Germany’s Sebastian Vettel claimed his first-ever pole for Red Bull as this season”s all-conquering Brawn GP team were relegated to fourth and fifth fastest in Shanghai on Saturday.
Vettel, widely regarding as one of the most promising young drivers in F1, will share front row with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in his Renault with his teammate Mark Webber qualifying third. Rubens Barrichello finished fourth for Brawn, just ahead of Jenson Button, who has won the opening two races of the season in Australia and Malaysia. Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton put up an improved qualifying performance in his McLaren, now fitted with a modified rear diffuser, claiming ninthy on the grid. But all the talk was of the Red Bull’s who had flattered to deceive in the opening two races, with Vettel crashing out in Australia while battling for second place with Robert Kubica. He was delighted his team were able to fix a driveshaft problem ahead of final qualifying. “I’m very happy. In the end it was even good enough for pole so that is a very, very good sign,” he told Press Association. “We have the best position to start tomorrow but still no points. “It is a long, long way to go tomorrow so we have to keep digging and see how we go.” Alonso, whose team also fitted a modified diffuser after the FIA’s deemed the ‘double-decker’ design legal, was delighted to start second. “We have got better and better from Australia to here,” he said. “We cannot stop now, it is time to deliver and work hard and recover the gap with the top teams.” Meanwhile Button insists he can still become the first Englishman since Damon Hill to record a hat-trick of race wins. “We are still up there,” said the 29-year-old. “It is not really a big issue but it will be very tough tomorrow to come away with a victory. “People have won races from a lot further back in a lot different circumstances. There is a lot to play for and it makes for a very exciting race tomorrow.” Toyota’s Jarno Trulli will start sixth with Williams’ Nico Rosberg, who has dominated the majority of the practice sessions so far this season, seventh fastest. Kimi Raikkonen secured eighth in the still off the pace Ferrari with Hamilton ninth and rookie Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso rounding out the top 10 in China.