Vettel sweeps to British GP pole

Now we're racin' -- and that's just Red Bull teammates Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel. Australian veteran Webber, well-liked and respected but Formula One's attractor of Andretti-at-Indy luck, pushed to the front time and again Saturday in ...

Now we're racin' -- and that's just Red Bull teammates Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel.

Australian veteran Webber, well-liked and respected but Formula One's attractor of Andretti-at-Indy luck, pushed to the front time and again Saturday in qualifying for Sunday's British Grand Prix. At the final moment, it was not enough to stave off his junior jump-up teammate. Vettel, 21, seized pole, but only after the oldest man out there, Rubens Barrichello, 37, in a Mercedes-powered Brawn GP BGP001, bumped Webber, 32, for the top spot. The only former winner of this race in the trio (2003 with Ferrari), the Brazilian held the optimum starting spot for milliseconds before Vettel scooped it.

"Fantastic weekend," Vettel said. "From the beginning to the end, we didn't have a single problem.

"In the beginning of qualifying, I was struggling a little bit here and there sometimes with traffic. The wind today was not a big issue but it's always a bit tricky. When you have cars ahead you can feel it, even if you are three or four seconds behind. I was struggling a little bit. In Q2 we put a soft tire and from there on I was quite happy with the car. Then in Q3 we had two very good runs, I would say, especially the last one. I think it was the lap of the weekend. It was very close to be perfect."

Vettel said he "was able to use the tires perfectly well," a welcome comment as a rain threat greeted the final of three qualifying sessions. The outcome marked the fourth consecutive time Renault-powered Red Bull RB5s outqualified Renault factory team drivers. Vettel has been outqualified by Renault leader Fernando Alonso only once this season, at Malaysia. The German and the Spaniard shared the front row in China, where Vettel won.

The pole is second in as many races for the German, his third this season and fourth of his career. Vettel bettered Barrichello by more than three-tenths of a second with a lap of 1 minute, 19.509 seconds. Barrichello registered a 1:19.856 and Webber a 1:19.868. They were the only qualifiers under 1:20 in the final session.

Jarno Trulli brought his Toyota TF109 to fourth spot to line up next to Webber. Toyota-powered Kazuki Nakajima produced his best to qualify fifth, outqualifying Williams F1 teammate Nico Rosberg for the first time this season. Rosberg for an 11th time this year topped a practice session, in 1:18.899 with Nakajima right behind so the promise was there. Nakajima lines up next to home hope Jenson Button. Button, the Brawn GP leader who has won every race but China this season, makes his worst start of the season. Rosberg follows on the fourth row with Toyota's Timo Glock, who bumped Ferrari's Felipe Massa out of a top 10 spot. Former world driving champions Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso line up on Row 5.

Though ever gracious, Barrichello and Webber didn't appear at a post-qualifying interview to be cheered that it takes perfection to beat them.

"I'm very, very pleased," Barrichello said. "I think those guys (Vettel and Webber) have been doing a fantastic job the whole weekend. For me, too, it was the best lap of the weekend in Q3, where I took the extreme of the car. I need to check if I breathed during the lap, it was such a nice one.

"Silverstone has always been quite good, and I want to thank all my engineers for the hard work because we found a good balance and I'm pleased to be at least in the middle of them. It's going to be hard to beat them (Sunday), but that's what I'm here for."

Webber had less fun. He said Ferrari frontrunner Raikkonen impeded him.

"I would have liked a slightly cleaner lap on my last run," Webber said. "Kimi was, I don't know, drinking some vodka or dreaming or something. I don't know what the hell he was doing but he should have been on the right and he was on the racing line, dreaming, so that wrecked my rhythm, really. Into Stowe I was very tight into there and so, well, anyway, no one's here to listen to excuses. I would have liked to have gotten more out of the car."

Webber was out front for Red Bull through the first two qualifying rounds. He set a 1:18.638 in second qualifying before Vettel dropped top time to 1:18.119 (a new mark for the current iteration of the course) and Webber posted 1:18.209 to take top spots in Q2.

Button, who said he struggled for grip, only just squeaked into the final pole run. Barrichello has looked the better of the Brawn GPs at this track, one of the Brazilian's favorites. Button, conversely, is bothered by the winds prone to scrape the flat land that served as airfield in World War II.

Glock's final lap put him into the top 10 and left Massa behind along with both BMW Saubers, Robert Kubica in 12th and Nick Heidfeld in 15th. Between them sit Heikki Kovalainen of McLaren Mercedes and Nelson Piquet of Renault. Massa was the only one of that group under 1:19.

"I couldn't get inside (the top 10) because I made one mistake," Massa told reporters. He starts 11th.

Nakajima was fastest in first qualifying, ahead of the Red Bulls, Webber the best of those. Webber has pundit backing to win the race, which would be his first F1 victory. It has to be a serious consideration if British blokes are picking him. Britons and Australians maintain a certain, um, vivacity to their rivalry. Barrichello, too, has backers.

Last year's winner Lewis Hamilton had the first qualifying session a defending champion doesn't want. His McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 squirreled around uncooperatively and left Hamilton wanting. The Englishman will start on the back row with Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi.

"We were just dead slow," Hamilton told the BBC.

Toro Rosso is starting to look regular as a small team. The upside for the defacto American in the field, Sebastien Bourdais, your four-time Champ Car champion, remember, is he has begun to show better than rookie teammate Sebastien Buemi, who starts last. Bourdais sits 17th.

After an impressive third-quick time in Friday late practice, Adrian Sutil went off the road at Abbey, possibly through a part failure. He rent the back of the car in a big collision. He was sent for a medical check and emerged A-OK. He cited brakes as culprit.

The incident red flagged the session. It restarted with 23 seconds left, not enough to change anything.

Even with a crash, the Force Indias are not on the back row. Giancarlo Fisichella reached 16th and Sutil finished in 18th, so the sport's first Indian team inches ahead through the field.

In offcourse matters, Formula One's orchestrator Bernie Eccelstone says if Donington's varied problems aren't resolved -- and you need to be British to be hanging on every council decision, permit wrangle and construction holdup of the course contracted to play host to the 2010 British Grand Prix -- the race will return to Silverstone next year. That's a concession. Perhaps the F1 boss can start a trend among colleagues.

Speaking of Ecclestone, he is being tipped as the one guy who can settle this rules kerffuffle between the sport's sanctioning body and its team owners. Ecclestone told owner-turned-journalist Eddie Jordan of the BBC that he sympathizes with the owners, who should be allowed to spend what they like. What billionaire wouldn't take that attitude?

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Mark Webber , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Eddie Jordan , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Nelson Piquet , Sébastien Bourdais , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Kazuki Nakajima , Sébastien Buemi
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Force India , Toro Rosso , Williams , Brawn GP , Jordan