Sebastian Vettel admitted that he was 'surprised' at his pace in qualifying as he produced what he described as 'the lap of the weekend' to storm to pole position for the 2009 British Grand Prix at Silverstone – but team-mate Mark Webber was left lamenting a 'dreaming' Kimi Raikkonen who he claimed dashed his chances of making it an all-Red Bull Racing front row.
The energy drinks-backed outfit has incontrovertibly been the team to beat weekend-long around the Northants circuit, one whose prevalence of high-speed corners and fast, flowing nature clearly suits its Adrian Newey-designed RB5 down to the ground. Having comfortably had the legs of the opposition throughout practice, it wasn't so much a question of whether RBR would seize the top spot on the starting grid, but rather which driver would do so – and Vettel duly delivered for his third pole of the 2009 campaign to-date.
“It's been a fantastic weekend,” enthused the top flight's youngest-ever grand prix-winner. “We haven't had a single problem. We brought new parts here, which seem to work very well, and we've made a good step forward. There's always tension in qualifying, and you try to do your best. It was quite difficult today and we were struggling a little bit with traffic; it's tricky when you have cars ahead of you – even when they're three seconds ahead, it does still affect you.
“In Q3 we had two very good runs, especially the last one – I think it was the lap of the weekend. Normally you think you could have got a bit more, but this lap was very good. I was able to use the tyres perfectly and when I got to the chequered flag I was surprised how quick I was – and it was enough for pole! All I can say is huge compliments to the guys back at the factory; they have been working so hard to get this car to where it is now, so it's all down to them. Both of us have proved the car is working very well, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race.”
Webber could certainly relate to the 'traffic' issue, for after pacing the 'low-fuel' Q2 session – deemed to be the best indicator of true pace in qualifying – the Australian held a crushing four-tenths-of-a-second advantage over everybody in the first half of Q3, only to then see his challenge come cruelly unstuck with a scrappy first lap on his final run, and the wandering Ferrari of 2007 F1 World Champion Raikkonen in his way on his second. The Australian would miss out on the front row by a scant twelve thousandths of a second.
“It's been a good weekend for us so far,” contended the New South Wales-born ace. “I would have liked a slightly cleaner lap on my last run, but Kimi was dreaming or something – I don't know. He was on the racing line, which wrecked my rhythm into Stowe so I was tight into there. I would have liked to have got more out of the car on that last lap, but it didn't happen and I'm third. Congratulations to Seb – he did a great job and I think both of us are getting some good results out of the car now. To everyone at Red Bull, a big thank you for all your hard work!”
With the subsequent publication of the post-qualifying car weights revealing Vettel's to be the heaviest in the top ten and Webber to be running longer on fuel than the second-placed Brawn GP of Rubens Barrichello just ahead of him, the scene looks set for a Red Bull demonstration on race day – and the Milton Keynes-based squad's team principal Christian Horner knows that there has never been a better opportunity to prove that the RB5 can win in the dry as well as in the wet.
“A great team performance today,” underlined the delighted Englishman. “First and third in front of so many members of the Red Bull team at our local race is a very good start to the weekend. Mark was unlucky to get traffic with Kimi Raikkonen, which spoilt his last run; otherwise I'm sure we could have locked out the first row. Still, both guys have been driving fantastically well all weekend, and it puts us in a good position for tomorrow.”
“A great result,” concurred Fabrice Lom, principal track support engineer for engine-supplier Renault. “The car is very fast here. We have good drivers, a good car and a good engine – which makes for a very good performance! We hope to get a good result tomorrow.
“Mark seemed to be on for pole but finished third in the end as he was blocked by Raikkonen, so again that gives me a little bit of mixed feelings, but first and third is a very good result for qualifying, so let's be happy and see what happens tomorrow.”