SHANGHAI: Sebastian Vettel secured pole position for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix with another dramatic, late and perfectly judged lap for Red Bull in tense and closely contested qualifying session in Shanghai.
The 22-year-old German clocked a best lap of one minute and 34.558s in the final seconds to outpace his nearest rival and Red Bull teammate Australian Mark Webber.
It was Vettel's third pole in four races this year and the eighth pole of his career as the Red Bull team delivered its third successive front row lockout and fourth straight pole. Webber had snatched the fastest lap time with barely a minute remaining when, in a final flurry of activity, both McLaren drivers made bids to take pole but failed before Vettel recorded his flawless final lap. This left the Red Bulls on the front row ahead of two-time World champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso for Ferrari and German Nico Rosberg in the leading Mercedes.
Defending World champion Briton Jenson Button and his McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion qualified in fifth and sixth positions. Brazilian Felipe Massa was seventh in the second Ferrari, Pole Robert Kubica eighth for Renault, German Michael Schumacher ninth for Mercedes and German Adrian Sutil 10th for Force India.
The first mini-session, Q1, was led initially by Alonso before Hamilton topped the times. He was quickest ahead of Rosberg, Webber and Alonso while there was a surprise at the other end of the time-sheets with the early elimination of Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi of Force India.
His teammate German Adrian Sutil sailed through to Q2 with some ease, a fact that heaps pressure on the Italian's performances. Also out went German Timo Glock of Virgin, the two Lotus men Italian Jarno Trulli and Finn Heikki Kovalainen, Brazilians Lucas Di Grassi in the second Virgin and Bruno Senna and his Hispania teammate Indian Karun Chandhok.
Hamilton, fastest in Friday practice, but outpaced on Saturday morning by Webber, was soon showing his pace again in Q2 with an early fastest lap of 1:34.928 on soft tyres.
He stayed there with Webber second ahead of Rosberg — and with Schumacher squeezing through to the pole position shootout in 10th place. This session saw the knockout blow delivered to Rubens Barrichello, Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi.
Qualifying results (top ten): 1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1 minute, 34.558s, 21 laps; 2. Mark Webber (Red Bull), 1:34.806, 17; 3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 1:34.913, 15; 4. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:34.923, 17; 5. Jenson Button (McLaren), 1:34.979, 17; 6. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1:35.034, 13; 7. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1:35.180, 19; 8. Robert Kubica (Renault) 1:35.364, 21; 9. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) 1:35.646, 21; 10. Adrian Sutil (Force India), 1:35.963, 23. — AP