Defending Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel continued his season of perfection by winning Saturday's qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Vettel posted a quick lap time of one minute, 33.706 seconds around the 3.386- mile (5.451-kilometer) Shanghai International Circuit for his third straight pole this year. The Red Bull Racing driver has started on the pole and won the first two grand prix this season -- Australia and Malaysia.
"We did it again, but I tried to keep reminding myself and the team as well that every single time it's tough," Vettel said. "I don't think today was as straightforward as we probably planned, especially in Q2. I didn't feel 100 percent comfortable. I had a bit of a mistake in the run I had in Q2. But I was confident, and in Q3, we were able to improve by quite a lot."
Vettel will attempt to win his fifth consecutive grand prix. The 23-year-old German concluded his 2010 F1 championship season by winning in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Jenson Button placed his McLaren car second on the grid after qualifying 0.7 second behind Vettel. Button is the defending Chinese GP winner.
"This is my best grid slot of the year," Button said. "I think the team did a great job of really turning the car around over the last two days, so big thanks to them."
The biggest surprise in qualifying was Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, failing to advance from Q1. Webber experienced problems with his Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) in both qualifying and the three practice sessions. His team opted to use hard tires instead of soft ones during his run in Q1. The Australian will line up 18th on the grid.
"It's a very frustrating day," a disappointed Webber said. "We didn't have a smooth P3 or Q1, and we paid the ultimate price at end of the day. We thought we had enough to get through on the prime tires. We have the pace, but I couldn't get the tire working on my second run."
Button's teammate, Lewis Hamilton, qualified third, followed by Mercedes GP's Nico Rosberg. Ferrari teammates Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa took the fifth and sixth positions, respectively.
Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari, Paul di Resta from Force India, Sebastien Buemi, also from Toro Rosso, and Renault's Vitaly Petrov completed the top-10. Petrov was running as high as fourth in Q3, but in the closing minutes of the final qualifying session, his car stalled on the circuit, leaving the Russian 10th on the grid.
Petrov's teammate, Nick Heidfeld, qualified 16th. Last weekend, in just his second start with Renault, Heidfeld finished an impressive third in the Malaysian GP.
Mercedes' Michael Schumacher qualified 14th. The seven-time F1 champion has yet to advance into Q3 this season.