Vettel, Alonso on front row
SHANGHAI -- Sebastian Vettel qualified first Saturday for the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix, delivering the first pole position for the Red Bull team and the second of the young German's career.
Vettel set a best time of 1 minute, 36.184 seconds at the Shanghai International Circuit to start Sunday from the front of the for Sunday's race.
It was a remarkable performance by the Red Bull team, which experienced a driveshaft failure on both cars in Saturday morning's pre-qualifying practice before rebounding to emerge as clearly the quickest team in both the second and third qualifying sessions.
The car problem meant Vettel had only one flying lap in each of the three sessions, leaving no margin for error.
"You don't need more, but it was not easy," Vettel said. "We had a problem with the car, we tried to run as little as possible.
"I hope the boys can fix it. I hope both our cars are up to it tomorrow."
Alonso split the Red Bull pair, after the Renault team fitted a new diffuser on his car in an all-night session by team mechanics. Renault had also abandoned the problematic KERS power-boost system for this race.
"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."
Championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn was fifth fastest -a step down from the poles he had in the opening two races of the season.
"It's a little bit of a surprise," Button said of Red Bull. "In Melbourne they were also very quick. We had the legs on them but I don't know about here.
"We're still up there. It's going to be very tough tomorrow to come away with a victory. It makes it interesting, but it's a lot more difficult."
Raikkonen's teammate Felipe Massa again failed to make it into the final session of qualifying and will start from 13th.
Toyota's Timo Glock was forced to change his gearbox after a failure in morning practice, incurring a five-place grid penalty for Sunday's race that will drop him down to 19th place.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press