Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel, centre, of Germany, teammate Mark Webber of Australia and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, right, of Spain address a press conference following the qualifying session at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.
MELBOURNE: Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel made it back-to-back pole positions to start the new Formula One season, snatching first place in Saturday’s qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix from team-mate and local hope Mark Webber.
Vettel’s time of one minute 23.919 seconds around the Albert Park circuit dashed the hopes of local fans cheering for Webber, but the front-row monopoly of the grid put Red Bull in a good position to make amends for missing out on a win in Bahrain earlier this month.
“It’s Mark’s home race, but last year he had pole in Germany, so its kind of revenge,” Vettel said. “Tomorrow it will be much more about having a tidy race because usually a lot of things happen here.
“We did not get the job done in Bahrain, so we will try to do it here.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who won the season-opener in Bahrain when Vettel’s car sustained a mystery mechanical failure when leading the race, qualified in third place while his team-mate Felipe Massa was fifth.
Separating the Ferraris was McLaren’s Jenson Button, whose team-mate Lewis Hamilton added to his collection of forgettable recent Australian experiences by missing out on the final session of qualifying and will start from 11th.
Hamilton had his road car impounded by local police on Friday night for dangerous driving on his way from the circuit to the team hotel, while he was disqualified from last year’s Australian Grand Prix and was later found to have lied to race stewards.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg qualified in sixth, once again bettering his team-mate and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who was seventh.
Williams’ Rubens Barrichello, Renault’s Robert Kubica and Force India’s Adrian Sutil rounded out the top 10.
Webber, who had never finished better than fifth in nine races at his home race, was disappointed not to have got the better of Vettel.
“I would have loved to have been on pole but second is still a good result,” Webber said. “Obviously I am not happy with the order.
“… at least I am on the front row.”
Alonso was justifiably confident about his chances in Sunday’s race, given his team showed better reliability in Bahrain and the Melbourne race was notoriously tough on the cars with many retirements expected and late rain forecast.
“I am extremely happy with the position in the top three,” Alonso said. “This is the start of the weekend – tomorrow is the real job.”
The final part of qualifying was held with the threat of imminent rain, which eventually did not arrive, but forced situations where all the runners were on track at once, resulting in heavy traffic.
The three new teams were predictably knocked out in the opening session of qualifying and will start from the final six positions on the grid. Joining them among the early eliminations was Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who ruined his chances of making it to Q2 by running wide on his last flying lap. —AP