Sebastian Vettel secured his third pole position in three races today in China with a lap time that was nearly seven tenths of a second faster than the McLaren of Jenson Button, who will start tomorrow's race alongside the reigning world champion on the front row of the grid.
Lewis Hamilton will be third on the grid, ahead of Nico Rosberg in fourth, Fernando Alonso fifth, and Felipe Massa sixth.
The two Toro Rosso cars will also start in the top ten, with Jaime Alguersuari seventh and Sebastien Buemi ninth. Paul di Resta qualified eighth and Vitaly Petrov – who stopped out on track at the end of Q2 – will begin the race from tenth place.
Mark Webber's miserable weekend in China continued as he failed to make it out of Q1, and will start the Chinese Grand Prix from eighteenth on the grid.
The heavy smog that shrouded the Shanghai International Circuit yesterday had lifted slightly for qualifying, and track temperature had dropped to a relatively low 23 degrees as Sergio Perez exited the pit lane to get the hour-long session underway.
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa felt it necessary to have two qualifying runs in Q1, each using a set of soft tyres. The Ferrari's finished Q1 third and fourth respectively, but each driver will now have one fewer new set of soft tyres for the race tomorrow.
Mark Webber completed his second outing on the harder tyre though, which ultimately cost him a decent grid position. The Australian missed out on Q2 by over three tenths of a second, and will begin tomorrow's race from eighteenth. A lack of KERS on his RB7 will also have limited his lap time.
Behind Webber were the usual suspects. The two Lotus cars of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli will start on the row behind the Red Bull. The eleventh row will consist of the Virgin cars of Jerome D'Ambrosio and Timo Glock, with the Belgian rookie out-qualifying the more experienced German. Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan will start from the back row.
The Hispania cars were easily within the 107% time – Karthikeyan's best lap of 1:40.445 was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the 1:41.941 cut-off. Nico Rosberg was the fastest man in Q1, with Vitaly Petrov second.
In Q2, the McLaren drivers came out on the Option tyre for the first time in qualifying, and Jenson Button became the first driver to complete a sub-95 second lap. Moments later, Lewis Hamilton beat this time by nearly two tenths of a second.
The session was halted with just over two seconds so go in Q2 after Petrov, who was running fourth, stopped out on track. The Russian, who had just completed his flying lap, radioed into his team, complaining of gear problems.
Has soon as the restart was announced for 14:49, cars rushed to the end of the pit-lane, queuing to get the best position on track. Perez was at the front of the queue, which was about ten cars long as the green light came on at the end of the pit lane.
Massa and Perez fought for track position on the out-lap, with the Ferrari barging its way through to start its flying lap first, with just seventeen seconds of the session remaining. Di Resta – who was last in the queue of runners – made it over the line with just fractions of a second to spare.
After this frantic melee, eleventh to seventeenth was decided. Adrian Sutil will be eleventh on the grid, then Sergio Perez, Kamui Kobayashi, Michael Schumacher – who is still yet to make it through to Q3 this season, then Rubens Barrichello, Nick Heidfeld and Pastor Maldonado.
Paul di Resta made it through to Q3 for the first time in his F1 career, out-qualifying his team-mate in the process. Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari did not take part in Q2 after the restart and still finished Q2 in seventh and eighth respectively – an excellent qualifying performance for Toro Rosso.
With two minutes of Q3 elapsed, there were only two cars out on track: Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button. The Brit set his time first, before Vettel comprehensively eclipsed his efforts with an impressive time of 1:33.706 – the fastest ever lap time around this track.
Still their rivals waited. Five minutes had gone and only the two Toro Rosso cars had ventured out on track. Hamilton and Alonso remained in the garage, starting at the timing screens.
Then, with just two and half minutes remaining, the cars were lowered to the ground, and they headed down the pit lane, ready to challenge Vettel's time.
Alonso crossed the line over 1.4 seconds slower than Vettel's effort. Hamilton was 0.757 seconds off Vettel, a did not even beat the time of team-mate Button. Vettel did not even bother to complete his second attempt, heading into the pit lane, pole position number eighteen under his belt.
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:33.706||14||Report|
|7||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||1:36.158||16||Report|
|8||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:36.190||17||Report|
|9||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||1:36.203||16||Report|
|10||10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||No time||11||Report|
|11||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:35.874||14||Report|
|18||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:36.468||8||Report|
|21||25||Jerome D'Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||1:39.119||8|
|22||24||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||1:39.708||8|
|23||23||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Hispania Racing||1:40.212||9|
|24||22||Narain Karthikeyan||Hispania Racing||1:40.445||9|
|107% qualifying time||1:41.941|