Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel put in another dominant qualifying performance to claim pole position today for the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix.
Vettel earned his third straight pole to start the season — and will be aiming for his third straight win — by qualifying an impressive seven-tenths of a second ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button, who qualified ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton.
"We did it again," Vettel said. "I keep reminding myself and the team that it is always tough."
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg will start from fourth on the grid, ahead of the Ferrari pair of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
The major shock of qualifying was the elimination of Red Bull's Mark Webber in the first session — in 18th place. His KERS power-boost system was inoperable and the team gambled on using hard tires for his final run.
While Webber will be forced to scramble through the field to reach a points-paying finish in tomorrow's race, teammate Vettel will be odds on to become the first man since Michael Schumacher in 2004 to win the opening three races of a season.
"It all starts from zero again tomorrow," said Vettel, who took pole in China for the third straight year. "All it is is eight metres (advantage) tomorrow.
"We have reason to feel good, but it's also a threat to feel too good and I will pay attention that that doesn't happen."
Schumacher missed the top 10 for the third straight race, qualifying 14th. He was caught out by a red flag with two minutes in the second stage of qualifying.
When the session resumed, 11 cars went out nose-to-tail in an attempt to have one last lap, and Schumacher was one of those caught up in the inevitable traffic, along with Renault's Nick Heidfeld, who qualified 16th.
Button out-qualified Hamilton for the first time this season, but said there was no way to compete with Vettel.
"The pace in Q3 was phenomenal for Seb and the Red Bull," Button said.
"When I saw Seb's time I thought 'OK, we might have to fight for second place."'
Hamilton only made one run in the final session of qualifying, unlike Vettel and Button's two, saying he learned the lessons from the previous Malaysian Grand Prix where he ran out of soft tires in the race.
"The last race showed how important it is to have fresh tires for the race," Hamilton said. "I wanted to make sure I had plenty of fresh tires, so we are in a pretty good position."
Toro Rosso got both drivers through to the final session of qualifying, with Jaime Alguersuari in seventh and Sebastien Buemi in ninth. Force India rookie Paul Di Resta again showed up his more experienced teammate Adrian Sutil and qualified eighth.
Renault's Vitaly Petrov will start from 10th. He did enough to make the top 10 in Q2, but his car stalled on the track late in the session to cause the red flag.
Results for the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix
1. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull, 1 minute 33.706 seconds, 14 laps.
2. Jenson Button, Britain, McLaren, 1:34.421, 13.
3. Lewis Hamilton, Britain, McLaren, 1:34.463, 11.
4. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes, 1:34.670, 19.
5. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Ferrari, 1:35.119, 18.
6. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Ferrari, 1:35.145, 18.
7. Jaime Alguersuari, Spain, Toro Rosso, 1:36.158, 16.
8. Paul Di Resta, Britain, Force India, 1:36.190, 17.
9. Sebastien Buemi, Switzerland, Toro Rosso, 1:36.203, 16.
10. Vitaly Petrov, Russia, Renault, no time set, 11.
Eliminated after second session
11. Adrian Sutil, Germany, Force India, 1:35.874, 14.
12. Sergio Perez, Mexico, Sauber, 1:36.053, 16.
13. Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Sauber, 1:36.236, 11.
14. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Mercedes, 1:36.457, 16.
15. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Williams, 1:36.465, 15.
16. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, Renault, 1:36.611, 11.
17. Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams, 1:36.956, 17.
Eliminated after first session
18. Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull, 1:36.468, 8.
19. Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, Lotus, 1:37.894, 7.
20. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Lotus, 1:38.318, 10.
21. Jerome d'Ambrosio, Belgium, Virgin, 1:39.119, 8.
22. Timo Glock, Germany, Virgin, 1:39.708, 8.
23. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Italy, Hispania, 1:40.212, 9.
24. Narain Karthikeyan, India, Hispania, 1:40.445, 9.