Two-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel will start Sunday's inaugural Indian Grand Prix from pole position.
Vettel claimed the 13th pole of his F1 2011 season - and a record 16th for Red Bull Racing - after topping the timesheets in the third and final phase of qualifying at the all-new Buddh International Circuit. The German, who had been fastest in final practice this morning and also quickest in Q2, looked unbeatable in the final session, despite both Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber getting close to his mark on their opening laps. Indeed while his rivals toiled to overhaul him, Vettel comfortably banged in a faster lap, setting pole at 1 minute 24.178 seconds.
Hamilton did not improve on his final run, but held on to second on the timesheets. However the McLaren man will drop three-places for a yellow flag infringement on Friday [see separate story - click here
]. That will promote Webber up to second and give Red Bull a front-row lock out, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button also gaining a place, although the latter may face a sanction for setting his fastest final sector when Felipe Massa crashed out with broken suspension late on in Q3 after hitting the kerbs.
Massa, who went off into the gravel and into the wall at Turn 9, escaped unharmed and is provisionally sixth on the grid, with Hamilton slotting in ahead of him.
Nico Rosberg lines up seventh in his Mercedes, ahead of the Force India of Adrian Sutil and the Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, none of whom set a time in Q3 despite venturing out for the entertainment of the Indian crowd.
Further back Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher were the two main casualties in the second phase of qualifying. Schumacher complained of a vibration on his final set of tyres which, although allowing him to improve his time, failed to improve on the twelfth position which he held at the start. Petrov, meanwhile, yo-yo'd between the top ten and the drop zone, before finally being relegated to the latter when Sutil improved to eighth near the end. The pair were eleventh and twelfth on the times, although Petrov is another one with a penalty and will drop five places having been penalised after he collided with Schumacher last time out in Korea.
Britain's Paul di Resta was 13th in the second session, with the Williams' of Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello 14th and 16th, sandwiching Bruno Senna's Lotus Renault. Sergio Perez was the slowest in Q2 and will start 17th, one place ahead of his Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi.
Kobayashi went out in Q1 having dropped below the cut off when Schumacher improved late on, and after failing to find enough time to overcome the four-tenths gap to 17th-placed Barrichello.
Kobayashi joined the expected backmarkers in taking a watching brief for the rest of the session, but lapped seven-tenths faster than the best of the Lotuses, this time with Heikki Kovalainen at the wheel. The Finn pipped team-mate Jarno Trulli, who had paced the pair in practice, while Daniel Ricciardo, who will unfortunately drop to the back after a late gearbox change, enjoyed a good session and slotted in just behind. Narain Karthikeyan gave HRT and the home crowd something to cheer about too, after also getting ahead of both Virgins, Timo Glock having suffered an early gearbox problem that kept him in the garage. Glock failed to post a time within the 107 percent, but having been well below in final practice, is expected to get the okay from the stewards to start.
To see the full times from qualifying for the F1 2011 Indian Grand Prix - CLICK HERE