SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel claimed Red Bull team’s first pole position at the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday, but he had to do it in a car patched up overnight and with absolutely no margin for error.
The 21-year-old, considered by many to be the finest young talent in Formula One, had only one flying lap in each of the three sessions of qualifying after his mechanics had worked all night and for much of the day to correct a driveshaft problem.
“If you have only lap, if you have any mistake, if you go wide or anything, there’s no second chance,” said the German, who admitted he was wondering whether the car would hold together for the lap.
“You sit in the car and you try to forget everything around you and focus on driving, which is what I enjoy,” he said. “I was quite confident and in the end, it was a very, very good lap.”
Vettel made his debut in 2007 and became Formula One’s youngest race winner when he topped the podium for Toro Rosso at last year’s Italian Grand Prix, the only previous occasion on which he started from pole position.
After moving to Red Bull for this year, he has outperformed team mate Mark Webber in qualifying but has finished 13th and 15th in the two races, the former after crashing into Robert Kubica while they battled it out for second in Australia.
“I think we’ve surprised a lot of people with the speed of our car,” said Vettel. “Today was a good day for the whole of our team but tomorrow you get the points, so the most important day is tomorrow.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was delighted with the Renault-powered team’s first pole position in its 74th Grand Prix, particularly after Webber grabbed third place on the grid.
“A fantastic team result and the team’s first pole position that was brilliantly executed by Sebastian,” he said. “Now we have to convert it. Tomorrow will be a big day.”
Webber, who broke his leg in a cycling accident in November and faced an uncertain future over the winter break, said it showed how far the team had come.
“We’ve been on the ropes to be honest this year with the driveshafts, but to come out in a good position, there’s no question this team’s taken a big step forward compared to last year,” the 32-year-old said.
Horner expects Vettel to be very much part of the team’s future progression.
“He’s only going to get better, he’s very young. He’s pushing the team very hard and he’s also getting the best out of Mark,” he said on Friday.
“I think they will be pushing each other all season long and that’s great because we’ve got two guys that are really driving the wheels off the car.”
Editing by Martin Petty