Super-cool Vettel takes second pole in China (Chinese Grand Prix qualifying)

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Sebastian Vettel put Red Bull on pole position for the first time

Sebastian Vettel took the second pole position of his career – and Red Bull’s first – using just a single lap in Q2 and Q3 to deliver a perfect performance.

Fernando Alonso surprised by grabbing second ahead of Mark Webber as Renault-engined cars locked out the top three – bumping back the Brawn duo of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button.


None of the drivers were able to get through the first part of qualifying without having to resort to the super-soft tyre.

After their Malaysian Grand Prix disaster Ferrari took care to ensure Felipe Massa got a second lap in and wasn’t eliminated before Q2.

This time it was Robert Kubica’s turn to suffer an early exclusion – the BMW driver slumped to 18th after making a mistake at turn 12 on his quick lap.

Lewis Hamilton, running a new front wing and diffuser on the MP4/24, showed much improved pace. But team make Heikki Kovalainen, who’d chosen not to run the new wing, only narrowly made it into Q2.

Aside from Kubica the drivers eliminated in Q1 were the usual suspects – with Sebastien Buemi once again getting the better of Sebastien Bourdais.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16. Sebastien Bourdais 1’36.906
17. Nelson Piquet Jnr 1’36.908
18. Robert Kubica 1’36.966
19. Adrian Sutil 1’37.669
20. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’37.672


Mark Webber set the early pace in Q2 while team mate Sebastian Vettel, unusually, hung back in the pits until two minutes before the end of the session.

But when he did set his single lap it was a flyer – 1;35.130, a few hundredths quicker than Webber’s.

They bumped the Brawns back to second – but Jenson Button’s failure to improve on his time from Q1 suggested he had time in hand.

Sebastien Buemi snatched the crucial tenth place by one hundredth of a second from Nick Heidfeld, with Kovalainen and Massa close behind. But video replays suggested he might have been delayed by one of the Red Bulls – in which case the stewards may get involved.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11. Nick Heidfeld 1’35.975
12. Heikki Kovalainen 1’36.032
13. Felipe Massa 1’36.033
14. Timo Glock 1’36.066
15. Kazuki Nakajima 1’36.193


Brawn and Red Bull were the only team to get both their drivers into Q3. They were joined by Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Jarno Trulli, Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton and Buemi.

Rubens Barrichello was fastest from Webber in the opening exchange of laps by 0.04s, with Button a further 0.2s behind. Vettel again hung back in the pits, biding his time and saving tyres.

Webber’s first effort took provisional pole position – Vettel beat him by 0.3s to give Red Bull their first pole position.

But their hopes of a front row lockout were dashed when Alonso pulled a surprise lap out of the bag to grab second – suggesting the Renault has rather more performance in KERS-free form. He was also aided by a revised diffuser added to the car only this morning.

This left Barrichello fourth and Button, pole sitter for the first two races, bumped back to row three. But how much fuel do they have on board? We’ll find out in a few hours.

Update: Fuel weights published – Alonso and the Red Bull drivers very light on fuel: Chinese GP fuel weights and strategies

Top ten drivers in Q3

1. Sebastian Vettel 1’36.184
2. Fernando Alonso 1’36.381
3. Mark Webber 1’36.456
4. Rubens Barrichello 1’36.493
5. Jenson Button 1’36.532
6. Jarno Trulli 1’36.835
7. Nico Rosberg 1’37.397
8. Kimi Raikkonen 1’38.089
9. Lewis Hamilton 1’38.595
10. Sebastien Buemi 1’39.321

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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73 comments on “Super-cool Vettel takes second pole in China (Chinese Grand Prix qualifying)”

  1. ILoveVettel
    18th April 2009, 8:18

    I am so so happy…….Two favourite drivers of mine are on front row..

    1. SAME HERE!!! ILoveVettel!

  2. Was Briatore fooling the world with his recent outbursts while secretly developing the diffuser!!

  3. just great… SuperSeb is best!!
    Lets see what tyre-game will bring us.

  4. @ILoveVettel: I second that!!!

  5. StrFerrari4Ever
    18th April 2009, 8:22

    Get In There :D that was so emotional for me great to see Vettel on pole I predicted he’d get pole but i didn’t know Red Bull had that much pace its so great and Webber in 3rd place Buemi top 10 im happy aswell its just a matter of races before they get onto the pace of Red Bull tommorow is going to be fantastic regardless of the fuel loads :D

    1. Don’t be to happy yet. Webber may have a penalty for holding up Hikki. Fingers crossed that nothing comes of it.

    2. Was it definitely Webber and not Vettel?

    3. Yes, because the red bull car then went into the pits, which means it had to be Webber becasue Vettel only did one flying lap and thats was late in the session.

    4. After reading everyones comments, I apologise. It appears that I was wrong about the slow red bull being Webber.

      I have to say though, as an Australian, knowing that it wasn’t Webber will help me get a much better nights sleep tonight.


  6. Renault back on top. I look forward for the race tomorrow.

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      18th April 2009, 9:31

      not for long

  7. StrFerrari4Ever
    18th April 2009, 8:31

    oh yeah true there was that but surely the stewards will take into account that Webber was trying to get some space from that Williams ahead of him

  8. pole position with one lap? awesome vettel!

  9. I’ve had another look and it does look like it was Vettel that held up Kovalainen, and Kovalainen was on a timed lap, so I think it’s entirely possible the stewards might get involved.

    I’m not sure if they need an appeal from one of the teams to investigate. McLaren may not bother because Vettel losing five places (the standard penalty) wouldn’t help either of their drivers. But Renault could appeal I guess.

    1. Sush Meerkat
      18th April 2009, 9:36

      I dont think Fabrice will let that happen to his Renault powered red bull.

  10. Whoever has the yellow onboard camera on their Red Bull was the one who had a hand in holding up Heikki. The Williams in front could be in for a punishment, too.

  11. Vettel deserves the penalty. He was on his in lap so he can’t use the “I was blocked by the guy in front of me” excuse because he could have given way at any point. Kova was all over the track looking for a place to cleanly pass.

  12. Great qualy. shame it’ll be rigged again. I reckon Vettel will be given a penalty, the steward love giving them

    1. What are you talking about? On an in lap, obstructing a flyer is a clear 5 place penalty – all the drivers know this.

      Alonso on pole for sure. He must be light due to the fact they want to get the super softs out of the way for as little as 10 laps or so at the start.

  13. KingHamilton
    18th April 2009, 8:44

    cant wait to see the fuel loads. I bet alonso will be light, but if he isnt that new diffuser is doing the right job!

    I also think one of the red bulls will get a penalty for blocking heikki.

    Great news for red bull otherwise though, they’ve proven they really are the real deal this year

  14. I’m so happy for Vettel (I think me wearing my Vettel t-shirt is what did it) but I hope he doesn’t get a penalty if it was him holding up Heikki. I think I’ll cry. I’d love it if Red Bull could translate one of their positions to a win!

    Being a Toro Rosso fan too I’m very happy for Buemi, but I was expecting more from Bourdais for this year, but ho hum.

    Looks like the Renault and McLaren changes have had some effect, which is good to see. Be good if Lewis is fuelled heavy : )

    Out of interest did Piquet have the new diffuser too, or was it just Alonso?

    1. Out of interest did Piquet have the new diffuser too, or was it just Alonso?

      No, it was just Alonso.

  15. StrFerrari4Ever
    18th April 2009, 8:46

    Fingers crossed i hope he wont get a penalty because come on that would just ruin the whole session having someone who did a blinding lap to put it on pole
    Renault quick fix or running incredibly light i don’t know Keith do you still believe Newey should go ahead with his diffuser or just develop other area’s seeing how fast that car is :P

  16. StrFerrari4Ever
    18th April 2009, 8:48

    Haha so i’m not the only Toro Rosso fan on here as Murray Walker would say Faaaaaaantastic Buemi delivering the goods hope he jumps Hamilton and gets some points tommorow :)

    1. Buemi was fantastic. Bourdais’ constant moaning is beginning to get a little tiresome however!

    2. I really don’t mean to be rude but can you use some full stops? It’s really difficult to read your posts… Buemi will find it difficult to jump ahead of a KERS boosted McLaren at the start, I think Hamilton knows this and will be fueled heavy. I see him jumping up to 6th at the start and being a pain for the first stint of Buemi.

    3. Bourdais was heard on the radio as saying his lap was ruined by dust on the tyers but here’s a great quote from David Coulthard…

      Well if you stay on the black bits the tyres wont get dusty.

      Fantastic stuff from BBC.

  17. Maybe beefing up in the driveshaft area?

  18. schumi the greatest
    18th April 2009, 8:50

    Great performance from vettel, one of the big talking points of pre season was the inter team battle between vettel and webber, i think vettel has got mark covered quite easily.

    good to see hamilton back in the top 10, amazing how things have changed, at last years chinese gp if hamilton had qualified 9th id be pretty peed off but now im delighted….i think he could have gone abit better too, looked like he made a few mistakes on his lap in q3.

    Stunning lap from alonso, wil be intresting to see the fuel loads…think its clear red bull are light, horner pretty much admitted as much to bbc after q3 but i suspect theyl do a short 1st stint on the super soft tyre. i think vettel has a very good chance for the race.

    1. Thanks K.R.:

  19. Mussolini's Pet Cat
    18th April 2009, 9:31

    Button will still win. :)

  20. schumi the greatest, lets wait for the fuel load. weight corrected Mark was faster in Malaysia

    1. Boy will I be glad when we’re rid of this ‘fuel corrected’ nonsense next year…

  21. Boy from ouagadougou
    18th April 2009, 10:03

    North korea is reportedly planning a rocket attack on the shangai circuit during the race. It is said that it is a way to protest the usage of double decker diffusers by some of the teams. Max you deserve hell.

    1. Now than would be a fun race

  22. Redbull drivers are most probably lighter and they are planning to use their super softs in the first stint of the race. They were fast in Q2 too, so they have a good chance of victory. Let’s wait the fuel loads to be published.

  23. schumi the greatest
    18th April 2009, 10:19

    m0tion, really?? i didnt know this…i stand corrected intresting to see then…still think that vettel will have the measure of webber throught the season though hes a future world champ for definite. Do feel sorry for webber though, hes had bad luck all his career and when he finally gets into a front running car hes got 1 of the hottest properties in f1 as a team mate.

    1. Don’t count Webber out yet mate. Throughout his carrer he is yet to be beaten by a team mate.

      From looking at the winter testing and the first 3 race weekends, I would have to chalenge you on your comment and say that Webber has had the better Vettel.

      Just my opinion though.

  24. I’ve seen many people suggesting that Alonso is very light on fuel. I’m not so sure about that as he ran 21 laps, albeit the same as the Brawn’s, whcih he mean that he burned more fule during Q3 than the Red Bulls, so this mean he actually can have more fuel than Webber’s.
    As for Vettel, it’s very strange because he done so few laps, but I’ll be very surprised if he’s not the lightest car in the grid tomorrow.
    If this is the case, it will just show how gast he and the RB5 is.

    Even if I think Alonso has more fuel than most people, I still think he has not pace to match the Brawn, in what come to sheer speed at least, but one thig’s certain, Alonso has wonderfull race pace, so even if he’s car is slower he will manage to maintian the other behind if he has a good 1st lap, and since the car seems to closed the gap, I expect a good chanlenge from him.

    Brawn’s still good for the win. Red Bull is fast but looks a bit fragile, and Alonso won’t managed to hold’em during the pit-stops (he should go in rist for sure, then Brawn will up the pace and gain some time then).

    But accidents a side, it will be closer IMO, and very uncertain regardign the fight for the podium.
    Toyota will have great race for sure, Trulli will fight for the podium. This year Toyota is delivering.

    Hamilton will have a strong race too, and for sure he is heavy, so maybe he’ll surprsie after the first pit-tops and suddenly be running in the top-3.

    Wouldn’t it be lovelly if he clashes with Alonso on track? That would be a great fight, the 2 ex-temamates and the 2 best drivers currently (IMO).

    1. I’m not so sure about that as he ran 21 laps, albeit the same as the Brawn’s, whcih he mean that he burned more fule during Q3 than the Red Bulls, so this mean he actually can have more fuel than Webber’s.

      Sorry I don’t understand your reasoning – they can refuel between Q2 and Q3 so the total number of laps he did during the session is irrelevant.

      We’ll be able to assess who did the best job in qualifying when the fuel weights are announced.

  25. Yeeeerrrrrrr ALONSO…….. i am a happy fan. do i need to say more !!!!

  26. The FIA had once handed penalties to both Mclarens for obstructing even though one was behind the other.
    I also noticed that Glock seemed to be in the way of Nakajima at one point.

    Pound for pound, the REDBULL seems to consistently be the best car on the grid.

    The Mclarens have yet to sort out their fundamental aerodynamic problems, hence the Double diffuser cant just propel them far forward.

    Its surprising the chief proponent of the KERS system isn’t making full use of it. They have a car that looks quite similar to the ForceIndia’s, but a bit better developed. I just wonder where they dropped the ball.

    Renault seem to have one of the more powerful engines on the grid, if not the most powerful.

  27. What a fantastic qualifying session!!!! Loving the fact that the Red Bulls are up the front though I’m sure that Brawn GP will make their presence known in the duration of the race. Great effort on the part of Alonso too.

    Shaping up to be a cracking race tomorrow, and lord knows we deserve a good race after Sepang!

  28. @Keith: Forget my theory! I was still thinking that the cars were refueled at the end of Q3, to the level at the start, hence considering Alonso was burning fuel to lighten the car… It is actually the other way around, if a driver does many laps during Q3 he has less fuel availabe for the race!

  29. The FIA had once handed penalties to both Mclarens for obstructing even though one was behind the other.

    I remember that. They had posted their fast times and were returning to the pits at very slow speed (to save fuel) but were on the racing line and that was the reason for the penalty. Coastin back to the pits on the racing line.
    The difference in speed was too much, and one or two cars had to navigate through them coming full-speed so it was a dangerous situation.

    I think that there is now a rule of a minimum time to come back to the pits on slowing laps, in order to prevent this kind of situations


    Here you have fuel load:

    Sebastian Vettel – 644,0 kg
    Fernando Alonso – 637,0 kg
    Mark Webber – 646,5 kg
    Rubens Barrichello – 661,0 kg
    Jenson Button – 659,0 kg
    Jarno Trulli – 664,5 kg
    Nico Rosberg – 650,5 kg
    Kimi Räikkönen – 673,5 kg
    Lewis Hamilton – 679,0 kg
    Sébastien Buemi – 673,0 kg
    Nick Heidfeld – 679,0 kg
    Heikki Kovalainen – 697,0 kg
    Felipe Massa – 690,0 kg
    Timo Glock – 652,0 kg
    Kazuki Nakajima – 682,7 kg
    Sébastien Bourdais – 690,0 kg
    Nelson Piquet – 697,9 kg
    Robert Kubica – 659,0 kg
    Adrian Sutil – 648,0 kg
    Giancarlo Fisichella – 679,5 kg

    Alonso extra light, I hope KUB will gain some positions at start.

    1. Pretty much as expected with the fuel.

      No one has really mentioned him, but I think Kimi did a great job today… He could be a threat for a podium, were it not for the F60 mashing up tyres like they’re going out of fashion.

  31. Why is evryone thinking Hamilton is heavy? Is it because his wheels were leaving the track???

    I’d love to see Alonso’s car be more competitive even if it looks like a truck. Glad he’s doing something with it. Not like his teammate Nelson ‘he’s spun again’ Piquet Jnr…. So many good drivers on the sidelines (Buemi keeps impressing) and we get stuck with drivers who cant stick it in F1, Bourdais and Piquet. At least Piquet doesn’t offer excuses for his woeful record.

    1. So many good drivers on the sidelines

      This all to true.

      Sato, Davidson, Liuzzi and even de la Rosa could easily have a drive in this years field.

  32. Heikki:
    “It was unfortunate we couldn’t go any faster in Q2”
    “12th position doesn’t truly reflect my pace”.

    Hmmm… Q2 unfortunate and no true pace? I wonder why was that? It seems to me that Heikki was told to shut up about the blocking. Sigh… I hope it won’t be “unfortunte” for them again in the future.

    BTW, Heikki was penalized for “blocking” Webber in French GP 08′, eventhough Webber made it into Q3 and didn’t even noticed it.

    1. 20th would accurately reflect his pace…

  33. schumi the greatest
    18th April 2009, 11:53

    Keith Collantine says: April 18, 2009 at 10:30 am
    Boy will I be glad when we’re rid of this ‘fuel corrected’ nonsense next year…

    Amen to that keith!!

    and haha at paddy lol

  34. where are the pictures of practice and qualifing my friend ?

  35. i think piquet didn’t get the new diffuser that it was just alonso. both dropped kers, i believe there’s only three drivers running it now.

    proven KERS = FAIL

  36. KERS != FAIL. It’s importance was way, way overstated and realistically teams shouldn’t think about developing it until their cars are aerodynamically sound. But it has a clear racing advantage and I predict most of the field will be running it by the end of the year. Williams running it will be the trigger to indicate the benefits imo.

  37. Piquet doesn’t offer excuses?

    Piquet first started with Mclaren having a better simulator and that if they had such a simulator he would sit in it all day…

    Then he goes on to how testing times are very limited, and it rained during one test he did.

    Then of course, other teams have better cars…blah blah..

    Granted Piquet doesn’t have the same diffuser as alonso this race so not fair to compare their relative performance, but in previous races, he had not always been close to his team mate, and thats the best reference we have on his performance so far.

    1. I agree. I don’t think he has outqualified Alonso yet or come relatively close. I didn’t realise only Alonso had the diffuser.

      I have personally heard more moaning from Bourdais.

      Also I find Piquet’s inadequacy funny at times which may give me a bias to him over Bourdais!

    2. Piquet qualified worse than Alonso every single saturday.
      We can find excuses for some of them, but for the others…

    3. Alonso 21 – 0 Piquet

  38. I’m liking this! hopefully Vettel can bring home the win and Kimi can do something as well.

  39. Adjusted Grid according to car’s weight:

    1 Rubens Barichello
    2 Jenson Button
    3 Jarno Trulli
    4 Sebastian Vettel
    5 Mark Webber
    6 Fernando Alonso
    7 Kimi Raikkonen
    8 Lewis Hamilton
    9 Nico Rosberg
    10 Sebastien Buemi

  40. Renault and Alonso should be thankfull for Piquet. Last year he gave the team the first podium finish, when he finished 2nd in Germany, behind Lewis. And it was thank to Piquet slamming his R28 into the wall in Singapore that Alonso won the first race! :-)

    1. I do remember that in singapore! I swear Alonso had that planned he was perfectly timed for that safety car. I’ll grant you he did well in Hockenheim. I remember me saying ‘he might hold up Hamilt…..oh he let him by….that was quick’. I just think there are some really good drivers who havent had there chance in F1. Its all been said on this site before!

  41. With so little fuel, even I could get pole… We’ll see in the race if the renault powered cars are as good as they ‘look’ like… NOT!

  42. It’s great seeing two real talents of F1 on the front row. Congratulations Vettel and Alonso! ;)

  43. With so little fuel, even I could get pole… We’ll see in the race if the renault powered cars are as good as they ‘look’ like… NOT

    If this was as simple as taht, why then Kuica got the pole for Australia? He had 15kg less Button’s car, the same wieght differnece between Vettel and Button today, yet he “only” managed 4th place!

    Also in Malyasia, Vettel was 13kg ligther than Button, also the lightest car in Q3, but “only” got the 3rd fastest time.

    So, apart from Alonso who is really much lighter than usual, Vettel managed to beat the Brawn’s by 0,3s carrying a similar difference in fuel than in Malaysia, where he lost 0,4s, so for me it is still clear that it is an inprovement.

    Also Rosberg was the 4th lightest car in Q3 (to my surprise) and driving a double-diffuser car he finished 7th.

    So just saying that it was an easy pole just because he was low on fuel, yes very much simplistic.

    It was nevertheless the lighter car, a fantastic lap. He managed it in his only attempt, and with a nice advantage (for 2009 standards) for the others

  44. Don’t forget that Seb set his fast lap when only doing one run whilst everyone else did two… given that they all started on a stated weight this would equate to the others having reduced their load in the extra 3 to 4 laps they did…

    On the other hand Kimi and Buemi were on used super softs as they’d used all the alloted sets by the end of Q2…

    So true comparisons of Q3 need to take that into account…

  45. Clearly, Mclaren are tired of seeing stewards; I suppose that’s why there’s no mention of a Redbull blocking Kovi. If I was in their shoes, I would also just pretend it didn’t happen. Looks like they just haven’t had much luck in front of the FIA judging panels and their viceroy stewards.

    1. McLaren have nothing to be gained from a penalty in this instance (as Lewis and Heiki are so far down, and do they really want Alonso on Pole!!), so no real need to go to the stewards.

      To be consistent, they should award the 5 place penalty despite any teams having to say anything IMHO.

      I love Vettel, but I want consistency PLEASE!!

  46. Mclaren are in the right, they get a penalty. In the wrong, they get a penalty. If they get a case in their favour the FIA investigates how that can happen :-)

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