Vettel takes pole in European Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel again destroyed the field in qualifying ahead of tomorrow's European Grand Prix as he clinched his seventh pole in eight races this season.

It is the 22nd pole of Vettel's career, and the ninth in a row for Red Bull stretching back to the end of last season.

In claiming all eight this season, it is the first time a team has managed such a feat since McLaren started 1998 with nine successive poles.

Reigning champion Vettel became the first driver to set a sub one minute 37-second lap witnessed at the Valencia Street Circuit.

Vettel posted a time of one minute 36.975 seconds, finishing 0.188secs ahead of Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, who pipped Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren late on, leaving the Briton to start third.

Despite teams being forced to run the same engine mapping - without using tweaks to enhance performance - for qualifying as in the race, that mattered little to Red Bull.

Behind the leading trio will be Ferrari duo Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in fourth and fifth, with Jenson Button sixth in his McLaren, finishing almost 0.7secs behind Vettel.

Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher line up seventh and eighth for Mercedes, with Renault's Nick Heidfeld ninth and Adrian Sutil 10th for Force India.

There were few surprises in a disrupted 15-minute second session in which Pastor Maldonado caused a red flag after his Williams ground to a halt on track.

The Venezuelan, who starts 15th, appeared to suffer an engine issue prior to stopping and bizarrely then parked his car in the middle of the circuit.

A four-minute delay followed whilst his car was retrieved, at which stage there were eight minutes of action remaining in Q2.

The top six drivers at that point in Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Webber and Rosberg opted not to venture back out, knowing they had done enough.

In the closing stages Sutil dropped Vitaly Petrov down to 11th by a mere 0.034secs, with the Russian lining up in 11th ahead of Paul di Resta who finished 0.388secs behind his Force India team-mate.

Williams' Rubens Barrichello starts 13th, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi 14th ahead of Maldonado, with the second Sauber of Sergio Perez occupying 16th on the grid, and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi 17th.

For 21-year-old Mexican rookie Perez, he at least completed his first qualifying session since the Spanish Grand Prix.

Perez then crashed in qualifying in Monaco, suffering concussion, the effects of which ruled him out of the race a fortnight ago in Canada.

Prior to that Webber scraped into Q2 by just three tenths of a second, finishing 16th in the opening 20-minute session in which Jaime Alguersuari in his Toro Rosso was again the man to miss out.

The Australian stayed loyal to the harder medium compound tyres that are being used for the first time this season, whilst those around him all switched to the faster soft rubber in the closing minutes.

The gamble almost backfired on Webber, but it now means he has an extra set of soft tyres which will be critical for the race.

As for Alguersuari, it is the third successive race he has failed to make Q2, with the 21-year-old starting 18th on home soil.

Behind him will be the Lotus duo of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, followed by Virgin's Timo Glock and Vitantonio Liuzzi in his Hispania in 21st and 22nd.

On the final row of the grid will be Jerome D'Ambrosio for Virgin and Hispania's Narain Karthikeyan, who has propped up the timesheet all weekends, but survives the 107% cut-off by a full second.

Referring to the ban on engine mapping, last year's winner Vettel said: "There was a lot of talk going into this grand prix.

"There will also be a lot before the next grand prix (the British, when off-throttle blown diffusers are outlawed).

"People expected us to lose more than others, but that's where I disagree.

"Overall it's a very good day for us, very good to have the front row for our team.

"But it's always tough here, a tricky circuit, there are so many corners, and especially in qualifying to get every single corner right is very difficult.

"So to get the perfect lap is quite tough, but I was very happy with my first lap (in Q3)."

Webber hailed his lap as "pretty good", adding: "You've so many corners here and you try to put them all together perfectly, so I knew I had to put it all together on the last lap.

"In the end it's a great day for the team off the back of all the talk, and now we can look forward to tomorrow."

Hamilton was surprised at his third spot on the grid, adding: "This is definitely a good effort. I wasn't expecting to be so high up.

"After final practice we were struggling to switch on the tyres, so this is a great effort from the guys."

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