He might be starting behind the two Toyotas in tomorrow's Bahrain Grand Prix, but Red Bull Racing believe Sebastian Vettel is in pole position for victory in the desert kingdom – describing the Shanghai winner as being absolutely 'on fire' in the searing heat of Sakhir.
Just a week on from delivering the energy drinks-backed outfit its maiden success in the top flight after 74 starts, Vettel has proven that he is once again going to be tough to beat, by featuring up at the sharp end of proceedings throughout the qualifying hour.
Fastest of all in the low-fuel Q2 session – invariably the clearest indicator of each driver's true out-and-out pace – the 21-year-old may have given best to the Toyotas of front row stars Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock in the top ten shoot-out, but the FIA's subsequent publication of post-qualifying car weights showed the German to have been running respectively 10.5kg heavier than the pole-sitter and 15.5kg heavier than his compatriot. It is, clearly, very much game on.
“That was a good session,” enthused the top flight's youngest-ever grand prix winner. “We could see in Q1 it was very tough and it wasn't enough to do one run on the prime tyres, so everyone had to put on the option, but it was a smooth qualifying session and we had no problems.
“The car was very quick; we only needed one run in Q2 and we remained at the top, even though the circuit was improving, which was very good. In Q3 the two Toyotas were a bit too quick, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow; I reckon they might pull in a little earlier than us. It's a long race, so let's see.”
Vettel's performance was certainly a tonic for Red Bull following Mark Webber's crushing disappointment at being 'baulked' out of Q1 by Adrian Sutil, leaving the Aussie a lowly 18th on the grid for Sunday's race [see separate story – click here
]. The Milton Keynes-based squad's team principal was full of praise for the Heppenheim native's form – and evidently has high hopes of him going two spots better still in 24 hours' time.
“I think the car weights will show that both Toyotas are set for an aggressive strategy tomorrow,” the Englishman suggested. “We've got a fresh set of tyres remaining from today, so I think we have a strong strategy for tomorrow's race. It was a great performance from Sebastian – he's on fire at the moment. He did a great lap in Q2 and a very good lap in Q3, so let's see what tomorrow's race brings.”
“We had a very good qualifying with Sebastian, who was top in Q1 and Q2,” added engine-supplier Renault's principal track support engineer Fabrice Lom. “He's third, but I think he has a good strategy so we're confident for tomorrow. It will be very hot and the engine will suffer a bit, but we will try our best to get some more points and, I hope, a victory!”