As he drove back to the pits on his warm-down lap after taking pole position for today's Australian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel shouted to his Red Bull-Renault engineers on the pit radio, "yes, we will show them". Today is a big day for the German as he seeks to stamp his authority on the world championship by turning sheer raw pace into a race victory.
The 22-year-old was the fastest man in Bahrain and would have won the race had a spark plug problem not led to a loss in power and caused him drop to fourth, with Fernando Alonso's Ferrari sneaking in to take the spoils. Last year over the course of the season Vettel and Red Bull had the fastest package, but early mistakes and wasted opportunities left him with too much to do to reel in Jenson Button at the top of the standings and he had to settle for second place in the championship.
Vettel has come out of the traps flying, taking pole positions both in Bahrain and yesterday in Melbourne, but titles are not won on Saturdays, it is the endeavours on Sundays that decide who ends up with No 1 on their car. Red Bull and Vettel are desperate to prove that they are the real deal, but they need to prove it on the track by coming out on top in today's 58-lap race. It was the perfect day yesterday for the British team as Vettel romped to the seventh pole of his career with a time of 1min 23.919secs, ahead of Mark Webber, his teammate, who enjoyed his best qualifying performance in front of his home crowd.
Despite dominant display of his team, Vettel is taking nothing for granted at a race that has seen a fair share of accidents and safety car appearances in recent years. "It is quite good to start at the front," he said. "We don't know how messy it might get tomorrow, safety car, no safety car. There is always a lot happening in Albert Park but it is good to be on pole. The clean side as well, so I am very happy."
"Being on pole positions is a great achievement from all of us. Mark second, so it is the best possible result for the team, so looking forward to the race." Webber was 0.119secs adrift of his teammate and the championship leader, Fernando Alonso, was a further tenth behind in third. Starting on the front row satisfied Webber, and the Australian said: "We had a good battle today and I will be happy in the morning when I wake up because I am in a good position to have a decent race."
Alonso acknowledged that the Red Bulls were too quick and he was content with his efforts. "We knew that to beat the Red Bulls was a difficult thing to do here, so we concentrated to maximise our potential, and third was a very good result." Those three were the class of the field and the fight for victory is likely to boil down to that trio, although rain showers are forecast, which could add another layer of unpredictability to proceedings.
Button, the world champion, had looked much more assured in the McLaren-Mercedes throughout the weekend and it showed in qualifying as he finished fourth, seven-tenths off the pace of Vettel. Felipe Massa, Alonso's teammate, struggled in the cool conditions and he had to be content with fifth place ahead of the two Mercedes GP cars of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Rubens Barrichello's Williams-Toyota was eighth ahead of the Renault of Robert Kubica, with Adrian Sutil's Force India-Mercedes completing the top 10.
The major surprise of qualifying was the 2008 world champion, Lewis Hamilton, only lining up in 11th as he struggled for grip in his McLaren. At the back of the grid were the two HRT-Cosworths, although the pace of Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok was improved, with the pair six seconds off Vettel's pace. firstname.lastname@example.org