Red Bull teammates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will start tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix from the front row after dominating the qualifying battle in Melbourne today.
Adrian Newey's design was the fastest thing around Albert Park throughout the three sessions, and Vettel edged his Australian teammate by just over a tenth of a second to claim pole position with a 1m23.919sec best in the final part of qualifying – the only lap below 1m24sec so far this weekend.
The track cooled considerably during the final part of qualifying and for a while it looked as though nobody would get near the Red Bulls, as both leaped to the top of the times early on. Home hero Webber had a go at toppling his young German teammate late in the session, but lost time in the middle sector of his best lap, having been fastest of all in sectors one and three, and had to settle for second.
Only Ferrari's Fernando Alonso hooked together a good enough lap to get close. The Spaniard's late 1m24.111sec best put him third, just under two tenths shy of pole. The rest found themselves a whopping six tenths off the Red Bull pace in final qualifying.
Reigning World Champion Jenson Button qualified his McLaren-Mercedes fourth, two tenths clear of Ferrari's Felipe Massa. Both Mercedes drivers struggled to get the best from the softer tires, so wound up sixth and seventh, with Nico Rosberg again getting the better of his seven-time champion teammate Michael Schumacher.
Williams' Rubens Barrichello, Renault's Robert Kubica, and Force India's Adrian Sutil rounded out the top 10, as McLaren's Lewis Hamilton made a shock exit from qualifying in Q2. The 2008 World Champion aborted a quick lap during his first run and sat in the garage last of the 17 runners at the midway point of the session. Hamilton improved to seventh fastest on his second run with the same set of soft tires he used for his first, but fell to 11th as others improved, Hamilton's tires fell away, and the fuel tank began to run dry.
Sutil, Barrichello and Kubica were thus able to join the rest of the drivers from the "big four" teams for final qualifying, while both Toro Rossos, both Saubers, Nico Hulkenberg's Williams, and Tonio Liuzzi's Force India were all eliminated.
Circuit newcomer Vitaly Petrov was the only runner from the established squads to drop out in first qualifying. Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi sat "on the bubble" for much of the session, before dropping the Russian into the hot seat with a late improvement. Petrov looked set to save himself with a minute of running remaining, but suffered a massive oversteering moment through the ultra-fast turn 12 having set two personal best sector times. The Renault man did improve on a last-gasp final lap, but only got within 0.22sec of Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber.
As expected, the six drivers at the three new teams were all eliminated in Q1. HRT again propped up the grid, but encouragingly got within six seconds of the outright pace in Q1 and within a second of Timo Glock's faster Virgin in 21st.
The Lotus drivers finished up fastest of the new teams, with Heikki Kovalainen just over three tenths clear of teammate Jarno Trulli in 19th, but over two seconds adrift of Petrov's time.
For more details of qualifying and reactions from the drivers and teams, click here for a list of today's F1 stories.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:24.774 1:24.096 1:23.919
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:25.286 1:24.276 1:24.035
3. Alonso Ferrari 1:25.082 1:24.335 1:24.111
4. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.897 1:24.531 1:24.675
5. Massa Ferrari 1:25.548 1:25.010 1:24.837
6. Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.788 1:24.788 1:24.884
7. Schumacher Mercedes 1:25.351 1:24.871 1:24.927
8. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:25.702 1:25.085 1:25.217
9. Kubica Renault 1:25.588 1:25.122 1:25.372
10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:25.504 1:25.046 1:26.036
11. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.046 1:25.184
12. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.061 1:25.638
13. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:26.170 1:25.743
14. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.089 1:25.747
15. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:25.866 1:25.748
16. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.251 1:25.777
17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.095 1:26.089
18. Petrov Renault 1:26.471
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:28.797
20. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:29.111
21. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:29.592
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:30.185
23. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:30.526
24. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:30.613
All Timing Unofficial