Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber showed their champion qualities on Sunday morning when they locked out the front row of the grid for the Rolex Australian Grand Prix – just as they did in 2010.
Seventeen and a half hours after it began on a rain-hit and windswept Saturday, the normal hour of qualifying was finally completed with defending triple World Champion Vettel on pole for the 37th time in his career.
“It was not at all easy in those conditions,” said Vettel. “It was quite difficult to find the limit and in the end I was pretty happy with my best lap and eased off to save the tyres.”
Local favourite Webber, who was among the fastest men on track on a cold but generally dry morning, joined him on the front row with his best lap in the final seconds of the top-ten shootout.
Briton Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion, took third place for his new Mercedes team ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa and his Ferrari team-mate, two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate German Nico Rosberg was sixth and the two Lotus drivers Finn Kimi Raikkonen and Frenchman Romain Grosjean were seventh and eighth.
Two more Britons, Paul Di Resta of Force India and 2009 champion Jenson Button of McLaren, winner of last year’s race here and three of the last four in Melbourne, completed the top ten.
For Button, it was a sign of how his team appear to have lost their form after ending last season on a high. His new team-mate, Mexican Sergio Perez, who replaced the departed Hamilton, was the major casualty of Q2 earlier when he failed to make the cut for the final shootout and he will start Sunday’s 58-laps race from 15th on the grid.
Australia’s Dan Ricciardo also missed out on a top 10 start, his Toro Rosso Ferrari eliminated after finishing 14th in Q2.