SHANGHAI, April 16, 2011 (AFP) - World championship leader Sebastian Vettel breezed to pole position for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix after his Red Bull left Britain's Jenson Button trailing 0.7 seconds back in second place.
The 23-year-old German clocked a lap of one minute 33.706 seconds in Saturday's qualifying session, the fastest ever time recorded at the Shanghai circuit, sending a strong message to rivals that he remains the man to beat.
Button's McLaren came in at one minute 34.421 seconds, with his teammate and fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton in third, in a time of one minute 34.463. By taking pole defending world champion Vettel became the first Formula One driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004 to start at the front of the grid in the opening three races of the season.
But despite wins in the opening two races of the season in Australia and Malaysia the German said he would be taking nothing for granted on race day. "Obviously we did it again but I try to remind myself and the team that every time is tough," Vettel told reporters.
"It all starts from zero again on Sunday. We are as happy as we can be with the car, we had good long runs on Friday so have reason to feel good," he said.
Fellow German Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes and two-times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari finished in fourth and fifth place respectively. Vettel's Red Bull teammate Australian Mark Webber suffered another dreadful
day and was unable to improve on 18th place, almost three seconds back.
Saturday's qualifying completed a hat-trick of pole position placings in China for Vettel, who has dominated the season so far. However, Red Bull's elation at Vettel's performance, which saw him claim pole with six minutes of the session remaining, was tempered by Webber's disastrous outing.
"It was a really fantastic first lap from Seb," said team boss Christian Horner. "We weren't sure what Lewis's pace was going to be, so we ran again, but in the end it turned out that we didn't need to -- so we aborted the lap and came
in to save the tyres."
On a cool day at the Shanghai International Circuit, where the track temperature was only 23 Celsius, Webber struggled for pace in his Red Bull car on hard tyres.
"It's been a dreadful day for Mark," said Horner. "He had some electrical problems this morning and it was a massive effort to get the car ready. "Not a great first run. We went again on the primes and unfortunately those
tyres were not quite up to temperature and it didn't work out."
Here are the times:
|8||15||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:36.190||1:35.858||1:35.702||17|
|10||10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||no time||1:35.149||1:35.370||11|
|11||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:35.874||1:36.092||14|
|Q1 107% Time||1:41.941|