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“Too easy” for Vettel as he takes pole for Chinese Grand Prix
“Too easy” for Vettel as he takes pole for Chinese Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Apr 2011   |  10:24 am GMT  |  176 comments

Sebastian Vettel made it a hat trick of poles in 2011, setting the fastest ever lap of the Shanghai circuit, no less than seven tenths of a second ahead of the McLaren drivers, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel on pole again (Red Bull)

“It’s too easy,” Lewis Hamilton said to him as they climbed from their cars in parc ferme. Having been a tenth away in qualifying in Malaysia, the colder conditions again helped the Red Bull to stretch its advantage over McLaren.

It was Vettel’s 18th pole and his third in China. Tomorrow he bids to become the first driver to win the Chinese Grand Prix twice.

“In Q3 we were able to improve by quite a lot,” said Vettel, who was a second faster in Q3 than he had been in Q2. “But it’s a threat to feel too good and I’ll pay attention that doesn’t happen.”

“Sebastian’s pace in Q3 was phenomenal,” said Button for whom P2 is the best grid slot of the season so far.

But if Vettel had it too easy, the real talking point was a terrible mistake on his team mate’s side, which meant that Mark Webber was knocked out in Q1 and lines up 18th on the grid. It is the first time that Red Bull hasn’t had both cars in the top ten since 2009.

Webber had an electrical problem in Saturday morning practice, it was still being worked on at the start of Qualifying. Team boss Christian Horner said that even some of Vettel’s mechanics were involved in the frantic work.

After such a troubled build up, it was perhaps overconfidence on Red Bull’s part to send Webber out on hard tyre on both runs in Q1, when the soft was over a second faster. It left him terribly vulnerable. The team would argue that he should have had enough speed in the car to get through, but he didn’t and they paid a huge price for their hubris. They will have to review the priorities in a situation like that. He suffered warm up problems and managed a best of 1m 36.4 when Vettel also on hards had done 1m 35.6.

And with the midfield teams all using soft tyres, the pace was too much. Webber didn’t miss by a fraction; he was three tenths away from making the cut. “I thought we had enough to get through,” said Webber. “We had a few plates spinning in the background and paid the ultimate price.”

We saw a little of what Paul di Resta is capable of in qualifying; he was under pressure in Q1 when he was P17 with moments to go. He set a lap of 1m 35.702 and went up to P2. It turned out to be his fastest lap of the day and had he repeated it in Q3 he would have been 7th on the grid instead of 8th. But he again outqualified team mate Adrian Sutil;, a great effort after losing the second Friday practice session with a fuel pressure problem.

At the back, Lotus didn’t have the one lap pace in the cold conditions and were again almost two seconds off the slowest of the established teams. Virgin had a better day relative to Hispania, putting a gap of a second between them. However Timo Glock, who had had a frustrating Friday was six tenths off team mate D’Ambrosio.

In Q2 the drama came at the end when Vitaly Petrov’s car broke down on the slowing down lap after setting his time. This brought out a red flag and left just two minutes for the drivers out on track at the time to set a lap. It led to a flurry of cars going out at the end. Many drivers like Alonso had been a long way into their lap when the red flag came out so the tyres had given their best and another set was needed. It was a major compromise on the strategy. Petrov’s team mate Nick Heidfeld was the most compromised, ending up 16th.

Williams had another disappointing afternoon with Barrichello 15th and Maldonado 17th.

Both Toro Rossos made it through to Q3 after very strong laps in Q2, which they couldn’t repeat in Q3. But nevetheless a return of 7th for Alguersuari and 9th for Buemi show the enormous gain that Toro Rosso has made. This is symbolically very important for F1 as it shows that a small team can challenge for the top ten.

But another crucial theme from today was the relative importance of qualifying to the race. We some tactical thinking from Lewis Hamilton, who decided to only do one run in Q3 to save a soft set of tyres for the race. The gamble didn’t work for him in the sense that he ended up third behind his team mate Button, who did two runs.

But Hamilton seemed pleased with his decision as he was thinking about the tactics for the race more than qualifying. He now has a new set of soft and a new set of hard tyres for the race. After running out of tyres in Malaysia, he doesn’t want a repeat this weekend. It shows how strategic thinking is beginning to impact on qualifying.

Rosberg did a great job to qualify fourth ahead of both Ferraris, especially as team mate Michael Schumacher was only 14th, after a problem with his DRS wing at Turn 14 on his hot lap. That’s a really bitter pill for the seven times champion to swallow.

Meanwhile the gulf in qualifying pace between Ferrari and the Red Bull team was highlighted with Alonso’s time which was 1.4 seconds slower than Vettel. Massa did well to qualify less than 1/10th of a second slower than his team mate.

1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m33.706s
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m34.421s + 0.715
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m34.463s + 0.757
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m34.670s + 0.964
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m35.119s + 1.413
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m35.145s + 1.439
7. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m36.158s + 2.452
8. Paul di Resta Force India1m36.190s + 2.484
9. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m36.203s + 2.497
10. Vitaly Petrov Renault No time

11. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m35.874s + 1.388
12. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m36.053s + 1.567
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m36.236s + 1.750
14. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m36.457s + 1.971
15. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m36.465s + 1.979
16. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m36.611s + 2.125
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m36.956s + 2.470

18. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m36.468s + 1.196
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m37.894s + 2.622
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m38.318s + 3.046
21. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m39.119s + 3.847
22. Timo Glock Virgin 1m39.708s + 4.436
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m40.212s + 4.940
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m40.445s + 5.173

All cars within 107%.

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James does a Murray Walker!!

‘Webber didn’t miss by a fraction; he was three tenths away’

Great stuff . .


Drive of the Grand Prix poll is going to be boring.


There’s too much overtaking in Formula One.


Just a thought. There will be a three week break after China.

Can we organise a go kart race for all the drivers just for ‘pure racing’ as Senna put it.

Could be the best race to witness.

No aeros – no politics.


Great idea!


Schumacher, hmmm – reminds me of quote about the actor Errol Flyn “You can count on Errol Flynn, he’ll always let you down”.

That sums up Schumacher perfectly now. There is no hope – nothing will get better for him i’m afraid. He is a walking excuse now and it is getting really depressing and tiring every race to see him perform in the exact same manner – poorly. It’s ALWAYS something now, gawd, it’s so sad. He cuts a rather pathetic figure in the paddock – laughable almost to the younger drivers. No-one wants you at the party anymore MIchael when whatever talent you had is now completely gone.

Could you hear the total “well that was pathetic” voice from his engineer after qual, telling him he was 14th. PATHETIC.

Michael, really, quit before Turkey and save all you fans from this weekly humiliation. PLEASE.


Hi James,

after the first three races, will you do an online poll to see what us fans think of the DRS?

Personally I think it does it’s job during races, but I would ban it during quali. It seems to be a very artificial way to set your best time, and it is sad to see drivers on the rev limiter at the end of a straight because they need to select the gear ratios for the race etc.


‘Sad to see’ the drivers hitting the rev limit? How so? This is just another form of controlling the car, and in fact in qualifying it’s the same for everyone so nothing artificial about that.


I’m completely the opposite! I don’t mind how it’s used in qualifying but I’m really not sure about only letting following cars use it on race day. So I would be either for DRS all of the time or none of the time.

It would be interesting to see the results of this poll because people seem to have a wide range of opinions about the DRS. I suspect that most of the fans on this site won’t be completely comfortable with it for one reason or another though.


Im beginning to feel that we may not see DRS in qualifying anymore, but it could be a good thing.

With KERs being such an advantage, do we need such an aide as it is making qualifying seem a bit predictable in certain ways and artificial.

It seems the top teams are the only ones who are able to take advantage of it.

I think banning it for qualifying should happen, and drivers have a right to use it practice if they wish.


I agree about DRS during qualifying and seems a bit pointless when it can only be used in the DRS zones in the race.


Ok will do. Thanks.



The key info I’d like when trying to understand the difference in lap times is the distance. i.e. in China what does 0.1 of a second mean in car length. Is it one whole length of a car in front at the line or two?.
 Kind regds Setay


Jens and Lewis look like they have just escaped from prison in those orange suits…


2011 Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying Analysis:

Interesting! Fantastic…


It seems like Ferrari have no real plan for resurgence any soon and will be fighting Renault and Mercedes randomly throughout the season.


Hey James,

How do you think, where does such a huge gap comes from (0.7 in Q3) comes from. Is it particular solution like flexi-wing or there is more than that?


I wish Webber and his mechanics would sort themselves out, if we can’t have a battle between two teams can we please at least have one between two team mates? Either Webber has seriously gone off the boil or there’s more to his car problems than meets the eye. I also think that the implication that Vettel is as good as the gap between him and his team mate suggests, is far from the truth.


Well done Paul Di Resta. I am so pleased to see him delivering in that Force India. I was afraid the car will not give him the possibility to show what a racer he is, but so far the car holds it together. Looking forward to tomorrow’s race.

Go go Button, Hamilton, Alonso & Di Resta.


Too easy?

May be it’s easy, just use Newey’s magic.


Good to see that only Karthikeyan was outwith 107% of the ultimate pace of Vettel in his Red Bull, with Liuzzi just inside the time.


I’m puzzled by people complaining that qualifying is predictable. You mean the fastest cars will be at the front? Shocking.

If it’s that predictable, you’d better get yourself down to the bookies. You should be making a killing.

And boring processional races? Again, head to the bookies, as I’m sure you know who will finish where.

Maybe you should stop concentrating on just who wins each race. There are lots of others cars out there doing exciting stuff.

Which era do you prefer? 90s? 80s? 70? 60s? Even further back? I promise you that very rarely did the slower cars win in those eras and yes, they had boring races too.

And while I’m on my soapbox, Vettel has to “prove himself” still does he? Yes, what is he thinking? One of the best drivers being utilised by one of the best teams. Truly strange.

Michael Schumacher and the other greats were forever known for heading backwards down the pitlane through their careers and racing for Minardi and Arrows so they could “prove themselves” weren’t they?

Whether it’s Schumacher in a Jordan, Alonso in a Minardi, or Vettel in a Sauber/Toro Rosso, they nearly all have to show their worth before a top team will stick them in their car. Some exceptions in F1, like Hamilton, but every so often we hear the gentle bleating of an F1 fan claiming he’s always been in a top car.

Too little overtaking.

Too boring.

Too much overtaking.

Too confusing.

Too much action.

Too much strategy.

Too predictable.

Too many variables.

Wow. You can’t please everyone can you.

I’m a huge Webber and Hamilton fan, but I appreciate the talent of all of the drivers out there. Vettel is doing an amazing job and if his finger annoys you so much, maybe you should consider taking up gardening?


Well said!


Nicely put


I agree. Judging from a lot of the posts, you could be excused for thinking Formula 1 boasts the most negative, whining fanbase of any sport! They’re never happy!

I don’t know if we get ‘jokey’ whinging posts which are intentional to look to gain a reaction on the board, or whether some people just don’t like the sport and its recent increase on strategic depth, e.g. sacrifice of quali tyres for race strength; varied ways of tackling the race in terms of number of pit stops and pace aggression, etc. Perhaps the sport is now too intelligent for some… if so go watch NASCAR, etc.


Too Easy? Perhaps or perhaps not looking at Webbers performance. I actually think Lewis’s attitude today was all wrong. He was grumpy on camera and all I’ve read of his comments this week have smacked of bitterness that another team has the fastest car. Maybe he’ll grow out of it, but at present he comes across like an immature little boy.


Lewis’ seems to be imagining himself in that RB of Vettel. His face depicts an exact picture of this thought. Wonder if he thought about that when posing for the pic.


Grumpy? The “too easy” comment on camera seemed like good natured banter to me..


man but how early was vettel on the kers and drs buttons coming out of turn 13. so much earlier than everyone else.


As I have exclusively predicted exclusively here, the only way to get ahead of RBR this season (for slower teams) is when RBR make mistakes. It did happen today and will provide us with an entertaining race from Mark’O and his helmut, sorry, helmet.

The song remained the same in the new teams department (even the same chord, sorry – team progression) and we have to ask ourselves, for how long will this be going on? Q1 is really such an irrelevant part of qualifying these days, you know you’ll have (G)Lotus followed by Virgin and the HRT guys, all joined by some unlucky driver from the established teams (because of traffic or technical issues). I like MVR personally, they’re user-friendly with normal attitude so I hope they can maybe use Pat Symonds’ services and be where they want to be on the grid. I mean the gap to P1 in Q3 is monstrous for all new kids on the block; I’m usually not very into technical side of things but you tend to look at lap times anyway and raw speed is just isn’t there for MVR, HRT and (G)Lotus. They’re also cursed by KERS or rather lack of it, I mean it’s a disaster area. But Jérôme will score points in 2011, I can promise you that, my man won’t let me down.

Also, I like new racing overalls for McLaren rock stars (dunno – I think Prince qualifies more like a pop star and his golden guitar should go to the LRGP garage to sit there and combine with VP’s and NH’s golden suits), they looked like short haired versions of Prost and Lauda from 1984 (with 4 ears intact).

Richard Hoyland

Being in a situation where a driver is too worried about doing two runs in Q3 because of wearing a set of tyres out is ridiculous and makes a mockery of qualifying. I can’t imagine any F1 fans want to see drivers sat in their garages.

I am so disaapponted with how this season has started. Qualifying is predictable and races are precessional and I’m sick of all the talk about looking after tyres. For crying out loud this is supposed to be Formula 1.


I totally agree !

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

100% agree. Bring back 2010.


I agree but unfortunately most fans on these forums seem to enjoy tyre conservation racing as opposed to real racing


if you want ‘real racing’ go watch karting. They are always racing at the limit regardless of where the limit is.

Fantastic qualy today, especially seeing Webber go out first and then Petrov setting a stunner before the mayhem that ensued.

It looks like people only find races interesting if they are surprised by the winner or who gets pole and don’t care for the rest of the grid. If Vettel dominates this season it’ll be miles better than 92,2002 and 2004, that’s for sure.


I completely disagree! Races are stunning! How come you say they are processional? What was then happening last year or 2 years ago?

F1 rocks this year!


If it continues, it is only a matter of time before the rukes are changed. To see LH in Q3 tip-toeing around the circuit because he does not want to strain his tyres is ridiculous to say the least…Looks like the renault demise in Q2 had LH thinking he does not have to worry about anyone overtaking him at the start and all he has to worry about is JB in front and he can chase down SV… Rule Change anyone?


I have to agree… Bar webber going out I’m q1 it was the most boring qualifying I have ever watched in 20 years of f1.

If the tactic works for Hamilton tomorrow it will be pointless watching qualifying as all the drivers will just do one stint in qualifying to save there gyres for the race.

Sad day for f1 when you make a racer like Hamilton not want to go for p1 but be content for an ok starting position and saving tyres for the race.


eeerrr processional? in what way?


You forget that drivers start the race with the tyres which they set their fastest Q3 time on. So Button and Vettel won’t be on the grid with those tyres from the aborted last run. Also those laps were aborted right at the end of the timed lap so I think those two will have pretty much used all the ‘newness’ from them. Hamilton has the advantage in this regard.


If I recall correctly Hamilton locked up twice on his Q3 hot lap, neither Button or Vettel did. Thus although Lewis has a brand new set of tyres to change onto at some point in the race his initial stint tyres may be less than perfect.


Toro Rosso look handy. Maybe Webber might consider switching? 😛


Toro Rosso’s drivers only had used softs for Q3, that is the reason they couldn’t match their performance of Q2.


Well done to SV and Red Bull. Absolutely awesome. This smacks of the FW14B’s dominance in Mansell’s hands in 1992, also an Adrian Newey creation which prompted Senna’s famous offer to drive for Williams for nothing! One still has to wonder what is the actual secret of the Red Bull’s performance which is feeding SV’s confidence to new heights and getting even more out of the car that way? It was well known in ’92 that the FW14B’s active suspension gave Mansell a very high level of confidence such that he could exploit his upper body strength to get even more than his team mate Patrese. It was such that in the British GP his superiority was greater than SV’s today, which is nothing short of phenomonal.

It’s a case of catch me if you can!

I ask again though, what is the secret and he’s barely using KERS?


Someone should offer to drive for Red Bull for free and being a world champion. I prefer Robert Kubica, like his aggressive driving style.


How is this Red Bull so fast? I just can’t get my head around it!

Vettel’s time today was the fastest qualifying time ever around this circuit! He beat the record that was set in a car with a bigger engine, less weight, more downforce!

kk, Vettel did have KERS and DRS, but does that really make up for it?


It wasn’t lighter in 2004 – it was heavier as it was carrying race start fuel load, nowadays they run dry tanks for qualy. They were also (possibly)on grooved tyres back then. (Newey is the other reason)


Newey, Newey & Newey. Aero.

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