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Motor Racing

Webber defies Renault diffuser confusion to pole

"This isn't a reply to the rule changes," Mark Webber insisted yesterday – but it certainly looked that way here as the winner of the 2010 British Grand Prix and his championship-leading team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, wrapped up the front row of the grid for today's race.

The moment the rain arrived to frustrate everyone's hopes of making their second runs in the final qualifying session was the first time that Red Bull's team principal, Christian Horner, and technical guru, Adrian Newey had cracked smiles all day.

The reason for that was because it was a day that started with a remarkable volte-face by the race director, Charlie Whiting, which had at a stroke taken away Thursday's special dispensation granted to the Renault-engined teams – such as Red Bull – to run off-throttle blown diffuser settings that allowed them 50 per cent gas flow for "reliability" reasons while all of their rivals were limited to only 10 per cent.

"We're not looking to reply to anything," Webber stressed. "What has to be reiterated is that our team has turned up very, very early and left very, very late. Every team works hard, but this team works incredibly hard.

"We're still going OK, but irrespective of lap times it's an interpretation of rules and principles. It is not a comeback from what we had today."

Webber said of his pole-winning lap of 1min 30.399sec that pushed Vettel across the front row of the grid: "I've always enjoyed driving here, but you still have to put it all together. You don't get these results without applying yourself.

"It was a very mixed session for all of us, even in the build-up with yesterday's rain. It was important to make sure every lap counted, as you never knew if it was going to be the one that counted for your main grid position – so even in Q2 you had to make sure you weren't caught out.

"In the end I'm happy with the job we did. It's easy toslip up in conditions like that from a logistical point of view and also from the driver's perspective."

Vettel was also happy with the way he had handled the changeable weather conditions. "It was a difficult session," he said. "I think when it starts to rain here it can be [falling] on different parts of the circuit, so it's quite difficult to see where it's wet and where it's fine, so you rely on the out lap or the previous lap.

"If you go flat out and hit a damp area, it's very easy to go off. It's a shame we couldn't get the second run in Q3, I would have loved to have challenged Mark again, but he got agood lap..."

Elsewhere, other disgruntled team owners viewed the huge gap between Red Bull and rivals such as McLaren, which had opened rather than closed despite the change in technical regulations, and one said: "Nobody knows what anyone else is doing. The whole point of F1 going to a standard engine control unit [ECU] was so that things that have been outlawed, such as traction control, could be monitored. But now, halfway through a season, the FIA have introduced a rule which is virtually impossible to police. It makes absolutely no sense."

Fernando Alonso lapped his Ferrari within a tenth of the Red Bulls and lined himself up to be their strongest challenger on a day when McLaren failed dismally. Jenson Button starts fifth, Lewis Hamilton 10th, both of them a very long way off the pace. But for Button's late effort, it would have been the Scottish rookie Paul di Resta who lined up as the leading British driver.

Celebrating a superb performance in front of his home fans in the Force India Mercedes-powered car, the 25-year-old Midlothian said: "I'm really happy with the result. To be here for my first British Grand Prix and to be starting in sixth place feels great. I think in the worst-case scenario I would have ended up in eighth, so hopefully I can come away with a strong result."