Date: 26th March 2011 at 7:19pm
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Red Bull got themselves off to a great start for the new 2011 Formula 1 season as current World Champion Sebastian Vettel stormed to pole position in Australia Qualifying while team-mate Mark Webber starts in 3rd for his home race behind Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel clocked a time of 1 minute 23.529 seconds – a massive 8 tenths of a second ahead of teammate Mark Webber – who admitted he was disappointed with his performance at his home Grand Prix.

McLaren showed a superb comeback following a struggling pre-season of testing as Hamilton delivered an excellent late lap to jump up to 2nd, 0.778 seconds adrift of Vettel, while Button managed 4th.

We were all probably expecting a stronger performance from Ferrari, but Massa struggled in particular following his return after last year’s horrific incident, while Alonso could only manage 5th ahead of Vitaly Petrov.

The Italian team are 1.4 seconds behind Red Bull so unless any reliability issues or incidents ruin their races, their best bet is probably to challenge for a podium finish amongst the McLarens.

Yet again, Nico Rosberg beat his team mate Michael Schmacher as he was 7th fastest, while the 7-times World Championship couldn’t even make it in the final session, clocking the 11th quickest laptime.

Kamui Kobayashi impressed in the Sauber, managing 9th, ahead of his team-mate, rookie driver Sergio Perez with a solid 13th place for tomorrow’s race.

We also can’t forget to mention another rookie driver, Scottish youngster Paul Di Resta who achieved a quicker laptime than Adrian Sutil in the other Force India car. Impressive start considering that Sutil is now very much an established, solid driver in that team.

Nick Hedfeld didn’t get off to the start that he wanted in Renault though, having replaced Robert Kubica who’s recovering from a serious Rally Car crash. He is way down in 18th, compared to his team-mate Petrov in 6th. He’ll be in front of last year’s new teams – Lotus, Virgin and Hispania.

Hispania driver, Narain Karthikeyan, one of three rookie’s this year, won’t be involved in tomorrow’s race as his qualifying lap time failed to come within 107% of Vettel’s time. A new rule this season states that drivers are limited to how slower they can be compared to the pole position time, and if they’re out of the 107% limit, they have to appeal to race the following day. As a result, race stewards rejected their request for the Indian to race tomorrow.

The chasing pack of Hamilton, Webber, Button and Alonso etc will have a tough time beating front-runner Sebastien Vettel tomorrow, as he consistently set far quicker lap times during the three qualifying sessions. If he can avoid reliability issues that nearly prevented him from winning the Championship last year, the German is certainly set to open the new season with a victory. But having said that, Formula 1 is often full of surprises and anything can happen tomorrow. Hamilton is usually strong and aggressive going into the first corner of a race and Australia sees plenty of action in the opening bend. McLaren should be very happy if they can consolidate their qualifying positions, Ferrari will hope their drivers, particularly Massa, can improve theirs while Petrov aims to give Renault a decent points start from 6th.

 

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