Red Bull kept its streak of qualifying on pole at every race this season alive after Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber locked out the front row for the Chinese Grand Prix, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg.
With irritation growing in the team at constant suggestions of its pace being down to a now-banned active suspension, team-boss Christian Horner was unable to resist crowing “who needs ride height control?” over the radio to the young German after his pole-winning lap was over.
Vettel had been slower than Webber during the weekend but adopted some of the settings used on his car and it proved enough: “Special thanks to the mechanics, because they had zero lunch as we required a lot of changes that they had to work on between free practice and qualifying,” he said.
But he predicted the race would be affected by the weather: “I think it will be raining tomorrow, it’s just a question of when. It will be similar to the last two races. We are not afraid of any rain, the question is will it be wet throughout the whole race or after the start?
“We have good memories of the wet conditions last year and if the rain comes it is best to start at the front because you are the one who sees the best. Dry or wet we should be well-armed for tomorrow.”
The McLaren pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button had been fastest throughout the weekend, but had warned their pace might not last all the way through qualifying – and so it proved, with Button fifth and Hamilton sixth.
Even forewarned, they were disappointed with the result. Hamilton told TV reporters: “We were doing so well in practice and in Q1 and Q2 the car was even better. I really don’t understand what was wrong with the car in Q3 but I wasn’t able to get any more time out of it. That was me on the limit so I don’t know where the time is. We have to go and analyse it and try and find it, but I’m sure tomorrow will be a good race.”
Behind the McLaren drivers came Felipe Massa for Ferrari and Robert Kubica for Renault. They will share row four, ahead of Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher and Force India’s Adrian Sutil.
Rubens Barrichello was the fastest of the cars not to make the third session of qualifying, while Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi was the unlucky driver to join the new teams in being eliminated in the first session. Karun Chandhok of Hispania was slowest, and will also receive a purely academic grid penalty for having unsupervised work done on his gearbox.
Chinese Grand Prix provisional grid positions
Times shown are the fastest for each driver in the latest session in which he competed.
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:34.558 (Q3)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:34.806 (Q3)
- Fernando Alonso, Ferrari: 1:34.913 (Q3)
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP: 1:34.923 (Q3)
- Jenson Button, McLaren: 1:34.979 (Q3)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:35.034 (Q3)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:35.180 (Q3)
- Robert Kubica, Renault: 1:35.364 (Q3)
- Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP: 1:35.646 (Q3)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:35.963 (Q3)
- Rubens Barrichello, Williams: 1:35.748 (Q2)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:36.047 (Q2)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:36.149 (Q2)
- Vitaly Petrov, Renault: 1:36.311 (Q2)
- Kamui Kobayashi, BMW Sauber: 1:36.422 (Q2)
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1:36.647 (Q2)
- Pedro de la Rosa, BMW Sauber1:37.020 (Q2)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:37.161 (Q1)
- Timo Glock, Virgin: 1:39.278 (Q1)
- Jarno Trulli, Lotus: 1:39.399 (Q1)
- Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus: 1:39.520 (Q1)
- Lucas di Grassi, Virgin: 1:39.783 (Q1)
- Bruno Senna, Hispania: 1:40.469 (Q1)
- Karun Chandhok, Hispania: 1:40.578 (Q1)