Super Seb back on top in Sakhir

By on Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sebastien Vettel © Red Bull/GEPA

Sebastian Vettel put his early season qualifying woes behind him in Bahrain as he secured the thirty-first pole of his career after a last-gasp lap.

The reigning world champion lined up 6th, 5th and 11th in the opening trio of events and currently sits fifth in the title race. A lap of 1.32.422 put him almost a tenth of a second ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, with whom he will share the front row on Sunday.

Mark Webber and Jenson Button edged out Nico Rosberg for fifth. The winner of last week’s race opted to run just once in Q3 and a couple of scruffy corners left him four tenths down on his compatriot on the front row.

A major surprise during qualifying was the rapid rate of track evolution. Despite the top teams usually being comfortable running the harder compound tyres in Q1, this was not the case this weekend. The soft tyres vastly improved lap time, enabling Heikki Kovalainen to replace Michael Schumacher in Q2. It was a disastrous session for the seven-times champion, who will start seventeenth tomorrow. His Mercedes team blamed a DRS malfunction for a tardy lap, although his dismal session saved Jenson Button, who just sneaked through in sixteenth.

Schumacher was joined in exiting Q1 by Jean Eric Vergne. For the third race in a row the Toro Rosso driver failed to set a good enough lap time and was shaded by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian will start an impressive sixth, ahead of reigning GP2 champion Romain Grosjean. Lotus only managed to get one car into the top 10 shootout after a strategic error left Kimi Raikkonen down in eleventh – although the Finn does now get to choose what tyres with which to begin tomorrow’s Grand Prix.

Force India – who are actually present in Bahrain, popular to contrary belief – managed to get Paul di Resta into the top ten, although Nico Hulkenberg could only post a time good enough for thirteenth. Ferrari’s disappointing season continues with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa starting tenth and fourteenth respectively.

The race is set to be a cloudy affair tomorrow although talk will be dominated by tyres. Three stops seems likely, but don't rule out four. Either way, Vettel will start from the front for the thirty-first time in his career, a statistic even he didn't believe in the post-race press conference.

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