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Vettel blitzes pole position for Australian Grand Prix
Vettel blitzes pole position for Australian Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Mar 2011   |  8:40 am GMT  |  233 comments

World champion Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Australian Grand Prix today, the first race of the 2011 season. Lewis Hamilton, despite a KERS problem, was a surprise second ahead of Mark Webber. Meanwhile Hispania Racing, who hardly did any laps all weekend, missed the cut for qualifying and are out of the Grand Prix.

It was a totally dominant performance from Vettel, who didn’t even use the KERS system, so left 4/10ths of a second in his pocket. Hamilton was 17km/h slower through Turn 11 than the Red Bull – that is pure downforce. He was 8/10ths off Vettel in the end, but warned him that “We will catch you up.”

But this Red Bull RB7 has the dominant look about it of the 1992 Williams or the 2004 Ferrari.

McLaren have done well to turn an unreliable, slow car in winter testing into one capable of starting on the front row, Hamilton did a good job, but splitting the Red Bulls had more to do with Webber underperforming than anything else. Hamilton’s KERS failed on his final hot lap, which cost him around 2/10ths of a second.

Webber didn’t use KERS either “for reasons we will keep in the team,” he said, leading to speculation that it was to mask the car’s true speed. Although a few hours after qualifying, it emerged that the team may have a “start only system” (see separate post)

“There’s a fraction more emotion with it being a home race,” said a disconsolate Webber, “But you have to perform everywhere you go. I didn’t put myself in the best position today.”

Webber qualified 7/100ths off Vettel here last year, it was almost a second today, so why has this happened? He has had an intense programme of off track activities in the last 10 days and looked harassed in an interview with Australian TV a couple of hours before qualifying. But even being distracted doesn’t explain such a big margin. Webber accepted full responsibility for underperforming.

It was a tricky session which was all about tyre temperature, with many drivers who had been expected to do well failing to make the grade.

The pole time was half a second faster than last year’s pole time, even allowing for the change of tyres from Bridgestone to Pirelli and the banning of double diffusers, which is an incredible achievement. The arrival of KERS, adjustable rear wings and great work by the engineers has neutralised the changes.

Judging from this high speed photo, the Red Bull still has a front wing which is getting very low to the ground when under aerodynamic load. It passes the much more stringent FIA tests, but clearly there are no limits to what the team can achieve with advanced carbon fibre layering techniques.

It was the first qualifying system using the new adjustable rear wing and it was interesting to see how much the system gave the various teams. Red Bull had less of a gain than Mercedes, but the most confident drivers, like Vettel, were using it in the middle of the chicane.

Qualifying started in cold conditions with strong crosswinds blowing through the track and many drivers struggled to find grip and get the tyres up to temperature. Hispania had hardly turned a lap all weekend, apart from a very slow one in practice for Kartikeyan which blocked several other cars.

After missing out on the 107% qualifying time, the stewards decided not to allow them to race in the Grand Prix. Meanwhile Virgin’s lack of progress from last year to this meant that they too were on the verge of not qualifying for the race. There is huge disappointment in the team with how far off they are.

Nick Heidfeld was the shock loser from Q1, eliminated along with the Lotus, Virgin and Hispania cars. He has been outperformed by his team mate Vitaly Petrov this weekend and it’s been a very tough start for the German. Lotus were disappointing; although they had six tenths over the Virgin cars, the gap to the established teams was still two seconds, a lot more than winter testing had suggested. Kovalainen had problems with his rear wing and like many cars the drivers struggled to get temperature into their tyres.

Ferrari surprisingly took soft tyres for Q1, indicating that they were struggling to get temperature into the hard tyres. Meanwhile McLaren and Red Bull both took hard tyres.

In Q2 Rubens Barrichello lost his car early on and got stuck in a gravel trap. He ended up 17th on the grid, outqualified by his team mate Maldonado. Hamilton took the hard tyres again, Vettel and Webber went with softs, but had to abort the lap when Barrichello went off.

Sutil had a huge spin coming onto the pit straight, showing what happens when you deploy the adjustable rear wing at the wrong moment. He was 16th on the grid. team mate and rookie Paul di Resta qualified 14th.

Mercedes were not on the pace that they showed in testing, Schumacher failed to make the cut for the top ten.

Sergio Perez was outclassed by team mate Kamui Kobayashi and ended up 13th.

Petrov did a fine job for Renault, but Ferrari was the big surprise, clearly unable to get heat into their tyres, Massa really suffered from it. “I thought Ferrari would be closer to us, but it’s just the tyres.”

AUSTRLIAN GRAND PRIX, Albert Park, Qualifying

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When you see Jean Todt can you ask him why Red bull are being allowed to run a wing that is clearly in contravention of the laws ie the end plate is clearly scraping along the floor when at high speed and at the regulation height at low speed. So there is clear movement which is strictly forbidden by the rules? There is also precedent with the FIA using video evidence to enforce the rules. I remember mclaren being asked to put a stay on the front wing to prevent the beam wing from flexing (it had been seen to do this on the onboard shot, no load testing introduced). I don’t see why the FIA aren’t acting on all the evidence they’ve been shown. See below for more.



Race Date- March 27 2011

My commentary on the race:

1. Great start-finish performance from Vettel

2. Great performance from Petrov, seems to me the car is really refined and great.

3. Obstensious performance from Rubens Barrichello spolit the chances of Rosberg gaining some points.

4. Mercedes team under great presssure to perform and maybe cracking under it.

5. McLaren cars dint seem to be reliable but since they made till the end, no comments.

6. Pirelli tyres seem to eb the issue – no verdict on them yet.

7. Button passes Massa on Lap 12- awesome pull that was.



can you ask the teams what would the lap time be without the DRS deployed in qualies. I think that the DRS is the main factor in having quali times this quick.


DRS is worth 8/10ths per lap – but that is balanced out by the extra 20kg the KERS weighs.


To be honest, I can’t be bothered watching a season of F1 where one of the cars is so obviously breaking a rule and we hear no comments from the scrutineers and officials. What’s the point? Watching F1 live here involves a lot of late nights and if no one is even going to attempt to enforce the rules, then there’s no real point any more.


watching Lotus through last 2 corners and onto the pit striaght. They kept having to lift while front running teams did not.

Its 7.45am here in mebourne. Same conditions as yesterday. Red cars in trouble.


Ferrari is best on racepace, you will see guys.

Fingers crossed for a great race!


I think that was the fastest lap ever at Albert Park… pretty incredible.


James, if you bump into Jean Todt, can you please ask him why on earth are HRT/Virgin even in this sport? They are a disgrace and have no business to be in F1, and lack the sincerity and seriousness the sport merits. Narain Karthikeyan’s lap in a clearly sick sounding car was painful to watch. Poor sod kept blocking cars to the ire of many drivers. TATA ( The Indian Steel and auto giant), could have saved tons of money by backing Force-India instead.


Hay Zombie, you’re being a bit tough on the teams at the back!!! You should be welcoming them and wishing them luck!!! I’m glad they’re there, in fact if RB or Virgin were to leave F1 right now, I’m not sure which team I’d miss the most. Actually, I’d probably miss Virgin the most!



I welcome teams like Super Aguri who fight like a Samurai and die a ‘Seppuku’ when they fail! Not HRT/Virgin who are there to take up slots and nothing else. HRT’s disgraceful behavior of not attending a single pre-season test, turning up in Melbourne to do 4 laps in a ironically stickered ‘This Could be You’ car defies any logic! What F1 needs are more teams like Aguri who race with passion, and not HRTs/Virgins.


TODT didn’t select them to join F1 and he doesn’t have the rights to ditch them and luckily he doesn’t. Imagine that the FIA has the right to tell any team that their time is up in F1 or any other category.

There must be better selection procedures and harsher rules to keep competing, that’s it.


Seeing him end of next week


I’m amazed none of the sites post sector times. Doesn’t anyone have them ??? Its similar to only posting the fastest times from testing/practice and not focusing on laptimes during simulated stints.


James, I’ve heard about rain possibility during the race, and maybe some teams have prepared their set up thinkin on that. ¿Is that correct? Nowhere i’ve looked expects rain for tomorrow.


Forecast is 21 degrees morning drizzle, clear this afternoon


To Richard Branson re the Virgin Team:

Here in the states, there’s a saying about mechanics. I’ll let you in on it in a moment.

(To everyone else at the Virgin Team, this is NOT meant as a slag on you, but on Branson)

Hey, Richard – pay peanuts, get monkeys.

It costs $ to get off the back row. Fund your team, or find another advertising venue.


James, re the redbull wing flexing, I noticed from many rear shots in quali, the RB7 has a striking amount of rake, moreso than most other cars I saw. Is this what allows the wing to hover so low? and at what point do you start losing effect from the diffuser from having it so high off the ground?


Glad you reply to that James, I been reading lots of those misinformed comments about Mclaren all over the web. Anyone that saw the handling of the Mclaren in testing knows they were in serious trouble before ditching the complicated exhaust system,not sand bagging.


Looks like several teams had issues getting temperature into the tires. I expect Ferrari and Mercedes to be much closer to the front next race.


In the commentary today it was mentioned that rubber from the new Pirelli tyres comes off as strips rather than the marbles that used to litter the track. What I want to know is will this make it easier for cars that go off the racing line? I very much hope so as I think this has played a significant (though not decisive) role in hampering overtaking in recent years.

Obviously dirty air is still the main culprit though and I’m not convinced the new push-to-pass button really addresses that. If the cars could get within a second of each other through the corners, they wouldn’t need help overtaking on the straights. What we really need is some device that only generates downforce in dirty air!


Or reduce the size of the dirty air envelope by removing the wings and increasing the ground efects!



James, can you give the tifosi some information on how you see Ferrari? You’ve been to winter testing and seen their pace there compared to their pace here.



A bit disappointing, clearly. The car is faster than it looked in qualifying.


Ok, Newey has to go.

He must be banned for bringing the other designers in the sport into disrepute.


Big disappointment being a Ferrari fan…..another year of catching up….

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Strange absence of Spanish fan postings today!

McLaren were being slated prior to qualifying with all sorts of allegations against Whitmarch (sic).

Glad to see McLaren up where they belong. I don’t know why they have become the team for so many to hate.


I cannot tell you as a schuey fan how gutted i feel! watching seb going over the line and doing a 23.5 was unbelieveable! i feel sorry for the rest.

i agree with james that this RB7 reminded him of the FW14b and F2004!

Vettel DECIMATED the rest….end of


I still can’t understand the gap to Webber. The Aussie has never been half that far from Vettel. It was thousands or hundredths of seconds many times and now almost a second with a couple of shots.


Great job from McLaren and Martin Whitmarsh.


Great job indeed – only 3/4 of a second off the pace! 😉


And great to see Ron Dennis back in the McLaren garage!


Yep, it is good to see Ron back!



Yes, McLaren did a really good job to turn things around. And it’s always nice to see Ron Dennis, especially as Lewis usually does well when he is there.


Not for some in the team!


I think you are missing the point here, Ron promised to go away and play with road cars and run the company, leaving Martin to get on with the racing, a much calmer less tense clearer headed team resulted. Now with Ron back looking over peoples shoulders it will not be long before he cannot resist sticking his oar in.

BTW who was that terrified looking woman he was with, she looked as if she were being held hostage!


Not for many outside the team. Some had to leave after the crash gate. I don’t see why others keep staying after the spy gate


I loved the shot on the BBC coverage where Ron Dennis gave Eddie Jordan a piece of humble pie after the amount of stick Eddie was giving Mclaren CLASSIC ; )


He missed the cameras and the spotlights


I am pretty sure that he has been a regular since Abu Dhabi 2009.


Okay from what I saw of the senior statesmen of F1 i.e. Rubens, Michael & Nick, I believe it’s time they swallowed their egos, hung up their helmets & gave some poor souls a chance at Formula 1 – Hulkenburg, anyone?

As for Vettel, yes I was truly impressed & I guess it’s true what they say in that, he’s the baby Schumi – He seems to only need one lap to nail pole

Now Vettel for victory, I doubt that for Australia usually doesn’t favour the pole guy & worse, Vettel won the last two races of the previous season & worse still, Vettel has only finished the Australia Grand Prix – ONCE – in 13th place LOL

I expect him to lead the race by turn 1 for he usually employees ruthless maneuvers when Hammy is behind him at the start

I believe Webber is still suffering from last year’s heart break so he sort of no longer believes he can beat Sebastian

let alone EVER win the world championship

As for Alonso… Prost, left Ferrari in 1991 because they handed him a dog of a car (look out for the toys)


Hmm, I do not believe Hammy has ever won from P2


I was following the 3rd practice very closely and 3 cars among top 5 teams looked extremely nervous – the 2 Ferraris and Michael’s Mercedes. Both the Ferraris had backend step out of the line almost on every corner, it is a miracle they made it to top 10. It’ll take an almighty effort to make this dog of a car a championship winner. I’ve said this before, and i’ll say this again,Alonso is no Schumi, and he won’t toil endlessly for half a decade to make the car competitive. I see him out of Ferrari by 2013 if he cannot win a title by then.

About Michael, his car definitely looked a lot better in qualifying than it did during P3. But it did appear that it was losing over half a second in sector 2.

In anycase, the ominous speed of the RedBull makes me believe that we are in for a very one sided championship. But it should be interesting battle lower down as Renault,Ferrari,Mercedes,Sauber,TorroRosso and Williams are all within 0.7s from one another.


Perhaps Luca night be offering a 250gto lm and $30m a season next time he calls Adrian newey.

Poor from Ferrari today. I expect their race pace to be better.

I don’t understand why felipe is so far back. I hope he is able to have a good season this year. He’s definitely fast (or used to be)


As Jake Humphrey said about Ferrari’s strategy during qualifying, “If you can’t beat them, poach them!”

That does seem to be their strategy because they are not coming up with any innovative ideas of their own. Far easier to go on a buying spree with the many millions they get more than any other F1 team.


Ferrari were absolutely catastrophic today. I already mentioned that the car had absolutely no innovations whatsoever

– pushrod rear suspension

– packaging much bigger than RedBull at the back mainly

what strikes me though is that Alonso kept feeling positive during testing and even after qualies today. Is it a one off for Ferrari or the problem is bigger. We’ll be settled in a month or so.

If the car is not good, Dominicali won’t be here next year.


Anyone else surprised Luizzi got within two seconds off the Virgin car. Luizzi did maybe 10 laps compared to Virgins entire winter proggrame. Looks like once they get the car running and get to know it I’d wager it will be quicker than Virgin.


You have to wonder where Kubica would be in the mix. Such a shame for him to be watching from his bed. And what happened with Heidfeld? Really, if that continues they should be looking at Senna. Also, Webber can’t carry on like that or Red Bull will seriously consider replacing him with Ricciardo (clearly a future star).

I look forward to seeing how Red Bull’s kers works from the start. Could be fun. Also, let’s not forget how fast Red Bull’s quali pace was last year. I don’t think they have the championship sowed up so easily based just on this pace.


In that car.. I think Kubica could have challenged Button today for P4

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