Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing were not too downcast after missing out on pole position to Brawn GP rival Jenson Button in qualifying for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona – suggesting that with more fuel on-board, they have a strong chance of turning the tables on race day.
In the opening four 'flyaway' grands prix of the 2009 F1 campaign, only once has Vettel got the better of Button – in the torrential downpour of Shanghai, where from pole position the young German practically sailed away from the opposition as he led home team-mate Mark Webber in a crushing RBR one-two to secure the energy drinks-backed outfit's breakthrough victory in the top flight after 74 starts.
Though he is not beginning from the same spot around the Circuit de Catalunya, with rain forecast again for Sunday and 5.5kg more fuel on-board his car than Button, hopes remain high for a repeat performance that would vault the top flight's youngest-ever grand prix-winner firmly into title contention.
“I felt very comfortable in the car today,” reported the 21-year-old Heppenheim-born ace. “The lap time in Q3 was good, though unfortunately not good enough to beat Jenson – at the last minute he took pole position away! Still, second on the grid, on the front row, is great, especially as we were struggling a little bit with the car yesterday. The conditions are different to when we were testing here during the winter, but we fixed it and made a good recovery today.
“We also made an adjustment following this morning's practice, before qualifying, which seemed to work – so I'm very happy. We only needed one run on the hard tyre in Q1 and one run on the soft tyre in Q2. It was a great job and compliments to the whole crew for their hard work. Some parts arrived quite late, which has meant some long nights for the boys, but they will have some rest later today.”
“That was a bit disappointing,” countered Webber, second-quickest to Brawn GP's Rubens Barrichello in Q2 but three places behind Vettel on the grid and almost four tenths of a second adrift on a near-identical fuel load to his team-mate. “I would like to have done a slightly better job in Q3, and I could have done it.
“Q2 was good, but that's not the most important session. We're fifth, so let's see what we can do from there tomorrow. Thanks to the guys at Red Bull – they've done another good job this weekend.”
Indeed, with the dawn of the European leg of the 2009 season Red Bull remains right up at the sharp end of proceedings and battling for the sport's pound seats – and, unlike many of its rivals, has yet to introduce its new 'double-decker' split-level diffuser, which is calculated to be worth as much as half a second a lap in time benefit. Little wonder the mood at Milton Keynes at present is so buoyant.
“A very exciting qualifying session,” remarked team principal Christian Horner. “Ultimately it was really tight between Jenson and Sebastian. We believe we have a good strategy for tomorrow so we wait with interest for the fuel levels, but the performance in Q1 and Q2 was extremely impressive. Mark's performance in particular in Q2 was very strong, which is also encouraging for tomorrow.”
“It's a good result today and the car was very quick in Q1 and Q2,” agreed Fabrice Lom, chief track support engineer for engine-supplier Renault. “Now, we need to wait to get the weights of the cars to see if we are very happy or just happy!
“Tomorrow's race will be tough I think. There was a question mark over where the car would be with all the updates that we brought here, but we are still at the front so we can be positive for the rest of the season.”