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Page last updated at 07:14 GMT, Saturday, 18 April 2009 08:14 UK

Vettel on shock pole for Red Bull

Venue: Shanghai International Circuit Dates: 17-19 April Coverage: Live coverage of Friday's practice sessions, Saturday's qualifying sessions and Sunday's race across BBC TV, radio and online. Find complete listings here

Sebastian Vettel

Highlights - Vettel takes pole in China

By Chris Whyatt

Sebastian Vettel grabbed Red Bull's first ever pole position in a thrilling qualifying session in Shanghai.

Team-mate Mark Webber starts Sunday's race in third as the favourites Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello of Brawn GP were pushed into fourth and fifth.

Renault's Fernando Alonso, who has widely struggled for speed so far this season, will start from second.

World champion Lewis Hamilton was ninth for McLaren, who have shown signs of improvement with an updated car.

Starting in first and third at the Chinese Grand Prix represents a real achievement for Red Bull - considered one of the teams with fewer resources than the traditional powerhouses - as the 2009 season continues to throw any sense of Formula 1's conventions on its head.

It was generally anticipated that Brawn GP, who have dominated the first two races, would again put a driver on the front row.

BBC SPORT'S FUEL-ADJUSTED GRID (with projected race first pit stops*)
1 Barrichello (lap 17)
2 Button (lap 16)
3 Trulli (lap 18)
4 Vettel (lap 11)
5 Webber (lap 12)
6 Alonso (lap 9)
7 Raikkonen (lap 21)
8 Rosberg (lap 14)
9 Hamilton (lap 24)
10 Buemi (lap 21)
* Calculated on the weight of fuel left in cars after qualifying had finished

But the British-based team showed they have the best car on the grid that is not running with a double-decker diffuser - a controversial take on a key component at the rear of a car which Brawn, Williams and Toyota have used so far this season and was passed as legal by F1's governing body, the FIA, on Wednesday.

German Vettel coolly came first in the second session before triumphing in the final session with a time of one minute 36.184, triggering an explosion of joy from his mechanics and engineers.

"I am very, very happy," said the 21-year-old.

"It is unbelievable that we made it to pole position in the end. This morning we had a problem with the car. The mechanics did a very good job and fixed the car. Basically it is all down to them."

When the weights of the cars in qualifying were published, however, it emerged that fourth-placed Barrichello was running with 18kg more fuel than frontrunner Vettel.

That heavier load equates to an approximate deficit of 0.6 seconds, meaning that he was essentially three tenths quicker - and the fastest man in the field.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel

Vettel praises mechanics after pole

The Brazilian's performance was all the more impressive because he was running with one lap's worth more fuel than Button, and still went faster than the Briton for the first time this season.

As surprising as Red Bull's one-three was two-time world champion Alonso coming through late on to snatch second from Webber.

He failed to qualify in the top 10 at the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix for Renault, who decided not to use their energy storage and power boost system (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) in Chinese qualifying - but are running with a new interim diffuser.

"If you add any new part to the car it makes a big difference in terms of position and we proved it today," said the Spaniard.

"The team did improve the car and suddenly we are competitive.

"We did some more analysis to see how the [Kers] device works in some circuits and we saw that it was time to do a real test [without it].

"And also we had some concerns, we had problems in Malaysia with the rain, it was some water in the system and we know it is not ideal in terms of safety.

"We felt comfortable going into the third qualifying session. That hasn't happened before this season."


Hamilton, whose McLaren car has been updated with an interim diffuser and new front wing, expressed his delight as he too finished as a top 10 qualifier for the first time this season.

"It's good to be in the top 10 and I am satisfied because we are making progress. It is a step forward," said the 24-year-old.

"We want to be through to Q3 and we want to be moving forwards and we are doing that step by step. The team are working very hard not only here but back at base in England."

The biggest casualty of the first qualifying session was BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, who was so impressive last season and is considered to be one of the most talented drivers, but finished in 18th.

"It was quite difficult, I faced some problems with the soft tyres and I lost a lot of lap time with braking," he said. "Overall we are struggling."

Despite their achievement, Red Bull said they were wary of the Brawn GP cars - and were proved right when hinting that the championship leaders could be carrying more fuel than other cars, which would have slightly slowed them down.

"It's still the best of the rest in our view," conceded Webber immediately after qualifying was over.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton delighted with 'step forward'

Yet again Ferrari struggled, with Felipe Massa - who was just one point behind world champion Lewis Hamilton in 2008 - in 13th place.

Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen is eighth on the grid, but it was clear that their cars could not provide any real competitive performance.

One of the most eye-catching drives of the day came from Toro Rosso's consistently impressive Sebastien Buemi - the only rookie driver in 2009 - who finished 10th.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Williams driver Nico Rosberg will start Sunday's race (at 0800 BST) in sixth and seventh respectively.

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see also
Chinese Grand Prix qualifying results
14 Apr 09 |  Results
Chinese GP qualifying as it happened
18 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Button best as Hamilton improves
17 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Chinese GP practice as it happened
17 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari abandon Kers for China GP
16 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Chinese GP qualifying photos
18 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
The row that has split F1
17 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Chinese Grand Prix practice results
14 Apr 09 |  Results

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