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Vettel and Red Bull shine in Shanghai
Vettel and Red Bull shine in Shanghai
Posted By:   |  18 Apr 2009   |  8:39 am GMT  |  32 comments

A very exciting qualifying session today, with some stellar performances.

Despite losing time with problems with driveshafts in morning practice Red Bull came up trumps in qualifying, Sebastien Vettel took his second career pole position, the first for Red Bull, ahead of Renault’s Fernando Alonso. Vettel’s Red Bull team mate Mark Webber made it a clear sweep of Renault engined cars in the top three.

The other Renault of Nelson Piquet was 17th and, although he didn’t have the new parts on his car you wonder how much longer Renault will persist with him after another indifferent start to a season.

The Brawns wound up fourth and fifth. Jenson, outqualified by his team mate for the first time this season. The margin between Vettel Button was 4/10ths in Q2 when both were running light and the margin was the same in Q3 when they had fuel on board.

I was very impressed with Alonso and Vettel. The cream always rises to the top and both of them got the business done in difficult circumstances. The won out because they are both adaptable, a quality which I’ve always believed is a hallmark of a champion. Michael Schumacher had it in spades, while plenty of drivers who are very quick can’t cope with sudden changes or limited opportunities.

In Vettel’s case he was dealing with the latter scenario, he gave himself very few laps to get the job done, which saved him extra sets of tyres but in the process he put a lot of pressure on himself. He played it cool in every session, only doing one run. He did 11 laps in total in qualifying, 12 less than Nico Rosberg!! In the final session, when the cars carry race fuel, he didn’t have that settling first run, he just went for it on one lap and got pole. That is very impressive and shows his mental strength as well as astonishing feel for the car.

Alonso had to adapt to virtually a new car, Renault had fitted new parts to the car, including a double decker diffuser and so the car will have felt very different today. Alonso not only mastered it, he managed to squeeze all the extra performance our of the new parts. He’s so clever, he knows all the tricks and shortcuts, a brilliantly savvy racer.

Although their result owes something to running an aggressive strategy, because it looks like they are planning a short first stint on the soft tyres in the race, this performance has been coming for some time.

In a week when the talk in F1 has been all about the double decker diffusers, it is ironic that only one of the top three cars had one and that was fitted at the 11th hour to the Renault!

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Agree with that James.

Vettel especially was amazing to manage pole with just the one attempt.


Alonso's Q3 time was only .5 slower than his Q2 time. This suggests Reanult want to run their softs early in the race for not very long. A good performance from Alonso but pound for pound he isn't looking in as good a shape has his grid suggests. Vettel and Webber though.... hmm...


James exactly when are the fuel weights released? How will we be able to compare and interpret the quali results based on the fuel loads?


Great session today, so nice to see the order mixed up.


Just to leap to the defence of Nelson (although he is useless), he wasn't running the new diffuser unlike Alonso, so that explains partly why he was down in 17th.

Looking forward to the race, should be a classic.


James, we say at the end of Q2 that Kovalainen was blocked by a Red Bull that looked like Vettel and another car, do you know if there is any action being taken about this by the stewards? As we have seen penalties applied before for similar incidents.


Sebastian Vettel is a very very impressive guy and he is starting to prove that he can be the guy to beat in the future. It was abslolutely unfair to get him a 10 place penalty last time, hope he will win races this year. Also, as I read Kimi was on used softs in Q3 with normal diffusor, I think he did a pretty good job, too.


Vettel is different! He simply used one-lap style qualifing 🙂 Forget driving skills, this guy has STRONG, I mean STRONG mentality.

Should have I the only possibility, my mind would broke down and would not see anything during the lap due to high heartbeat frequency 😀

And he has sence of humor! Crazy. World will love him.. 😉

But... he is low on fuel, you know that 😉


Weights here,


Looks like Vettel and Webber will be stopping after 12 laps
Alonso after 9 laps
Brawns around 17 laps

Raik and Ham approx 24 laps


Why Ferrari have not developed and brought a modified diffuser with them? It would be crucial to start and colletc some points. Renualt and McLaren could do it, Ferrari not?


I agree with you Rob M, but only in the part where you said "he is useless". Alonso outqualified piquet 21-0, with the same equipment.
In fact the only son of a world champ, worth the name, was damon hill.
Nelson sr should be doind a dna test, as soon as posible.



1.Vettel 644kg
2. Alonso 637kg
3. webber 646kg
4. Barrichello 661kg
5. Button 659kg
6. Trulli 664kg
7. Rosberg 650kg
8. Kimi 673kg
9. Hamilton 679kg
10 Buemi 673kg

So, the Brawns are heavy and will be running a long first stint on hard tires. Alonso will be annoyed to be behind a heavier car. Kimi and Hamilton didn't go for pole with very heavy cars. Trulli and Rosberg look like they've gone for a long first stint to, but are not as fast as the Brawns ahead of them.

My money is still going to be on the Brawns i think. Webber always faids or chocks on the big occasion, so he's no threat. Alonso is running on fumes and he'll be in very early. Unless he's got the stickies on off the line and can get a good lead after 10 laps he's toast. Vettel will be in a lap or two after Alonso.

So it's all about when you're going to use the soft tires. off the line or at the end. I guess the first three are going to start on the softs to get them out of the way and the rest will be on the harder tires. until Hamiltong and Kimi who will want to get a good start and make up places. Will Rosberg get another barn stromer for there ?

This should be a god indicator for the rest of the season 🙂


According to autosport.com:

Alonso 637.0 kg
Vettel 644.0 kg
Webber 646.5 kg
Rosberg 650.5 kg
Button 659.0 kg
Rubens 661.0 kg
Trulli 664.5 kg
Buemi 673.0 kg
Kimi 673.5 kg
Lewis 679.0 kg

So what hallmark of champion?
Thank God we know car's weights.


The top 3 were light:-
S. Vettel - Red Bull Renault RB5 - 644.0
F. Alonso - Renault R29 - 637.0
M. Webber - Red Bull Renault RB5 - 646.5
R. Barrichello - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001 - 661.0
J. Button - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001 - 659.0
As for Lewis...L. Hamilton - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 - 679.0
A Tanker! 🙂

The weights are in KG
and each 10GK (4 laps) costs about .3 of a sec. 😉


Fuel loads are out and it looks like Red Bull and Renault are both very short on fuel.

Alonso could be stopping as soon as lap 10 or 12, with Red Bull running 2 - 3 laps further. Brawn have another 5 or so laps over them, with Raikonnen and Hamilton being almost as heavily fueled as those outside the top 10.


Which Red Bull blocked Heikki? What's the odds the stewards do anything?


Alonso will run very short stint of soft rubber - 9 laps and using harder tires in the rest of the race - 3 stops strategy


James, any news on the Vettel Kovalainen incident?

Fuel loads released some time ago....

Pos. Driver Car weight
1. Vettel 644.0kg
2. Alonso 637.0kg
3. Webber 646.5kg
4. Barichello 661.0kg
5. Button 659.0kg
6. Trulli 664.5kg
7. Rosberg 650.5kg
8. Raikkonen 673.5kg
9. Hamilton 679.0kg
10. Buemi 673.0kg
11. Heidfeld 679.0kg
12. Kovalainen 697.0kg
13. Massa 690.0kg
14. Glock 652.0kg
15. Nakajima 682.7kg
16. Bourdais 690.0kg
17. Piquet 697.9kg
18. Kubica 659.0kg
19. Sutil 648.0kg
20. Fisichella 679.5kg


My views...

Red Bull prove once again that they have a seriously fast car. How much they actually NEED the so called 0.5 sec rear diffuser is not apparent. Though they both have a few laps less fuel than both Brawn cars

Renault have delivered Alonso the new parts and their car now looks on the pace a bit more. Nelson is now marooned as the worst driver on the grid and the most disappointing (bearing in mind his lower formula performance). Alonso has only around 10 laps of fuel so is bound to start on the option and look to gain P1 early though he will lose out after his first stop (unless it rains)

Brawn look solid as usual and have more fuel on board than the top 7 bar Trulli on the grid. Look out for Jenson putting in stellar laps after Vettel and Webber pit - his in and out laps at his first stop will probably decide the overall result

Toyota will be looking for Trulli to take advantage of his high fuel load and they are either hoping for rain (when having fuel on board gives you a bigger window) or more likely looking to run a short final stint on the option tyre

Williams were disappointing today - Nico Rosberg doing loads of laps (some 23 or so) in qualifying - using up his tyres and in Q3, with a low fuel load, I suspect he ended up trying top post his fastest time on worn tyres.

Ferrari actually look like they have a worse car now than McClaren (KERS failures, other reliability worries and quali and race performances have not been great since Melbourne) - Kimi and Massa both burned their tyre allocation in Q1 and Q2, meaning Massa failed to get into Q3 and Kimi has admitted he posted his Q3 time on worn tyres

McClaren have both cars on the grid with a stack of fuel, Heikki with enough fuel to power well past lap 26 (compare that to Alonso's fuel load looking like a first stop at lap 10). The car is definitely better here but still short of the performance needed to win a race. Interestingly, Lewis is the highest KERS qualifier and with a clean run from the start he should do well and should also benefit from the 2 long straights on this circuit that provide good over taking opportunities. He will probably pit last of anyone in the top 10 and if his race performance is strong a podium chance is possible for the first time this season.

BMW - ooops!

Stephen Kellett

Red Bull are the new McLaren. Brawn are the new Ferrari.
Well, time will tell. I must admit I quite like the mix up of faces we see at the end of quali and racing.

No EJ. Superb.

Mike Gascoyne. Superb. No point scoring. No "I did that when I was at...", Lots of insight. *So* much better than EJ.

Body language between DC and MG was much better than between DC and EJ. What is their niggle?

DC must be gutted that the fist year he isn't in a Red Bull is the first year its the type of machine that he was used to driving when he was at McLaren.

Alonso's body language after quali. Yes happy, but not confident. I think we'll find that its running on fumes when the weights are published.

Red Bull really are screaming at the moment. Buemi - what a start to his F1 career. Must give Bourdais something to think about. Piquet, his time has run, time for a replacement.

With Flavio gutting his private jet to fly in a diffuser for Alonso, we see the hypocrisy in his stance the other day. What a fraud. 10/10 for commitment though. Ripping those seats out then refitting will cost a lot.

Leggard, well what can you say? He lacks enthusiasm, his excitement, if any, is by talking louder, same monotone, strange long pauses in the middle of sentences in commentary - either his mind has gone blank or he has run out of air and needs a huge gulp. Should talk for shorter sentences. He appears to have no insight at all. How on earth did he get this job? How long till F1 Badger does a skit on him?

After Quali I went back to bed and listened to Radio 4. The guy reading the race results at 8.30am had more excitement and emotion in his voice than Leggard. Leggard is that bad.

BBC's music choice for the fade out montage is awful.

I've said nice things about this blog before. I must wonder why ITV-F1 never let you have rip on their website and do this there when they were doing F1 TV coverage. They really have missed a trick with their more simplified coverage. I used to read ITV-F1, GrandPrix.com but now pretty much split between this blog and F1 Badger as you both take different angles. When I go back to ITV-F1 is too simplified and GrandPrix.com is in hindsight composed of some insight and a lot of press releases (if not the latter, it sure reads like it). I wish BBC-F1 would make their layout easier to use (ITV-F1 did get that right).


I convinced Brawn ran extra fuel in Q2 to give them a bigger margin between the pit stops. Now the weights have been published the Red Bulls look to be pitting on laps 15 and 16 with the Brawns on 20 and 21 with Alonso on 12. I would guess the 1st 3 will start on the softs so if the Brawns can get passed at the start it could be game over if it starts dry.


Piquet was also the heaviest car out there. Although I think he is generally useless, achieves very little for the team and should be replaced next year. Same for Bordais, another underachiever who brings nothing to the sport unlike Vettel.


Are we likely to see/hear any news about the block on Heikki on his last flying lap in Q2. Im pretty sure it was Vettel?

Heikki himself was on the end of decisions that were far less clear cut than that situation looked to be last year...


Piquet may have not been fitted with the interim diffuser, but the new updates aren't worth the gap there is to his teammate - there's not much excuses for being outqualified the previous 20 grand prix also.Even Fisichella managed to get close to Fernando on weekends, even if he lacked that metronomic consistancy .Only problem is that none of the development drivers have miles in the car to jump straight in.....which brought up a point today where DC was saying on the BBC today that he's the Red Bull reserve driver, but he effectively hasn't driven a full 09 spec Red Bull. And with Renault engines 1-3 in quali on a bit if an engine circuit, it shows that update they were allowed to make to the V8 over the winter has helped a little bit.


Red Bull seem to be a bit concerned about reliability, will they go the distance I wonder?


Piquet did not qualify on that fuel. That is the fuel they've since put in. Only the top 10 qualified on the fuel listed. The rest would have been on fumes


I have watched the incident involving Heikki in Q2 several times, and he was on a hot lap, and the Red Bull blocking him was definitely Vettel. The incident happened at the end of Vettel's outlap: Vettel moves to the right, so Heikki moves to the left, however Vettel then moves to the left and Heikki moves to the right, as Heikki tries to take the inside line through the corner Vettel cuts in front of him onto the apex.

The car in front of Vettel is a Williams but I am not sure which one. Heikki slows right down to give himself a large gap for his final attempt - both cars continue onto their next lap (they don't go into the pits like Mike Gascoyne stated on the BBC)

Now if you watch the coverage again you will see that on the final laps of Q2, after the clock has reached 0:00 - Webber first crosses the line. A few moments later a Williams followed closely by Vettel cross the line and as Vettel crosses the line you can see a McLaren speed into the pits in the background. Hamilton later passes the line so it must have been Heikki going into the pits, McLaren's website mention him being delayed on a hot lap in Q2 in the middle sector, it is probable this is the lap on which this happened as the Vettel incident had occurred in the final sector.

However, Heikki had to be on a hot lap during the Vettel incident as there was a lot of camera attention on the McLaren and Red Bull pits at the time Hamilton and Vettel were released - moments before this happened there was footage of Heikki on track doing laps. Even if he came in between that footage and the footage of Hamilton in his garage he would have been on his outlap when Vettel was shown being released meaning that in order to be behind Vettel on Vettel's outlap he must have been on a hot one at the time of the incident.

However, bar internet forums there is no discussion of this incident on any news website. I can only assumed the incident is being swept under the carpet; as the only benefit to McLaren would be a promotion of 1 place for Hamilton (elimination Vettel's fastest Q3 time would put him 10th) - McLaren have probably decided it is best to keep their heads down in terms of stewards inquiries; however surely it is the job of the Stewards to investigate these incidents impartially whether or not they are reported by the victim team.

Incidentally, whilst I believe there should certainly be a stewards inquiry into the incident - I do believe it would be shame if he lost his pole position given the circumstances and pressure that he was under to give that performance. Nevertheless, as the evidence appears to show, Vettel did impede Heikki and consequently the only response to that is to take away his fastest time as has been done repeatedly. (Most famously Alonso in Monza '06)


the quality of vettel aside, today shows that the RBR is a very quick car (as did australia) - has the difuser situation been blown out of proportion? the elevation of hamilton and alonso suggests it does make a difference (especially with such a tight field) . but it looks like RBR will blow everyone out of the water when they get a double difuser - newey is on the drawing board working his genuis...

but they also have an incredible talent in vettel. ok so he had to have limited running due to reliability but to go out for one lap each session and bang in such quick times, especially getting right on the pace on fuel in Q3, was very impressive.


I was very impressed with Vettel, and the team for putting pressure on him. 1 lap allowed, and he nailed it, very classy. Fuel or no fuel.


I agree with you, Chris. A sign that he is maturing into something quite special. I wasn't sure about all the hype, Monza last year was very impressive - the conditions were horrendous - and today was really good.


Pos. Driver Car weight
1. Vettel 644.0kg
2. Alonso 637.0kg
3. Webber 646.5kg
4. Barichello 661.0kg
5. Button 659.0kg
6. Trulli 664.5kg
7. Rosberg 650.5kg
8. Raikkonen 673.5kg
9. Hamilton 679.0kg
10. Buemi 673.0kg
11. Heidfeld 679.0kg
12. Kovalainen 697.0kg
13. Massa 690.0kg
14. Glock 652.0kg
15. Nakajima 682.7kg
16. Bourdais 690.0kg
17. Piquet 697.9kg
18. Kubica 659.0kg
19. Sutil 648.0kg
20. Fisichella 679.5kg


1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 644kg
2. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 637
3. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 646.5
4. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP, 661
5. Jenson Button, Brawn GP, 659
6. Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 664.5
7. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 650.5
8. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 673.5
9. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 679
10. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 673
11. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 679
12. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, 697
13. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 690
14. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 682.7
15. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 690
16. Nelson Piquet, Renault, 697.9
17. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 659
18. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 648
19. Timo Glock, Toyota, 652
20. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 679.5

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