Sebastian Vettel takes pole position

6/25/2011 - Formula 1

VALENCIA, Spain -- Sebastian Vettel easily took pole position for the European Grand Prix as the Formula One leader secured a Red Bull 1-2 in qualifying on Saturday.

Vettel's quickest lap of 1 minute, 36.975 seconds in hot, muggy conditions around Valencia's street circuit was just under two-tenths of a second faster than teammate Mark Webber.

Lewis Hamilton of McLaren starts third, ahead of Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, with Jenson Button of McLaren completing the third row.

Vettel's seventh pole in eight races was the 22nd of his career to put himself in position for a sixth victory.

"A very good day for us, good to be on the front row for our team," said Vettel, who leads Button by 60 points in the drivers' standings.

Vettel tried to stay cool inside the garage as the track temperature soared to 113 degrees at the America's Cup harbor course, where the 23-year-old German set the pace after the halfway point of the 10-minute final session.

Webber, who is third in the standings ahead of Hamilton, overcame a brake balance problem but couldn't surpass his teammate on his final flying lap although Red Bull secured a ninth straight pole stretching to last season.

The Austrian team fills the front row for the third time this season as Vettel looks for a second straight win at the Mediterranean coastal city.

A new regulation change introduced in Valencia -- forbidding teams from tinkering with the engine between qualifying and the race -- appeared to have little effect on Red Bull's clear pace advantage.

Hamilton believed uncertainty over pit stop strategy and an uncomfortable medium compound tire could throw up a surprise for Sunday's 57-lap race as the 2008 champion attempts to win at the seaside course after three straight second-place results.

"I wasn't expecting to be so high after the third practice," Hamilton said. "We're as close as we can be."

Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher trailed the top three teams while Nick Heidfeld of Renault and Force India's Adrian Sutil were also in the top 10.