Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel was once again the class of the field in qualifying for the F1 2011 Turkish Grand Prix today, maintaining the 100 per cent record that has seen him start every race so far this year from pole.
Vettel, who was quickest in final practice this morning, despite the fact he missed most of Friday's running, was second in Q1, fractionally behind the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. The German then went quickest in Q2 and did it again in the all-important top-ten shoot-out, beating his team-mate, Mark Webber, by four tenths of a second, his best lap a 1 minute 25.049 seconds.
Indeed such was his confidence, and that of Red Bull, that Vettel and Webber elected only to do one run in Q3, climbing calming from their cockpits to watch the remainder of the session and save a set of fresh tyres for tomorrow's race, the fourth round of the season.
Nico Rosberg meanwhile proved to be 'best of the rest' for Mercedes, and got in front of Lewis Hamilton on his final effort, thanks to a 1m 25.574s lap, which put him 0.021 seconds up on the Englishman's McLaren (and only 0.120 seconds off Webber in P2).
Fernando Alonso will head up the third row in his Ferrari, alongside Jenson Button, who appeared to back off on his final lap. Renault's Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld came in seventh and ninth, sandwiching a disappointed Michael Schumacher in eighth, who was more than a second slower than his Mercedes team-mate. Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten, not even posting a time in Q3 having wasted a set of tyres in guaranteeing his spot in Q2.
Rubens Barrichello cruelly missed out on making the shootout when he was bumped down to eleventh late on by Heidfeld – just 0.024 seconds stood between the Williams man and Q3. Force India twins Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta took 12th and 13th, with the second Williams of Pastor Maldonado edging fellow GP2 graduate Sergio Perez for 14th. Toro Rosso filled the final two places in the session, with Sebastien Buemi fractionally ahead of team-mate Jaime Alguersuari.
Kamui Kobayashi was the big scalp in Q1, although his exit was determined early on when he suffered a technical problem before he even had a chance to set a time in his Sauber. The Japanese ace was the first out on track, but failed to completed a flying lap after the fuel system on his C30 shut down as he approached the final chicane.
That realistically left six spots for the three teams that joined the grid last season but, while that is the way the session eventually paned out, Lotus' Heikki Kovalainen at least made it interesting by lapping quicker than the Force India of di Resta on his first run. That made the Scot fight for position, although he eventually dropped his Finnish rival back into the bottom seven. Kovalainen tried to respond and got to within half a second of Barrichello, who ended up 17th in the session – just inside the cut.
The second Lotus of Jarno Trulli backed Kovalainen up in 19th, comfortably ahead of the Virgins and HRTs at the back of the pack. Rookie Jerome d'Ambrosio wound up fastest of the tailenders, with Tonio Liuzzi putting his Hispania between the two red-and-black machines after pipping Timo Glock by a tenth. d'Ambrosio will start last however, after picking up a five-place penalty in practice on Friday for ignoring the yellow flags.
To see the full times from qualifying for the F1 2011 Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park: CLICK HERE.