Vettel claims pole for F1 season-opener in Australia
Melbourne, Australia – Sebastian Vettel won the pole position while his teammate, Mark Webber, qualified second to give Red Bull the front starting row for Sunday's Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Qualifying was scheduled for Saturday, but after a torrential downpour and then daylight fading following the conclusion of Q1, FIA race stewards were forced to postpone the remainder of qualifying, Q2 and Q3, until the next day.
Drivers dealt with a wet track surface around the 3.3-mile, 16-turn Albert Park Circuit during Q2, but Q3 was held in drying conditions. Vettel, the three-time defending F1 world champion, stormed to pole with a qualifying lap in 1 minute, 27.407 seconds. The 25-year-old German notched his 37th career pole, which is third best on the racing circuit's all-time pole winners list.
"I was very happy with the result, but with the adjusted schedule, we can't be too euphoric right now, since in a few hours the race is coming up, so it's heads down again to get on with that," Vettel said. "It's a very good result for myself and the team, and with Mark in second, we have a front row. It's a surprise after not knowing where we were in winter testing."
Vettel won the Australian GP from the pole in 2011. He finished second in this event one year ago.
Webber, an Australian native, posted a lap in 1:27.827 in front of his home crowd. His best finish in this race is fourth, which came in 2012.
"I think with such intense conditions like yesterday and today, it's always easy to make a meal of it, but we didn't," said Webber, who qualified 0.42 seconds behind Vettel. "It was slippery yesterday, and we came back again today for a very short explosive session. It was all over in a flash. We needed to get things right. I would have liked two laps (in Q3), but we finished up the grid at the right end. The weather can change very quickly here, so it's always hard to make a call."
Lewis Hamilton, who is making his debut with Mercedes, grabbed the third starting position, while Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso took the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
Nico Rosberg from Mercedes topped the time charts in Q1 and Q2 but fell off the pace in the final segment to finish sixth.
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean placed their Lotus cars seventh and eighth on the grid. Paul di Resta from Force India will start ninth, and McLaren's Jenson Button will roll off in 10th. Button has won three of the last four Australian GPs, including a victory last year.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo from Toro Rosso qualified 14th, one spot ahead of Sergio Perez, who is making his first start with McLaren.
The 58-lap race in Melbourne is scheduled to start at 2 a.m. ET.