Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel ran away with Chinese Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday to plant his Red Bull on pole position for a likely season-opening hat-trick of wins.
The 23-year-old German, gunning for his fifth win in a row dating back to last November, nailed his fourth successive pole with so big a margin that McLaren's Jenson Button felt he might as well not have bothered trying to beat him.
"We did it again but I tried to keep reminding myself and the team as well that every single time it's tough," Vettel, winner in Australia and Malaysia for a perfect score of 50 points, told reporters after his lap of one minute 33.706 seconds.
Button, the 2009 champion who won at the Shanghai circuit last year after Vettel also took pole position for that race, needed no reminding.He was seven tenths of a second slower in securing the other slot on the front row.
The Briton did one lap more than team mate Lewis Hamilton, who completed a trio of champions in the top three slots, in the final third stage of qualifying but that also left his compatriot with one more set of fresh tyres for the race.
"Sebastian was just too fast...if I had realised Sebastian was seven tenths up the road, maybe I would have thought again," he said.
While Vettel celebrated his 18th career pole, team mate Mark Webber was left staring at 18th place on the grid and wondering where his luck had gone.
The Australian had to sit out most of final practice in the morning due to problems with his kinetic energy recovery (KERS) system and then the team made the wrong tyre call at the crucial moment in the first phase of qualifying."I don't know the last time a Red Bull guy was out in Q1 but it's been a long time. We didn't do it last year for sure," he told reporters. Webber had to contend with problems with his KERS during the last race in Malaysia as well.