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Vettel shrugs off mid season rule changes to take pole for European Grand Prix
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Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Jun 2011   |  2:29 pm GMT  |  60 comments

Sebastian Vettel took his seventh pole position of the season, ahead of team mate Mark Webber, showing that the FIA’s mid season rule changes to engine maps have had little effect on his or Red Bull’s competitiveness. It was the 22nd pole position of his career and the ninth in the last 11 races. Lewis Hamilton qualified third.

The German was on imperious form, setting the fastest time in both the second and final parts of qualifying. But after a tricky start to the session, it was a strong finish by Webber who ended up only a tenth and a half slower than his team mate.

In Q1, Webber and Felipe Massa were under pressure. Webber ended up 16th, while Massa was forced to use a set of soft tyres to be safe, again showing his struggles when harder tyres are on the menu.

Out in Q1 for the third race in a row was Jaime Alguersuari, the Toro Rosso driver really struggling with qualifying and surely now starting to feel the pressure within the team, with Daniel Ricciardo waiting in the wings. To be fair to Alguersuari he lost a lot of practice time on Friday with an engine problem. He maintains that he is focussed on improving and is not worried about being replaced by Ricciardo.

In Q2 the quick drivers were finding the soft tyres were well over a second a lap faster than the mediums, even allowing for track improvement this was significant. The session was red flagged for Pastor Maldonado stopping out on track. Webber and Alonso were both on a hot lap at the time.

Adrian Sutil did an excellent job to get into the top ten for the first time this season, pushing out Vitaly Petrov in the Renault. Sutil was almost 4/10ths ahead of team mate Paul di Resta, who also lost time on Friday after reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg crashed the car in first practice.

In Q3, Vettel again showed his pace on his first run and would have liked to leave it at that and save a set of soft tyres for the race, but such was the track improvement they all had to go out again using up their tyres. They went out but many of them aborted their laps, knowing that they would not improve, coming straight into the pits in an anti climactic finish to the session.

Only Webber improved in a second run at the end. He was giving away time to Vettel in the first two sectors in particular.

Nick Heidfeld and Adrian Sutil opted not to go out in Q3, saving a set of soft tyres for the race and giving themselves an option as to how to start the race.

“It’s a very good day for us, important to have both cars on the front row,” said Vettel. “There was a lot of talk before this Grand Prix. Everyone will lose something and everyone was expecting us to lose more than others, but I disagree.”

EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX, Valencia, Qualifying
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m36.975
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m37.163 + 0.188
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m37.380 + 0.405
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.454 + 0.479
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m37.535 + 0.560
6. Jenson Button McLaren 1m37.645 + 0.670
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.231 + 1.256
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.240 + 1.265
9. Nick Heidfeld Renault No Q3 time
10. Adrian Sutil Force India No Q3 time

11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m39.068s + 1.763
12. Paul di Resta Force India1m39.422s + 2.117
13. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m39.489s + 2.184
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m39.525s + 2.220
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m39.645s + 2.340
16. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m39.657s + 2.352
17. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m39.711s + 2.406

18. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m40.232 + 1.819
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m41.664 + 3.251
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m42.234 + 3.821
21. Timo Glock Virgin 1m42.553 + 4.140
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m43.584 + 5.171
23. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m43.735 + 5.322
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m44.363 + 5.950

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The best thing was he was cool calm n' collected both in and out of the car 🙂


Good to see Massa build on his Canada form and Webber getting a good run in.

Disappointing that Button can't build on his recent form and close up more on Lewis in qualie.... Still it might rain 🙂


No real surprises there. I have to admit I'm a little surprised at how close Mark got to Seb. Other than that...meh.

'imperious', nice James 😉


Why are you suprised?

The gap between Webber and Vettel in Canada was less than the time Webber lost by not having KERS in quali (while Vettel did).

Given that Webber out qualified Vettel last year in Canada, and Vettel outdid Webber by less than one tenth in Valencia, logic dicatates that Vettel would outdo Webber this year by approx 1 tenth.


Vettel made a small mistake in the last corner (Webber was faster in S3 because of that), and don't forget Vettel was on an even faster lap when he got the message that no one could beat him so he didn't end his lap. I think Vettel still had a couple of tenths to come...


Vettel is on another planet this year.... I am enjoying this a ton!


I think the RB7 is on another planet, a planet half a second faster than any other car.


Correction, Vettel's RB7 is half a second faster.

Mark's continues to be plagued by 'gremlins' for some reason, I cannot imagine why.


Button continues to dissapoint in qualifying.

Recently though, it has been the only frustrating aspect of his driving during the weekend so there is reason to be optimistic for the race.

The potential - or perhaps lack of it - for successful overtaking maneauvers amongst the front runners will be key to Hamilton and Button's chances of fighting for victory tomorrow.

I hope NOT to see a repeat of Australia where Button was stuck behind a slow and overly defensive Massa for a large segment of the race.

Mclaren currently looks to be the only team capable of bringing the fight to the Red Bulls in races so hopefully Hamilton doesn’t crash out again and Button can get past both Ferrari’s before the gap to Vettel/Webber becomes too large.

Basically, lots of hope required if we are to see anything other than a Red Bull car winning tomorrow.


I'm a Mark Webber fan but you have to admit that Lewis must be licking his chops right now at the prospect of overtaking Webber off the start. Mark's not the worlds best starter at the moment, to say the least. It's feasable that a few more might take him before the third corner. Then it's just a race for who will come 2nd and 3rd I guess.

William McCone

Webber is probably contemplating just letting Lewis pass him rather than risk being bulldozed out of the way.

Wonder what odds you can get on Lewis actually making a clean, successful overtake? Alonso will be on a mission in his home GP, certainly one to watch. Lewis/Webber/Button scrapping for third.


True, but after Lewis' Canadian effort, he might be slightly more circumspect, but then again Valencia is probably the worst track to be on an even grid slot. Webber had a shocker of a first lap in Valencia in 2010, getting passed three times losing multiple places each time.

Oxford Bullnose

Great driving from Vettel and good to see Webbo back at the sharp end - clearly RB still have something up their sleeves.

Good also that Ham and Butt are sandwiching the two Ferraris - should make for good racing with both teams looking evenly matched (though Jenson really should stop moaning in the post-qually interviews - can a car really change that much from Q2 to Q3? Same for everyone anyway, I'd guess. Sure it's not you being a bit more revved up?)

Hope Lewis can stay cool and hang in there long enough for the race pace to bring the podium to him - last four races have had Mclarens right up there at the end, so remember, no need to get desperate and panicky for places too early - especially with the (ridiculously long) DRS zones (which I suspect are going to make it a very muddled race.)

Odd that the BBC gang got in a question about the size of the UK's motorsport sector to Ross Brawn - an early bit of propaganda to try to save the Beeb's coverage by playing the 'it's a sport of national economic importance' card? Do they read JA's web site, or what?


Nothing wrong with the BBC feathering their nest though. Was an excellent point though, with so many teams based in the UK, I would say that it's imperitive that F1 remains free to air.


What odds are the bookies giving that Hamilton makes it to the end this time?


Oh dear 🙁

Let's hope he doesn't run away with it tomorrow.


Hello James,

I was very curious and wondered why Viettel took a very careful look on Hamilton's Car and Alonso's car at the end of Qualifying. Perhaps, he was searching for something in the cockpit of the rivals...

Can you guess what he was looking for, James?

Does anyone know the answers?


I thought it was a touch unsporting but if it is aloud, Lewis, Jenson or Fernando should go ahead next time and have a look back. Or go one further, lie down and see if they can have a look underneath the RB.


That should do it, given how much RBR tries to protect their lower parts from scrutiny!


He was checking out the back of the steering wheel, apparently


Could it be as simple as trying to think of a way to improve ergonomics? Or a cue that some modes may be hidden from the onboard camera shots so the other teams are not able to work out what changes are being made?


Apparently McLaren were instructed to fit a horn to Lewis' car. Seb was just looking to see how they went about it. Mystery solved.


I wonder if he has a tiny camera so his movements are seen by the RBR head honcho,s,and indeed would he actually know what the "extra" knobs meant? My guess is RBR asked him to make a point of looking at Ferrari,s cockpit,just to see and keep them keen.....mind games eh?


I remember Schumacher always having a very good long look at competitors cars in the parc ferme, back, of course in the days when he was in the top 3.


I get your dig at Schumi, but when he was out of the top three the looks were even longer as he didn't have to do all the media formalities.


Still ominous pace from the Red Bull, but Mclaren and Ferrari werent exactly far off. Having Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton in such close proximity could be interesting tomorrow.


Poor performance from Fernandez's team. Nearly 1.5 seconds slower the next slowest car..


What ?

Seriously, what on earth are you on about ?

Are you Dany Bahar's mum ?

Lotus beat the other 2 "new" teams and are within 0.8 of a Toro Rosso, another great result from Fernandez's team, just after they announced one of the most impressive sponsorship agreements in the pitlane.


im shocked NOT. great job by the best driver in f1 at the minute and the best team but hope we see a good race tomorrow. alonso to move forward at the start again.


I just watched the qualifying, is it just me or is the rush-to-pole show a little subdued?

No matter how much enthusiasm Martin Brundle attempted to inject "That's six out of seven pole!" The Red Bull garage's zeal for unbridled festivities almost seemed non-existant.

Personally, I couldn't stifle a yawn. I am not a fan of any drivers but watched F1 for what it is. If this is a repeat of the Schumi years...... I was watching a lot more soccer back then.

Edward Valentine

Was that the soccer with the same predictable top 4 of the Premier League?

1 non finish from Seb and the title race will be even hotter. Also if you take it on an individual race by race basis this season has seen the closest and most competitive racing for a long time.


Ha! One no finish from Seb and he's still 2 races wins in the clear.



Yes, just like Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull in the predictable top 8 spot. Your point?

To weigh-in car racing with football is a tedious process and ultimately futile. Each affords pleasure to the viewers differently.

Watching F1 now and praying for rain or praying for Vettel's misfortune is dubious entertainment.

Edward Valentine

My point is that in many sports there are a group of teams/competitors who make it predictable because of their class. In tennis there is Rafa, Novak, AM and RF (it's hard to see past them for the semi final spots in the Grand Slams)and we've already seen examples in football and F1.

To switch watching sports based on phases of dominace would surely mean that your tv stations are on some type of channel hopping merry-go-round.


Well it's clear to see that the deficit is a lot closer than in previous races so yes the rules changes has affected RBR.


The bottom line to me is that Seb continues to be able go just fast enough to be at the front. It's like he always has 2-5/10ths in the bank if he really needs it. Change the rules, no problem. Toss in some rain. He seems to put his head down and deals with it. Hats off to him.


We shall see if the Red Bull overheats in the race. Either they still ran some hot blowing, which will have to continue throughout the race or they did not, which bodes ill for the rest of the grid.

This is unless they have found a quick way to re-map in the first stop.

The huge DRS flap of the McLaren did not seem to help enough in quali.

What McLaren really need is Adrian Newey!

Good on Lewis for saying he likes his driving style and will continue doing it.

At the last race in Montreal, apparently the drivers had in advance, asked the stewards to investigate every single contact, so that's why there was such a large queue at the FIA office. Why did the drivers ask? Perhaps they are feeling insecure! Seems very childish to me.


I suspect Red Bull reduced the Engine Power for Quali.. Question is, was the reduction enough bearing in mind those RB cars will have to do an entire race tomorrow on those settings. Watch this space for a first Engine Blow up during the race?

This looks like a high stakes gamble and I suspect its not over yet.. will we see engine issues with RB tomorrow during the race? Can engine maps be changed during a race and how easy is it to change?


WHy do you suspect the reduced the engine power? LOL DO you have inside information?


When Schumi was steamrolling the field, I didn't know what the complaining was all about.

Now I know how other F1 fans felt. I guess this Vettel guy is my payback.


Completely agree with you! Though at least when Schumi was winning he had already proven from 1994 to 2000 that he was the best in the pack. I don't feel the same with Vettel.


after watching the first few races, i think that the thing giving red bull the edge in quali is because o f the great overall downforce they have they can use their DRS more than the other teams, wouldn't it be better if the DRS was only allowed in the DRS activation zone in all sessions?


I thought about that too. And it also would be more logical to see the drivers sharing flying laps in nearly race conditions in terms of comparing their tempo to Sunday.


The other can use the DRS in qualifying session too. They just chose not to, due to an inferior aero balance. You can't keep changing the rules to stifle clever innovation. The other teams are welcome (and often do) copy clever design.


James, sorry, a bit OT. The F1 live timing and track positioning app. You need to pay for a year, correct? And even if you will purchase it in the second half of the season, you will still pay the full price as if it was for the entire season?

Thanks a lot.


Is there anything to stop the teams changing the engine maps during qualifying, ie do a flying lap then plug the car in and change the settings?


haha i bet alonso thought he was going to get pole now that the FIA (ferrari international assisstance) tried to help him by slowing down the red bulls!not 1 but 2 red bulls ahead of him! and hamilton infront too! triple whammy!


I suspect RBR have taken a risk and continued with extreme mapping,after all they are far ahead of their rivals.


I think Red Bull settled for an engine map that is still on the aggressive side. The rational being its a difficult circuit to overtake, so if they lock up the front row, all they have to do is defend the whole race and hope it sticks...

Do I smell a blown RB7 engine with 10 laps to go?.....


I think you are too hopeful Shingai, though please remind me if you are proved right.

I think they were still a little on the aggressive side though, I agree on that point. Lewis will have better race pace. So it depends if he can make a clean 2nd place after the first corner.

If he does, I do believe that race pace will give him the victory.

Red McBullaren

I wonder what Seb was looking at? Do Red Bull suspect some form of gadgetry that has not become a talking point yet, or was it just mind games? Or maybe something else!


He was providing a bit of entertainment after the dull quali..


he was looking for the slow button!


Vettel + pole = yawn.

I would love to see him, have an off in q3 and then see how good he is slice his way through the field.


Oh, and mho = the steering wheel glance was mind games. As if they care what slower cars are doing!


Good god...this is getting predictable and boring every race. And I can't understand why half the people seem to think this is just Vettel 'on another planet'. The only thing on another planet is Red Bull's cars, and for that matter Vettel's car because once again this weekend Webber had a problem with his car. Really interested to see how Perez and Schumacher perform this race.


I agree F1Fan4Life.

Time for FIA to take a track side sample of one particular RedBull's front wing ply-ability,I mean the kids good,but not that good eh,how can he be,Webs isn't this bad & Sebs has a problem with one index finger.


James, I am no technical guru but a die hard F1 fan and I have a few questions that hopefully yourself or someone else on this forum can help answer.

1) What is the difference between an engine map (like what the FIA have now prevented teams from changing between qualifying and the race) and an engine mode (like that Vettel had switched on just before he crashed into Webber in Turkey last year?

2) For a race like Valencia where the off-throttle EBD is still allowed, what stops a team like Red Bull from replacing their extreme engine map with an extreme engine mode (still part of the race engine map) for use in qualifing and also in the race for brief periods (e.g. at the start to create a gap, to overtake or to defend a position)?


I rememeber When he hit Rob Kubica a few years back and BMW demanded an apology for lossing a 2nd place finish. Mario Thession thought he was not worth anything but look at Vettel now.

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