Sebastian Vettel admitted that his lap to secure a front row grid slot for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest was 'a bit on the edge', and Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber confessed to not having got the best out of his RB5 – with both fearing being blown away by the KERS-equipped cars around them when the starting lights go out on Sunday.
With RBR indubitably the in-form team of the moment and having usurped early-season pace-setter Brawn GP's mantle as the 2009 front-runner, both Vettel and Webber were on the leading pace throughout the qualifying session around the tight and twisty Hungaroring not far from the capital – a track that, on paper at least, should have played rather more to the strengths of Brawn's Mercedes-powered BGP 001.
That the German and Australian will line up second and third respectively – with the best-placed Brawn that of championship leader Jenson Button in eighth, and the sister entry of Rubens Barrichello outside the top ten for the first time this season after suffering suspension woes – only goes to underline how the momentum has shifted in recent weeks. Now, Vettel and Webber well recognise, the important thing is to make hay whilst the sun is continuing to shine on them.
“That was good today,” acknowledged the sport's youngest-ever grand prix-winner, who missed out on the top spot by a scan four hundredths of a second. “I had a pretty difficult start to the weekend and was struggling with the balance of the car in yesterday's practice, but overnight we made a good step forward and it's now looking good for the race.
“Today's qualifying was a bit 'on the edge'; first there were yellow flags and then I got caught in traffic on my second timed lap, so it wasn't ideal. I was confident in the last qualifying, though, and we've got a good result. However, the challenge, no matter if you are first, second or third, is the threat from the cars behind us that are equipped with KERS, as there's quite a run down to turn one here. Let's see tomorrow; it should be a good race for us.”
“Not a great session for me in Q3, as I made a mistake in turn two,” rued his Australian colleague, F1's newest member of the winners' club following his overdue Nürburgring success. “Sebastian did a clean lap, and it should be a good race between all of us tomorrow. Well done to Fernando [Alonso], too – it's good for Renault to have another engine up here and to be on pole.
“Rubens didn't make it through into Q3, so Sebastian and I are in a good position to capitalise on that and hopefully get some points. The KERS cars will be arriving on the straight somewhere; we don't know when, but that's how it is.”
Nonetheless, KERS-equipped rivals or no, Red Bull knows it is in strong shape to further close the gap on Brawn and Button on race day, and with pole-sitter Alonso having run light in qualifying to grab the limelight before – most notably in splitting the two RBRs in Shanghai earlier this year – the Milton Keynes-based, energy drinks-backed outfit must surely fancy its chances of a third consecutive one-two.
“First of all, it's great to hear that Felipe Massa is conscious and the initial signs look good, especially as it was quite a nasty-looking accident,” remarked team principal Christian Horner. “Both our guys did a very good job today – second and third is a good team starting place. The KERS cars are going to be a factor tomorrow, especially Lewis [Hamilton]'s McLaren. Well done to Renault for its top three on the grid. Hopefully we can convert our starting position into good points tomorrow.”
“A very strange qualifying session today with Massa's accident and the collapse of the timing, but in the end, it was a one-two-three for Renault, so we can only be happy,” concurred the squad's engine-supplier's principal track support engineer, Fabrice Lom. “It would be good to have the two Red Bulls in front, but a great day for Renault nonetheless and congratulations to Fernando. The KERS cars are on the dirty side of the track tomorrow – let's wait for the weights of the cars, but I think we're in good shape.”