As if it wasn't already enough that he had broken the Brawn GP hegemony of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign in storming to pole position for this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul, Sebastian Vettel revealed afterwards that he had 'expected to face more difficulties'.
Red Bull Racing had promised to produce a much better performance around the technically challenging, undulating and physically demanding Istanbul Park Circuit – a track whose prevalence of high-speed corners plays right to the strengths of the Adrian Newey-designed RB5 – and it has indeed rebounded from its Monaco disappointment in fine style.
On the pace from the word 'go', Vettel always looked to be the quickest man on the circuit throughout the qualifying hour, leading the way in each of the three sessions and snatching pole away from early-season runaway world championship leader Jenson Button by just over a tenth of a second to warn the British star and his team that they are not going to have it quite all
their own way this year.
“We have a good car here and a good chance for the race,” the young German stated afterwards. “I expected to face more difficulties in qualifying today; I mean it wasn't easy, but we made it to pole. We now have the best position to start from, and it's definitely an advantage to be on the clean side of the track in terms of grip level.
“This is just the halfway point, though – the main task comes tomorrow. It's a long race here, very tough and very hot so it won't be easy for the cars or the drivers – but it should be exciting. I'm looking forward to it.”
The sport's youngest-ever grand prix-winner was backed up in the final reckoning by RBR team-mate Mark Webber who, despite being on a comparatively heavy fuel load, at one stage stole the top spot himself, before being deposed in the dying moments by Vettel, Button and the second Brawn of Rubens Barrichello – but three tenths shy of pole in the end, the plain-speaking Aussie insisted that he was satisfied with fourth...in qualifying at least.
“That was a good qualifying session for us,” the 32-year-old contended. “I'm happy with how Q3 went, and it's put us in a reasonable position for the start of the race. We're also on the right-hand side of the grid, which is good. I don't think I could have finished much further up. I'm happy with the performance of the car; it worked well today and I'm aiming for a podium tomorrow. The team did a good job today.”
Indeed, after keeping their powder dry during practice – lapping respectively just tenth (Vettel) and 13th (Webber) in FP3 on Saturday morning – Red Bull delivered right when it counted, but as the former pointed out, the job remains only half-completed.
The Turkish Grand Prix has yet to be won from anywhere but P1 on the grid, and Vettel and the Milton Keynes-based squad still need to prove that they can get the better of Brawn in dry conditions, following their remarkable breakthrough Shanghai success seven long weeks ago. On Sunday the man from Heppenheim has the perfect opportunity to maintain one record – and right another.