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Sebastian Vettel beats Ferraris to Bahrain pole

Sebatian Vettel

Highlights - Vettel claims Bahrain pole

By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport in Bahrain

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel will start the first race of 2010 from pole after edging the Ferraris in Bahrain.

Vettel's final qualifying lap of one minute 54.101 seconds beat Felipe Massa by 0.141secs, with the second Ferrari of Fernando Alonso in third.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was fourth with Nico Rosberg fifth, two places ahead of Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher in his comeback race.

World champion Jenson Button placed down in eighth in the second McLaren.

Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber was sixth, with Renault's Robert Kubica ninth and Adrian Sutil 10th for Force India.

We don't have the same pace as Red Bull and Ferrari, so I am overwhelmed with fourth

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren

Schumacher is racing for the first time in three years after deciding to return with the Mercedes team, who won last year's world titles in their previous guise as Brawn.

But it has been apparent in Bahrain that he is lagging a little behind Rosberg on one-lap pace - the German legend admitted after practice on Friday that he was "rusty".

However, team insiders expect him to be competitive in the race - an impression backed up by an analysis of lap times in practice.

"It's a little bit different for me," said Schumacher.

"The time I had available to get onto the peak of what the car can do was not very big, but we are working well together and the season is a long one."

Post qualifying top three drivers

Bahrain GP - qualifying top three

Rosberg said he was "not quite happy" with his performance, adding: "I was hoping for pole, I was convinced I could do that.

"But it was so difficult out there with the tyres. One mistake and your tyres were gone."

The relative lack of pace of the McLaren was a major surprise.

The car had looked quick throughout pre-season testing, and in practice on Friday, and it has been criticised by rival teams for employing a design feature that some believe is illegal.

But Hamilton and Button were off the pace in qualifying - Hamilton finishing 1.116secs behind Vettel in the final session.

Hamilton said: "I was surprised with that result. We don't have the same pace as Red Bull and Ferrari, so I am overwhelmed with fourth and there are a lot of quick guys behind me.

"It's a great starting point. Hopefully we can keep the position on Sunday and maybe even make up another place."

Asked where McLaren were struggling, Hamilton said: "It's downforce - we are weak in the middle section where we lose about a second.

"The guys are working on that back in the factory, though."

Button added: "It was getting better every run but I did struggle with front locking this afternoon.

Michael Schumacher
Schumacher was outclassed by junior team-mate Rosberg in qualifying

"Something felt wrong through qualifying so we are going to have a look at that."

The Red Bull has looked quick in low-fuel qualifying trim all weekend, but it is believed the team are less competitive over a race distance.

Red Bull have been struggling with tyre wear, whereas the Ferrari drivers have been very impressive during the race simulation run.

Vettel said: "We don't know what will happen tomorrow. It could be very exciting, could be very boring.

"You need to take care of your tyres and the question mark is what you do with your strategy."

Massa's second place was a surprise after Alonso seemed to have the edge on the Brazilian all weekend.

But the Brazilian beat the double world champion by more than 0.3 seconds when it mattered.

Alonso said his lap was "not perfect" and team boss Stefano Domenicali confirmed that he had made a mistake on his final lap.

Alonso added: "With such a long lap and the conditions we are facing, it is very difficult to complete a lap with no mistakes, or no problems.


"The times are really related to how good the lap is, as well as the competitiveness of the car."

Massa is driving in his first race since suffering a fractured skull in a crash in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix last July.

He said: "It is very nice to be back here, competitive and with a good direction.

"I feel really happy to be back after such a difficult time."

Eleventh-placed Williams driver Rubens Barrichello has a potential advantage over some of the drivers in the top 10, who must start the race on the tyres with which they set their qualifying time.

Barrichello and all those behind him, by contrast, can choose their starting tyres and may plump for the harder tyre, which is less effective over one lap but more durable over a race stint.

Sutil was the only driver in the top 10 to use the harder of the two tyre options.

The Sauber team did not live up to the pace they showed in pre-season testing, with Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi lining up 14th and 16th.

As expected, the new teams were a long way off the pace, although the Virgin and Lotus teams were closely matched.

Onboard with Sebastian Vettel

Vettel's in-car pole lap in Bahrain

Virgin driver Timo Glock narrowly won that private battle with a lap 0.124secs quicker than his former Toyota team-mate Jarno Trulli in the Lotus.

Trulli's team-mate Heikki Kovalainen was nearly half a second behind the Italian. Brazilian rookie Lucas di Grassi was 0.8secs slower than team-mate Glock.

The Hispania team, whose car had not turned a wheel before arriving in Bahrain, brought up the rear.

Bruno Senna was 3.5secs slower than Glock - and more than eight behind first session pace-setter Alonso.

The Brazilian's team-mate, Karun Chandhok finally got some running after being forced to sit out all three practice sessions because of car problems.

The Indian managed a creditable time, 1.7secs behind his team-mate.

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see also
Sluggish McLaren worries Button
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying result
18 Feb 10 |  Results
Bahrain Grand Prix Saturday photos
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Bahrain GP qualifying as it happened
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher keen to 'raise game'
12 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Winning start is vital - Button
11 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
All-clear for McLaren wing design
12 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Brawn thrilled by new F1 season
09 Mar 10 |  Formula 1

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