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Vettel fastest in Red Bull lockout

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel celebrates his pole position yesterday.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel celebrates his pole position yesterday.

Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel completed a third successive Red Bull front row lockout yesterday when he took pole position for today’s Indian Grand Prix ahead of his team-mate Mark Webber.

The 25-year-old German, who is seeking to become the youngest triple champion in F1 history, made an error on his first flying lap in the top-ten shootout but responded with a second effort in one minute 25.283 seconds to grab pole.

It was his fifth pole of the season and the 35th of his remarkable career, but achieved without quite the luxurious advantage that he had appeared to enjoy through his domination of all three free practice sessions beforehand.

He said: “It was a tight session, having made a mistake on my first run on Turn Four. All in all it has been a great weekend so far. The boys have been pushing very hard.

“We have to keep pushing – there are a lot of races to go. The best chance to do well is to focus on every single step. We’re look forward to the race. I’m happy to be on pole but there’s a hard race coming up tomorrow.”

His Australian partner Webber did his utmost to match him, but could only deliver 1:25.327 and took second as Red Bull proved they have the overall pace to start as clear favourites.

“It wasn’t the smoothest (flying lap) for (Sebastian) and also for me,” said Webber.

“On the last corner I got a little on the Astroturf on the exit and didn’t have the cleanest run to line, but I’m driving the car.

“It was a pretty tight run thing between Seb and I. The McLarens were doing a very slow out-laps, and I had no grip in the first sector. I was surprised to end up in second.”

He added: “So far so good, today it’s job done and tomorrow we’ll wake up and it’ll be a new day.”

Rivals McLaren did their best to break the Red Bull monopoly - Vettel has also won the last three races to move six points clear at the top of the drivers’ title race - but they ended up third and fourth.

Briton Lewis Hamilton took third late in the session to jump ahead of his team-mate and compatriot Jenson Button on the grid with the two Ferraris of Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Brazilian Felipe Massa taking fifth and sixth places on the third row.

Hamilton said: “I’m happy with third. The team have done a great job this weekend, although we weren’t quick enough to be ahead of these guys (Red Bull) today. But our race pace is just as quick as these guys.”

Alonso, leader for a long period of the season, is now six points behind Vettel and with four races remaining needs to deliver a strong result in today’s race at the Buddh International Circuit, if not a victory, to stay in serious contention.

Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus qualified seventh ahead of Sergio Perez of Sauber, Pastor Maldonado of Williams and Nico Rosberg who was 10th for Mercedes.

On another near-perfect day at the Buddh International Circuit, where the air temperature hovered around 30 degrees Celsius, Q1 saw the usual suspects struggling at the back of the field.

The non-qualifiers were led by Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso who was 18th ahead of Vitaly Petrov and his Caterham team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, and Timo Glock of Marussia.

Behind them and also out were the two Hispania drivers Pedro de la Rosa and local hero Indian Narain Karthikeyan, whose great effort in front of his home crowd, could not produce any greater pace from his car.

Eliminated in Q2 were Romain Grosjean of Lotus, Nico Hulkenberg of Force, Bruno Senna of Williams, Michael Schumacher in the second Mercedes and Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso, Paul Di Resta and Kamui Kobayashi in the second Sauber.

Today’s grid

1. Vettel, Red Bull - 1:25.283
2. Webber, Red Bull - 1:25.327
3. Hamilton, McLaren - 1:25.544
4. Button, McLaren - 1:25.659
5. Alonso, Ferrari - 1:25.773
6. Massa, Ferrari - 1:25.857
7. Raikkonen, Lotus - 1:26.236
8. Perez, Sauber - 1:26.360
9. Maldonado, Williams - 1:26.713
10. Rosberg, Mercedes - NT
11. Grosjean, Lotus - 1:26.136
12. Hülkenberg, Force India - 1:26.241
13. Senna, Williams - 1:26.331
14. Schumacher, Mercedes - 1:26.574
15. Ricciardo, Toro Rosso - 1:26.777
16. Di Resta, Force India - 1:26.989
17. Kobayashi, Sauber - 1:27.219
18. Vergne, Toro Rosso - 1:27.525
19. Petrov, Caterham - 1:28.756
20. Kovalainen, Caterham - 1:29.500
21. Glock, Marussia - 1:29.613
22. De la Rosa, HRT - 1:30.592
23. Karthikeyan, HRT - 1:30.593
24. Pic, Marussia - 1:30.662

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