MONTREAL, June 11, 2011 (AFP) - Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel claimed his sixth pole position in seven races this year on Saturday when he topped the times in qualifying for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix.
The 23-year-old German, in his Red Bull car repaired after a crash into the 'wall of champions' on Friday, clocked a best lap of one minute and 13.014 seconds.
This left him out in front ahead of the two Ferraris of Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Brazilian Felipe Massa, the two-time champion just squeezing ahead of his team-mate in the closing seconds.
Despite struggling once again with his Kinetic Energy Regeneration System (KERS), Australian Mark Webber qualified fourth in the second Red Bull with Briton Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion, taking fifth ahead of German Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes.
Vettel's pole was the 21st of his career and came on a circuit where Red Bull have never won, but where Hamilton claimed his maiden victory and won again last year.
"Thank you," said Vettel over the team radio on his slowing down lap. Thanks you guys for fixing the car on Friday after I stuffed it into the wall."
Hamilton's McLaren team-mate and fellow-Briton Jenson Button, champion in 2009, wound up seventh ahead of seven-times champion Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes.
Another German Nick Heidfeld was ninth for Renault ahead of his team-mate Vitaly Petrov of Russia.
"That's certainly not what we were expecting or hoping for here," said Button. "We just weren't able to get in among them, the Red Bulls and Ferraris, this time."
After a bright hot day on Friday, the first qualifying period arrived in cooler conditions.
The track temperature was down from 40 degrees Celsius on Friday to 25 on Saturday, a change that was sure to affect tyre performance and there were clouds that threatened rain looming overhead.
The first mini-session threw up few surprises and was topped by Alonso ahead of Vettel with Massa third in the second Ferrari. Hamilton was fourth. Several drivers had close shaves with the walls and escaped as the session
led to the elimination of the slowest bottom seven drivers at the end of the session.
That meant an early farewell to Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio of Virgin, who failed to clock a time within 107 per cent of Alonso's, along with six other men.
These were the luckless Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso, who threw his car around with abandon, Italian Jarno Trulli and his Lotus team-mate Finn Heikki Kovalainen.
Behind them were Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi of Hispania, German Timo Glock of Virgin and in 23rd place Indian Narain Karthikeyan in the second Hispania car.
All this suggested the race would start without d'Ambrosio and only 23 cars on the grid. The temperature fell again, by one degree, before Q2 in which the lap times fell as the leading drivers began clocking times below one minute and 14 seconds led by the two Red Bull men and then both Ferraris and both McLarens, plus the speedy Rosberg.
Massa ended up quickest this time and the top nine satisfied themselves with one run only, saving tyres for Q3 and the race.
This session saw another seven men eliminated - British rookie Paul Di Resta of Force India, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams, Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber and German Adrian Sutil of Force India leading the way.
They were joined by Swiss Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso, Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello in the second Williams and, in 17th place, Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, 40, who only jumped into the Sauber as a reserve on Friday
afternoon and hit the wall twice as he settled in and learned his way round the cockpit and track.
De La Rosa's inclusion in the field meant that there were two men aged more than 40 set to line up in a Grand Prix for the first time in several decades.
Vettel leads Hamilton in the drivers' championship by 58 points after six of this year's scheduled 19 races.
|2011 CANADIAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFICATION RESULTS|
|11||15||P.||DI RESTA||Force India||1:14.752||1:14.874||19|
|17||17||P.||DE LA ROSA||Sauber||1:15.587||1:16.229||21|
|Q1 107% Time 1:18.989|