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Vettel surprises pack with pole place

SEBASTIAN Vettel claimed Red Bull team's first pole position at the Chinese Grand Prix yesterday, but he had to do it in a car patched up overnight and with absolutely no margin for error.

The bad news is that pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel has doubts over how long his car will last in the Chinese Grand Prix.

Vettel clinched the second pole of his young career with a remarkable high-wire driving performance around the Shanghai International Circuit.

A drive shaft failure in pre-qualifying practice recurred in the first qualifying session, forcing Red Bull to restrict the German to just one flying lap in each of the second and third sessions.

With no margin for error, Vettel snatched pole with a time of 1 minute, 36.184 seconds.

"We agreed on doing as little laps as necessary and see if we can manage to get through," Vettel said. "I got the laps together, I'm very happy. And in the end, it was even enough for pole, so that's a very, very good sign."

That was not the only surprise as Renault's Fernando Alonso took second place, due reward for the team's mechanics who had toiled through the night to fit a new diffuser to his car.

"We didn't know how the car would respond and we are extremely happy with the result," Alonso said. "The guys only slept one or two hours. After this enormous job, you have to deliver in the car."

Red Bull's Mark Webber was third fastest, having also had to contend with the driveshaft problems that threatens to negate the team's impressive speed today.

"I don't think anyone can feel 100 percent," Webber said. "It's right on the edge. These cars are sensitive. We might be all right, we might not."

Long night

The Red Bull mechanics faced a long night ahead of today's race trying to cure the driveshaft ills, but Vettel was trying to keep that out of his mind.

"I hope the boys can fix it, and hopefully it will last tomorrow," Vettel said. "We never faced this problem before coming here. It was a bad surprise. My job is to drive the car, so it's better if I'm not too worried and thinking about those things too much."

Brawn GP, which had dominated the opening two races of the season, was temporarily put in the shade by the performances from Red Bull and Alonso, with Rubens Barrichello qualifying fourth and championship leader Jenson Button in fifth. Toyota's Jarno Trulli will start from sixth, while teammate Timo Glock was 19th after a five-place grid penalty incurred because he needed a gearbox change after a failure in practice.

Williams' Nico Rosberg qualified seventh and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in eighth. Raikkonen's teammate, Felipe Massa, will start from 13th after an error on a quick lap kept him out of the final qualifying session.

Another team taking a significant stride was Renault after adding a new diffuser.

"We keep changing the car constantly in the first two races and this one again, a big update in the car," Alonso said. "Things are working in the right direction for sure, and the results are getting better and better.

"We can't stop now. It's time to deliver, time to really work hard and pick up the top teams."


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