F1 Australia Quali Results & Report: Vettel On Top Yet Again

What Happens When the Season Could Be Written Now

3:19am EST — Sebastian Vettel won pole for the 2011 season-opening Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park by nearly a second over Lewis Hamilton, who will also start on the front row after taking second from Mark Webber on the final lap of qualifying. The Australian will start third, with Jenson Button completing the Red Bull-McLaren top four. Fernando Alonso qualified fifth. Michael Schumacher was knocked out in Q2, as was Rubens Barrichello after spinning and beaching his Williams in the gravel at Turn 3. Only HRT fell afoul of the 107% rule, though the FIA has the option to allow the Spanish team to run, with the approval of the rest of the grid.

Red Bull and McLaren dominated the practice sessions, in both expected and surprising results. Red Bull was consistently quick through winter testing, though McLaren was shockingly off the pace with their new 2011 developments. Removing them for Australia seems to have kicked up the team’s pace, as the former champions were in the top four for two of the three sessions. Red Bull and Webber took the first honors, while Button was fastest in the second session, and Vettel the quickest overall (1:24.507) during Saturday morning’s final practice in cool and damp Melbourne.

The first third of qualifying began with grey skies and wind, and while there was a bit of a rush to get out onto the track, it was a few minutes before teams began setting timed laps. With ten minutes left in Q1, Vettel led Webber, Hamilton, Petrov, and Barrichello as the top five while Button, Liuzzi, and Karthikeyan had set times too slow to qualify within the 107% rule. However, those with times too slow in qualifying might be able to start, depending on their practice pace. Hamilton was next to the top, only to be eclipsed by Vettel again. With eight minutes to go, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Buemi, Perez, and Alguersuari had yet to set any times.

Webber had a go at the top spot, only to have it retaken by Vettel as Alonso slotted into third fastest, only to slide down to sixth. Still, between those without times and those outside the qualifying requirement, the knockout zone was full of Liuzzi, Karthikeyan, Rosberg, Perez, and Buemi with seven minutes to go. Just two minutes later and everyone but the HRT drivers were within 107% of Vettel’s time. di Resta, Kovalainen, Trulli, and Glock joined them in the knockout zone with five minutes remaining.

Kobayashi moved up to third fastest with three minutes left, followed by teammate Perez, nearly ensuring Sauber two places in Q2. Alonso and Massa were down in eleventh and twelfth, with both heading back out on the softer tires as the minutes ticked away. Massa was only seventeenth fastest, with Heidfeld in the knockout zone and likely to knock out the Brazilian. Alonso was third fastest with seconds to go in the session, only to be pipped by Petrov on his own last lap. Heidfeld, the Renault replacement for injured Robert Kubica, was knocked out in this first session, joined by those in the “new” teams now in their second season.

Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Heidfeld
19. Kovalainen
20. Trulli
21. Glock
22. D’Ambrosio
23. Liuzzi
24. Karthikeyan

The Toro Rossos were first out in Q2, though it was Barrichello with the early issues, going off at Turn 3, getting stuck in the gravel, and ending his session. Five minutes into the fifteen minute session, Buemi led Alguersuari, di Resta, Hamilton, and Sutil as the fastest five, with Maldonado the only other man to have set a time.

Once the local yellow from Barrichello was cleared, drivers were back out. Hamilton was back on top at the halfway point of Q2, leading Rosberg, Buemi, Alguersuari, and Schumacher as the fastest five, though neither Red Bull nor Alonso had set a time. Button kept the McLaren flag flying, taking the provisional pole. He remained there only momentarily, as Vettel put up a striking lap time of 1:24.090, nearly a full second quicker. The knockout zone was filled with men who had not set a time (Webber, Alonso, Massa, Barrichello, Kobayashi, Perez, and Petrov) with five minutes left.

Those drivers participated in a struggle out of the knockout zone while setting their new times, with a surprising Schumacher unable to go faster than eleventh. Sutil was unable to improve his own time after a huge spin on the front straight, somehow managing to miss all obstacles and continue on. As Q2 ended, Webber led Button, Alonso, Kobayashi, and Petrov as the fastest five.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Schumacher
12. Alguersuari
13. Perez
14. di Resta
15. Maldonado
16. Sutil
17. Barrichello

Hamilton was the first out onto the track for the final ten minute dash to pole, soon followed by teammate Button. Hamilton’s first lap was a respectable 1:24.501, only to have Vettel take nearly a full second off Hamilton’s time. Webber then took second from Hamilton, with Button slotting into fourth, and Rosberg completing the top five with four minutes left for qualifying. Alonso was out on soft tires, but unable to get anywhere near the Red Bulls or McLarens. Massa managed to spin on his own soft tires, but continued.

The run for pole was down to the final minute, as Alonso was the first across the line with a final lap, only fifth fastest. Vettel kept his fast time, but did not better it while Webber slightly improved his time, only to have Hamilton snatch a front row start from the Australian. Button remained fourth fastest, with Alonso fifth, and Petrov completing the first three rows of the grid.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2011 Australian Grand Prix:

Driver Team Time
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:23.529
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:24.307
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:24.395
4. Jenson Button McLaren 1:24.779
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:24.974
6. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:25.247
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:25.421
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:25.599
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:25.626
10. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:27.066
11. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:25.971
12. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:26.103
13. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:26.108
14. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:26.739
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:26.768
16. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:31.407
17. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:26.270
18. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:27.239
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:29.254
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:29.342
21. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:29.858
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing 1:30.822
Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1:32.978
Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:34.293

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