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Vettel sets the pace in Melbourne

Sebastian Vettel was easily the fastest man on track today after he set a fantastic lap time of 1m 23.529s, especially when it became known that the youngest world champion didn’t use KERS when he achieved his fastest time, which was eight tenths up on the rest of the grid! McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton will line up alongside Vettel on the front row of the grid in second, and also produced his fastest time of 1m 24.307s without the use of KERS. Red Bull and McLaren dominated throughout the qualifying session, with the four drivers interchanging fastest lap times as the session progressed. Red Bull’s Mark Webber clinched 3rd, whilst Jenson Button will line his McLaren up fourth on the grid. Speaking to the BBC shortly afterwards, Button thanked the hard work of the McLaren team to resolve the reliability issues that have burdened the MP4-26 throughout the winter test sessions, as well as spoke positively about the degradation of the new Pirelli tyres so far over the race weekend. “It feels like a very different tyre to what we had in testing” Button said. “For me all weekend the tyres have felt quite durable, and it gives you very good grip. I don’t know if it is this type of circuit but the tyres seem to be working really well” Button also added that the MP4-26 had “felt great” all the way through the qualifying session. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will start Sunday’s grand prix from fifth. “We weren’t super competitive today, from practice,” the Spanish champion said. “So for qualifying we took a very conservative approach” Alonso added that fifth position “is what we expected so we are happy” Although after being asked about the pace of Vettel, Alonso added “distance this far from pole we are not very happy. Today is not the normal pace for us” Alonso’s team mate, Felipe Massa struggled throughout the qualifying session and at one point looked as if he wouldn’t make it passed Q1, as he battled with the Renault of Nick Heidfeld for the last place in Q2. Massa did fortunately make it through to Q3 however, and will start 8th. It was a disappointing start to the season for Robert Kubica’s replacement, Nick Heidfeld as he failed to meet the high expectations which have been building around him after his strong performance throughout the winter tests. In fact Heidfeld was completely out shone by his younger and less experienced team mate, Vitaly Petrov, who put in a sterling performance to make it through to the final shootout, and will start the race from 6th. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi also had a great qualifying afternoon to line up 9th on the grid! A very impressive performance to say Kobayashi spent a good part of last season becoming the fall guy of Q1. Toro Rosso also had a positive first qualifying session with Sebastien Buemi making up the top ten, and Jaime Alguersuari starting from 12th. Michael Schumacher was disappointed as he failed to make it through to the Q3, and will start tomorrow’s race from 11th, whilst his Mercedes GP team mate Nico Rosberg had a better qualifying session to line up 7th on the grid. Asked by the BBC if he was disappointed by his qualifying performance today the seven times world champion said “Indeed yes, after winter testing, we come to the first race, we expected a certainly different performance, so naturally there is some disappointment.” The 2011 season also see a number new drivers take to the grid in the form of Virgin Racing’s Jérôme D'Ambrosio, Sauber’s Sergio Perez, Force India’s Paul di Resta, and Pastor Maldonado for Williams. The latter two managed to out qualify their team mates due to driver errors. Maldonado’s Williams’ team mate, Rubens Barrichello made a mistake and spun into the gravel trap at turn three in the early stages of Q2. Whilst, Di Resta’s team mate Adrian Sutil struggled with the new DRS and had a very close call as he spun and just managed to keep his car out of the wall. 2011 also sees Team Lotus, Virgin Racing and HRT embark on their second season in Formula one, and again continue to battle with each other down at the back end of the grid. HRT who only managed to produce their first lap time in the new F111 in the closing minutes of free practice three on Saturday morning, failed to make the new 107% rule at the Albert Park Circuit, which means it is now up to the stewards and the other teams to decide whether if Narain Karthikeyan and Vitantonio Liuzzi will be allowed to take part in tomorrow’s race. Team Lotus, although disappointed as they were hoping to make it through to Q2 did dominate over the three young teams with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli qualifying in 19th and 20th ahead of both the Virgin Racing cars in 21st and 22nd.

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