x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

No stopping Red Bulls from taking Turkish GP pole front

Vettel is fastest in qualifying for the fourth time in a row with teammate Webber taking the front slots at Istanbul but insists there is room for improvement.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates after finishing in pole position in the qualifying session at  Istanbul.
Sebastian Vettel celebrates after finishing in pole position in the qualifying session at Istanbul.

ISTANBUL // Defending champion Sebastian Vettel maintained his 100 per cent record of starting races this season on pole position after he and Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber completed a one-two finish in yesterday’s qualifying session for the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park.

Vettel, who won the world championship after converting pole into top step of the podium in Abu Dhabi last November, has now finished fastest at the past five consecutive qualifying sessions and becomes the first driver since Mika Hakkinen in 1999 to maintain a flawless record after the first four rounds of a season.

“I am very happy with the result. It was not 100 per cent smooth and there are things we can do better, but I am very pleased after the bad shunt,” said Vettel, whose preparations were seriously hampered on Friday when he collided with a barrier and his car was ruled out of the second practice.

“It was a pretty big hit and it’s nice to see that, even without too many laps, I was able to come here and find the rhythm.”
Ayrton Senna holds the record for most consecutive pole positions, having managed a straight eight in the late 1980s.

Yet while such a feat is well within the reach of Vettel – a driver who is not only the sport’s youngest world champion but has undeniably the quickest car in the paddock – the 23-year-old German is focusing on winning this afternoon.

“Ayrton was a master of qualifying,” he said sheepishly when pushed on the subject of record-breaking.

“I prefer to go race by race because, in the end, there are so many good guys and incredible records that, I think, the more you talk about them, the less chance you have of accomplishing them.”

Yesterday, with the weekend’s earlier rain having given way to a crisp and clear blue sky, both Red Bull drivers were confident enough that their times would not be bettered by their rivals that they completed only one flying lap in Q3 before climbing out of their cars and saving a set of tyres for today’s 58-lap race.

They proceeded to watch the rest of the remaining field – including the McLaren-Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button – from their pit-lane garage; a scenario Vettel described as having left him feeling “odd”.

“It’s a really strange feeling when the others are on track and can beat you and you can just watch,” he said. “If it works you are a hero, but if it doesn’t … well, you’re not.”

Webber finished 0.4 seconds behind his teammate to capture Red Bull’s first front-row lockout of the season, but the Australian admitted he was keen to complete a second lap and try to close the margin.

“It was a little bit more interesting, particularly for me,” Webber said.

“I would have liked to have got a couple more 10ths to have the margin. We spoke before qualifying and decided that, as the race is going to be long, every lap you could save might help.”

Red Bull were on course for a one-two finish at last year’s Turkish Grand Prix before the team’s two drivers collided, handing the top step of the podium to Hamilton.

Christian Horner, the team principal, said both drivers have learnt their lesson and Webber was adamant things are different this time round.

“Last year when I was in this [post-qualifying press conference] room it was a different atmosphere for sure. It wasn’t the ideal race and in the end there was contact, we had a crash.

“This happens in motor racing, but we both learnt a lot from last year, not just in that situation but in some other situations. We’re not going to repeat what we did last year. Wisdom helps you.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae