Vettel makes it four out of four poles for Red Bull in Chinese qualifying

Sebastian Vettel took his third pole in four races, as Red Bull continued its stranglehold over qualifying in China.

Although many had tipped McLaren and Lewis Hamilton to take the top spot on the grid, it was Red Bull which came to the fore in the final segment qualifying.

Pole position will have been made all the sweeter for the Milton Keynes operation, which has had to deflect accusations over whether it is running a ‘ride-height’ adjustment system in the build up to this weekend’s event.

Vettel left it late to snatch pole by around 0.248 of a second from team-mate Mark Webber, who continued his strong pace from earlier this morning to deliver Red Bull’s second one-two in succession.

Fernando Alonso was able to overcome the engine issues which plagued him during Friday practice to take third for Ferrari. The Spaniard managed to edge out Nico Rosberg, who completed a blistering lap in the dying moments to relegate both McLaren drivers further down the grid.

McLaren and its drivers were left bitterly disappointed, having been on top for most of the weekend. Lewis Hamilton had set the pace in the opening two segements of qualifying but found himself sixth, after losing time on his final run. Jenson Button went one better than his team-mate, but was also powerless to stop Red Bull charge to the front.

Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher finished behind their team-mates in seventh and ninth respectively. The latter endured a nervy entry into Q3, just scraping into the top-ten shootout after a challenge from the Williams of Rubens Barrichello.

Robert Kubica (8th) continued his strong run of form for Renault, as did Force India’s Adrian Sutil who rounded off the top ten.

However, the session was a disaster for Sutil’s team-mate Tonio Liuzzi. The Italian became the first “high profile” casualty in Q1, after experiencing traffic on his fast lap.

Virgin’s Timo Glock took the honours for the new teams in nineteenth, while the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen suffered a spin at turn six on his way to twenty-first.

Despite the ominous pace of Red Bull,  it continues to be difficult to predict a winner in tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix. Although Vettel sits pretty, the German will have to upset the odds, as no driver has yet won from pole this season, and with rain expected to feature tomorrow’s race is far from decided.

Pos Driver      Team        Time
1.  Vettel      Red Bull    1:34.558
2.  Webber      Red Bull    1:34.806
3.  Alonso      Ferrari     1:34.913
4.  Rosberg     Mercedes    1:34.923
5.  Button      McLaren     1:34.979
6.  Hamilton    McLaren     1:35.034
7.  Massa       Ferrari     1:35.180
8.  Kubica      Renault     1:35.364
9.  Schumacher  Mercedes    1:35.646
10. Sutil       Force India 1:35.963

Eliminated Q2:

11. Barrichello Williams    1:35.748
12. Alguersuari Toro Rosso  1:36.047
13. Buemi       Toro Rosso  1:36.149
14. Petrov      Renault     1:36.311
15. Kobayashi   Sauber      1:36.422
16. Hulkenberg  Williams    1:36.647
17. de la Rosa  Sauber      1:37.020

Eliminated Q1:

18. Liuzzi      Force India 1:37.161
19. Glock       Virgin      1:39.278
20. Trulli      Lotus       1:39.399
21. Kovalainen  Lotus       1:39.520
22. di Grassi   Virgin      1:39.783
23. Senna       HRT         1:40.469
24. Chandhok    HRT         1:40.578