Vettel dominates Melbourne qualifying

Sebastian Vettel was completely unrivalled to take the first pole position of the 2011 season in Melbourne, Australia. He will be joined on the front row by Lewis Hamilton, while Mark Webber was 3rd. Ferrari struggled, Sutil and Barrichello spun out, while neither HRT even qualified. Read the full story here…

Q1

Heidfeld was the high-profile casualty of Q1

Heidfeld was the high-profile casualty of Q1

Vitaly Petrov was the first driver out of the garage. Use of the hard tyre meant he was limited to a 1.29 lap. D’Ambrosio, Trulli and Kovalainen all were off the pace, setting 1.32 and 1.33s. Timo Glock went faster, but was held up by one of the HRT drivers.

Narain Karthikeyan got the first flying lap in with the new HRT car, was 11 seconds off the pace. The first frontrunner to go out, Sebastian Vettel, set a 1.26.657, while Webber was 0.05 seconds off his team-mate. His next lap slashed three quarters of a second off that time on the harder tyre.

Vettel soon improved, but was beaten by Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian went faster again, but with both McLarens 2nd and 3rd, serious improvements had been made from testing.

Onboard cameras revealed that Michael Schumacher didn’t seem confident using the DRS and KERS system exiting the corners. Nevertheless he went 5th, behind the Red Bulls and McLarens. His team-mate Rosberg promptly beat Schumacher by one tenth.

Kamui Kobayashi sprung a surprise by leaping up to 3rd place, sliding around the track in his typical fashion. Sergio Perez soon joined him in 4th.

Both Ferraris surprised everyone by being forced to switch to the soft tyres early. 11th and 12th positions for Alonso and Massa showed the team were badly off the pace.

Felipe Massa and Nick Heidfeld tussled to survive Q1, with the German losing out. However, Massa was only able to improve to 11th on the softer tyre, indicating the Brazilian is still badly struggling.

Both HRT drivers were well outside the 107% rule, and it is doubtful as to whether they will even start the race.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Nick Heidfeld – Renault

19) Heikki Kovalainen – Lotus

20) Jarno Trulli – Lotus

21) Timo Glock – Virgin

22) Jerome D’Ambrosio – Virgin

23) Vitantonio Liuzzi – HRT (Outside 107%)

24) Narain Karthikeyan – HRT (Outside 107%)

Q2

Buemi got sideways several times on his way to Q3

Buemi got sideways several times on his way to Q3

Q2 saw Jaime Alguersuari be the only driver leaving the pits at the start. However, before he even set a lap, the double yellow flags were out. Rubens Barrichello spun after hitting the grass at Turn 3, and was beached in the gravel.

Most cars returned to the pits and wait for green flags. Both Red Bulls had damaged their sets of soft tyres, and would have to conserve them on their next flying laps.

Once the green flags were out, Lewis Hamilton had a huge lock-up on his way to a 1.25.5 lap time. Team-mate Button quickly went half a second faster, before Vettel took P1 by another 8 tenths.

The Ferraris were still well off the pace, with Alonso and Massa 4th and 6th, and up to 1.5 seconds off the Red Bull’s time.

Kamui Kobayashi went 7th with 3 minutes to go, while rookie Maldonado failed to get into the top 10. Petrov leapt up to 6th, while Adrian Sutil had a spectacular spin at the final corner. He activated his DRS too early, and spun and lost his only chance at a flying lap.

Michael Schumacher pushed hard, but fell by several hundreths of a second, and only went 11th.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Michael Schumacher – Mercedes

12) Jaime Alguersuari – Toro Rosso

13) Sergio Perez – Sauber

14) Paul di Resta – Force India

15) Pastor Maldonado – Williams

16) Adrian Sutil – Force India

17) Rubens Barrichello – Williams

Q3

Vettel took pole ahead of Hamilton and Webber

Vettel took pole ahead of Hamilton and Webber

Oddly enough, no driver went out at the start of the session. Hamilton again made a huge lock-up at Turn 3, but set a 1.24.5, as Button went 3 tenths away from Lewis. Vettel amazingly smashed the McLaren’s time by nearly an entire second, and Webber struggled hugely, 8 tenths off his team-mate.

Sebastien Buemi did well to progress to Q1, but never matched the frontrunners. With 3 minutes to go, only Ferrari were out on track. Massa spun as he exited the pits, due to a loss of tyre temperature, while Alonso was forced to abandon his first flying lap run.

When he got up to speed, a lacklustre final sector left him 5th. Sebastian Vettel, despite being miles ahead, went out again but failed to improve his lap. Hamilton displaced Webber for 2nd, while Button was 4th.

Vitaly Petrov surprised many with 6th ahead of Rosberg, while Felipe Massa had a disastrous session in 8th. Kobayashi was 9th, while Buemi was 10th.

Vettel will start the race tomorrow with an extra set of soft tyres over his rivals. Lewis will be pleased to split the Red Bulls, while Schumacher, Massa, Sutil, Barrichello, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan all had a qualifying session to forget.

Update: Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher have all received reprimands for holding up other drivers in qualifying.

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