two Germans.
As was expected, the newer teams did not fare very well in qualifying. Jaime Alguersuari, who did not step in his Toro Rosso car all winter, was among the bottom seven. Along with the Spaniard, the HRT Team of Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna occupied the bottom part of the grid.
Sauber was the team that had been rumored to be one of the surprises for the season, but both Pedro De La Rosa and Kamuri Kobyashi failed to get past the second session, finishing in 12th and 13th respectively.
Rubens Barrichello's memorable year in 2009 was more history as well, as the Brazilian veteran could only finish in 11th place, just missing the opportunity to go on to the final qualifying period.
Just making it to the final session, World Champion Jenson Button took eighth position, but also like his teammate, complained of lack of downforce. Renault driver Robert Kubica was ninth, and practice one winner Adrian Sutil finished in the last top grid spot in tenth, while running on harder tires to prepare for the race on Sunday.
Vettel might be surprised with his qualifying result, but knew that the team is good enough to make things happen for him this weekend. "Qualifying went smoothly and I am happy to be on pole. Thanks to the team, they have been so busy during the last month with a lot of testing. To be on top is a nice feeling."