Motorsport: Red Bull 1-2 in Spanish GP qualifying

By Paul Logothetis

BARCELONA, Spain - Mark Webber has claimed his second pole position of the Formula One season, leading a dominant Red Bull 1-2 at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Webber secured Red Bull's fifth straight start from first place on the grid with a lap time of 1 minute, 19.995 seconds at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Sebastian Vettel trailed by just over one-tenth of a second for the Austrian team's third 1-2 start of the season.

Lewis Hamilton of McLaren was nearly one second behind Webber and will start from third ahead of Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. Overall F1 leader Jenson Button was fifth.

Michael Schumacher will start from a season-high sixth spot, ahead of Renault's Robert Kubica and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

No team has been able to compete with Red Bull's pace in qualifying for the first four races and it was the same story on Saturday.

All teams have undergone major upgrades to their cars ahead of the first race of the European leg and at a track that rewards aerodynamic improvements.

"The work in the car is now translating into lap times," Webber said after securing his third career pole. "It was a sensational qualifying session."

Coming off his second win of the season at the Chinese GP, Button said Sunday's 66-lap race should be "a walk in the park" for the leaders unless rain appears.

"If we're good off the line we might be able to get them in turn 1, at least Lewis can," Button said. "Never say never. But one second quicker, you expect them to walk away into the distance. We haven't seen that big a gap in a long time."

Vettel has qualified first three times this season but has only won one race, coming from third place in Malaysia with Webber starting from pole position. The last nine Spanish GP winners have come from the pole.

"We are enjoying ourselves, but obviously Mark wants to beat me and I want to beat Mark," Vettel said. "But today he was not beatable."

Hamilton labelled McLaren "the best of the rest" and said his team's race pace gives it a small chance.

"I don't think anyone expected them to be so fast this weekend. We expected them to be quick but there is a decent gap (to the field)," Hamilton said. "It's great to be up there, so at least we can fight."

Alonso described his fourth place as "not a big disaster," despite the gulf in lap times.

"When you are one-hundreth of a second behind, you can fight for victory. But when you are one second behind, you can only expect not to be too far (back)," said Alonso, who nearly collided with Rosberg while exiting pit lane. "We know Red Bull is the favourite tomorrow, but they have been favourite in four Grands Prix and only won one."

Button was also dismayed at how Red Bull had pulled away in the three-week break since Shanghai.

"We came here hoping to close the gap but it's gone in the other direction. It takes a long time to catch that gap," said the Briton, who won in Spain last year on his way to taking the championship.

Red Bull must hope the reliability problems that have hurt it this season don't reappear and give Webber a chance of getting into the title fight.

"We've got to capitalise in the upcoming races," said Webber, who is going for his second career victory.

Button leads this season with 60 points. Rosberg is next with 50, while Hamilton and Alonso both have 49. Vettel has 45 points, Ferrari's Felipe Massa has 41 and Webber has 28.

"Obviously the race is tomorrow, there are no points today," Vettel said. "It will be a long race. It looks comfortable but we know how quickly things will change."

Schumacher has only scored 10 points on his return to F1 from retirement, a disappointing performance considering his car has received "fundamental" upgrades.

"I'm not sure it's much of a progress," Schumacher. "I'm not particularly happy. There's no reason to be happy, one second off the pace."

Rosberg already called the weekend a "setback" for the German team.

Massa will start from ninth ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, who has Sauber in a position to pick up its first points of the season.

Lotus was the quickest of the three new teams, beating Virgin and HRT.

Williams driver Rubens Barrichello also failed to get out of the first elimination session, leaving the Brazilian to start from a disappointing 18th place.

- AP

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