Vettel claims pole in British Grand Prix

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The Independent Online

Red Bull Racing were in a league of their own as Sebastian Vettel claimed a stunning pole position for tomorrow's British Grand Prix.

Vettel, who started on pole at Silverstone last year on his way to a dominant win, got the better of team-mate Mark Webber in a heated battle for supremacy, the German posting a quickest time of one minute 29.615 seconds.

Hopes of a British win remain intact with Lewis Hamilton wringing the best out of his ill-handling McLaren to take fourth, but there was misery for his team-mate Jenson Button, who could manage only 14th.

McLaren have struggled with the set-up of their cars this weekend and this morning abandoned plans to run with an exhaust-blown diffuser, which they had hoped would see them close the gap to the Red Bulls, who have run the system all season.

But even had the new upgrade worked, there was almost certainly no catching the Red Bulls on this form as Vettel stormed to his fifth pole in 10 races this season.

The result also marked Red Bull's fifth one-two grid result of the year, and tomorrow is shaping up to be a personal duel between their evenly-matched drivers.

Webber, back in action after his alarming accident in Valencia, threw down the gauntlet in the closing minutes of the top-10 shootout as he went to the top of the order with the first time below 1:30secs this weekend, a 1min 29.758secs.

Vettel responded immediately to pip the Australian to the pole time, however, before increasing his advantage by 0.08secs on his final run.

Third place went to Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who was some 0.8secs off the ultimate pace, while 2008 champion Hamilton was a tenth further back in fourth.

Nico Rosberg will line up fifth for Mercedes, with Renault's Robert Kubica in sixth and the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa seventh.

Rubens Barrichello proved Williams' introduction of their blown diffuser had been a success as he took eighth, ahead of Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa. The second Mercedes of Michael Schumacher was 10th.

The story of Q2 was the ongoing struggles of the McLaren team - in particular those affecting Button, who was struggling for grip in a car carrying a stiff set-up.

The reigning world champion has never achieved a podium finish in 10 previous appearances at Silverstone and his miserable run at the Northamptonshire track looks set to continue this weekend.

Button ran off the circuit on several occasions during practice and the decision to drop their new diffuser failed to make a difference as he posted a best lap of 1:31.699, 0.3secs shy of a place inside the top 10.

Force India's Adrian Sutil also dropped out in Q2 as he finished 11th, while Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, so impressive in Valencia a fortnight ago, was 12th.

Williams' Nico Hulkenberg was 13th with the second Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi 15th, while Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi and Renault's Vitaly Petrov also bowed out.

All the expected names were eliminated in Q1, with Sakon Yamamoto, drafted in at Hispania this weekend at the expense of regular incumbent Bruno Senna, propping up the pack.

Yamamoto improved steadily throughout practice and was just 0.4secs slower than team-mate Karun Chandhok, who completes the back row alongside the Japanese.

Lucas Di Grassi was 22nd for Virgin Racing, two places behind team-mate Timo Glock, while Jarno Trulli, who struggled through practice with hydraulic problems on his Lotus, was 21st.

Heikki Kovalainen was fastest driver of the three new teams, although his time was some two seconds off Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari, who dropped out in Q1 for the first time since the season-opener in Bahrain.

The Silverstone circuit boasts a revised layout this year which features a new infield section after Abbey corner, and Vettel praised the improvements made.

"We did the first couple of laps on Friday and it was unbelievable. The corner combinations are so much fun, especially in qualifying," he said.

"Our car obviously works very well in those sort of corners and it's just unbelievable. The speed we reach, we are all a bit crazy, and it's so much fun. The new section is also great.

"It was a tight session today. I'm very pleased. I hope we can repeat last year's story with a very good result."

This weekend marks Webber's return to action after he flipped his car in a collision with Kovalainen in Valencia last time out.

"Coming back here after what happened was not ideal but it's a good weekend for me," said Webber.

"The team have done a job and they're happy with the result today, I'm sure."