Sebastian Vettel was in 2011 form on Saturday when he put his Red Bull Renault on the pole for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand prix on the Sakhir circuit.
It was the double world champion’s first pole of the 2012 season. This is the same Vettel who had a record breaking 15 poles on his march to his second consecutive Formula One world championship.
Up until the final laps of the third session it looked as though it might be an all Red Bull front row with Mark Webber laying down a lap that was just .21 seconds off Vettel’s time of one minute, 32.422 seconds.
But McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton slipped between the pair with a lap of 1:32.520.
A big surprise was the lack of qualifying speed from the Mercedes squad that had led the final practice sessions on Friday.
The best Chinese Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg could do was a 1:32.821, good for only fifth best on the day. That, however, was considerably better than teammate Michael Schumacher who never even made it past round one, and who will start 17th on Sunday.
Another shocker was that another former champion — Kimi Raikkonen — didn’t make it to the third round and will start 11th for Team Lotus.
Other notables were: Jenson Button, who will start 4th; Fernando Alosnso, who did not come out for Q3, who will start 9th and Felipe Massa, who will start 14th.