Webber the top dog as Red Bulls charge

Australian a class apart on pole but Hamilton snatches third
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The Independent Online

As Mark Webber savoured his second pole position of 2010, after Red Bull Racing put on yet another stunning display of raw speed here in qualifying yesterday, he admitted that he was thinking of his two dogs. "When I left home," he reported, "I said, 'Cheerio boys, I hope I'll have a good haul of points to bring back for you'."

He had team-mate Sebastian Vettel covered throughout, setting the fastest time in Q1, Q2 and the crucial Q3. But not by much. After the first runs in Q3, Webber headed Vettel with 1min 20.239sec to 1:20.342.

"Normally we battle all through qualifying but today I got in two solid laps," he said. "It's nice go into the second run knowing that you are already ahead."

He did just that. Vettel ran first on their second sorties and jumped ahead with 1:20.101, but before the German had even returned to the pits Webber had supplanted him with 1:19.995. And he did not need reminding that for the last nine years the pole winner here has gone on to win the race.

The Australian dedicated the success to the mechanics in the team, who have had sleepless nights putting new parts on the cars as and when they have arrived over the weekend. "They've really worked incredibly hard, and that effort they are putting into the car is translating into lap times. The modern F1 car is not like working on a road car, it's a very sophisticated piece of kit so small changes take a while, and the guys spend all weekend getting the cars prepared the best way they can. Collectively we are all doing our bit.

"Christian [Horner, the team principal] said: 'You won't drive a car like this round here too often, so go and enjoy it.' I did!"

Vettel, as tough a competitor as they come, was philosophical, knowing full well that what really matters is the race. "Congratulations to Mark," he conceded cheerfully. "Today he was not beatable. I did good laps but just not enough. A 10th of a second is not much but today it was a bit too much for me.

"It's a long race, and for sure at the moment it looks comfortable but we know how quickly things can change so we have to keep the feet on the ground. Maybe we get some rain. Mark beat me too much in the last sector, so I'm looking forward to seeing the data and where I can find some time."

All of the other teams had expected Red Bull to be quick, since they've had the fastest car all season. However, McLaren – who were third and fifth with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button – Ferrari, who were fourth and ninth with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, and Mercedes, who were sixth and eighth with Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, have all admitted in varying degrees to being astonished at the margin of Red Bull's superiority on a track that generally highlights the form that can be expected for the next few months.

Ferrari also had the small matter of a £13,500 fine to deal with after Alonso almost crashed into Rosberg in the pit-lane during Q3. The stewards ruled that the Spaniard had made an unsafe release from the pits, one which forced the German to veer left and brake hard.

Hamilton meanwhile was pleased with McLaren's best qualifying of the season, after pipping his old adversary Alonso for third, but also resigned about the gap to Red Bull – almost a second. "What can I say, they are extremely quick throughout the high-speed corners and ridiculously fast with more downforce than other teams," Hamilton conceded. "They've also made a step on top of that. But our car has a lot of potential, and we'll continue to work on it; there are many avenues we can go through to gain more downforce. We also expected the threat from Ferrari and Mercedes; they tend not to be so fast in practice but are always quick in qualifying."

In particular, a revamped Mercedes allowed Michael Schumacher to do what everyone expected him to when his return was announced, outpace team-mate Rosberg who has had the upper hand thus far this season.

"Anything's possible," Hamilton said. "Our race pace is quite a bit better than our qualifying pace, but they [Red Bull] are very, very fast and have quite a big gap on us. There's a chance at the beginning of the race, and if the weather hits us... We have to remain optimistic and score as many points as we can while they're having their good days."

Whistling to keep your spirits up? Perhaps. But with only one win thus far from the first four races, Red Bull are more than well aware that there can be many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.