Sebastian Vettel took a surprise pole position for Red Bull ahead of Renault’s Fernando Alonso in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix yesterday.
The 21-year-old German grabbed the second pole position of his career and the first for his Renault-powered team, with a last-gasp lap of 1 minute, 36.184 seconds.
With his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber third behind Alonso, the previously dominant Brawn GP cars of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button were pegged back in fourth and fifth.
“Unbelievable that we made it to pole,” said Vettel, who became Formula One’s youngest race winner in Italy last year with Toro Rosso. “It was not easy. We had some problems with the car and we tried to run as little laps as possible.”
Spaniard Alonso, who clocked 1 minute, 36.381 seconds was an equally surprising presence in second for Renault, who made some radical changes to their car as they scrambled to catch up with the teams using the controversial rear diffusers.
“It has been strange for us with a completely new car, we went in to qualifying with some doubts and we are very happy with the result for sure,” the twice former world champion said.
Australian Webber’s time of 1 minute, 36.466 seconds was enough to beat the Brawn of Barrichello in fourth with the Brazilian’s British teammate Button, who won the first two races of the season from pole, in fifth.
“We knew they were competitive, but we didn’t think they were quite that competitive,” championship leader Button said of the Red Bull duo. “It’s a pity that we are starting behind them because its very tough here to overtake. So we’ll see what happens.”
Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg of Williams, both using the diffuser that was declared legal at an appeal hearing earlier in the week, were sixth and seventh, ahead of the last two world champions, Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren.