Vettel nudges Alonso aside by narrowest of margins

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

German grabs pole by two-thousandths of second but Spaniard and Ferrari still get a much-needed boost.

How distant the Bahrain Grand Prix seems, with its easy victory for Fernando Alonso and Ferrari, and the post-race clamour for silly synthetic measures to liven up the racing.

The intervening races, with up to five teams and seven or eight drivers fighting for the top positions, have given us one of the most gripping seasons in Formula One history. Thankfully wise heads prevailed, and since it turned out that it wasn't broken, nobody tried to fix it.

Yesterday, for the first time since that season-opening race, it was Red Bull versus Ferrari in one of the most exciting qualifying sessions of the year. By the end of it, a paltry two- thousandths of a second separated the two fastest runners, Sebastian Vettel edging out Fernando Alonso.

Ferrari came here seething after three races in which they perceived themselves to have been hard done by; whether they were depends on what colours you wear on your sleeve. But the fact remained that they needed a victory before the summer break starts after next weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix. This weekend, they might get one.

After rain had directly or indirectly affected all three practice sessions, qualifying kicked off with a bang and an eight-minute delay after Tonio Liuzzi spun his Force India exiting the final corner on his first quick lap of Q1, smacking it hard enough into the pit wall to shed wheels. Timo Glock was lucky one did not strike his Virgin.

As soon as the mess was cleared up, Alonso stamped his authority, and as the Spaniard wheeled his Ferrari round fastest in both Q1 and Q2, Red Bull were keenly aware that they had a fight on their hands. And this time it wasn't between their two drivers. Where Red Bull's homeboy Vettel lapped in 1min 15.152sec in Q1, Alonso managed 1:14.808. In Q2 their respective times were 1:14.333 and 1:14.081. "We have seen often that they can give a little more in Q3," Alonso said of Red Bull. But even he could not have foreseen how close the gap would be.

On their first runs then he retained the upper hand, with 1:13.927 to Vettel's 1:13.961. The German then started ahead of the Ferrari on the road on their final runs. This time the local hero stopped the clock in 1:13.791. "It's not a nice feeling when you set the fastest time but you know that another guy is also on a fast lap and you have to wait and see," Vettel said, with the old smile that has been less bright of late. "You think, 'Please, please, please let me stay on top! It was such a good, exciting session."

Indeed it was, because Alonso flung the Ferrari at the finish line and recorded 1:13.793. He had lost out by the most slender of margins, but the way things have been for the Scuderia of late, that counted as one hell of a victory. Alonso even smiled.

"No," he said, "I am not at all disappointed not to be on pole. We didn't really expect to keep it. We have to be happy because we are on the first row for the first time this season. This is a step forward for us, we have been competitive all weekend, and I am very confident and happy with the car. We've had a perfect Saturday and we lost pole by a very small margin, but this is not important. You get the points [today], not on Saturday."

When Alonso had sought to play down a fast Friday, Red Bull had spoken quietly about the speed of the red cars, and here it was for all to see. Vettel knows he has a race on his hands.

"We are really strong but the Ferraris are very competitive here and we knew it would be a difficult session," Vettel conceded. "Two- thousandths of a second is not really the margin we are looking for."

He was, he added, extremely happy with his car even if his best lap was not 100 per cent perfect. "In the end it was just enough to stay ahead. I'm extremely happy to be on pole for the first time at home. But it's going to be a tough fight against the red cars."

Oh yes, Bahrain certainly seems a lifetime away.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on