F1 leader Webber seizes pole hat trick in Turkey

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F1 leader Webber seizes pole hat trick in Turkey

ISTANBUL - Formula One championship leader Mark Webber completed a hat trick of pole positions at the Turkish Grand Prix on Saturday to hammer home Red Bull’s qualifying supremacy.

The Australian, winner of the last two grands prix from the top slot, was nearly half a second quicker than German teammate Sebastian Vettel as he chalked up Red Bull’s seventh pole in seven races. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton joined Webber on the front row for the first time this year.

Vettel, who is level on 78 points with Webber but behind on race wins, took the third slot next to world champion and 2009 winner Jenson Button in the other McLaren.

“It’s a great record, it shows tremendous pace in the car,” said Webber, who had suffered an engine failure in Friday practice, of the run of poles.

“It’s a real credit to the whole team,” he added, fully aware that the driver starting on pole in Turkey has won four of the five races at the undulating and counter-clockwise Istanbul Park circuit.

“I have had worse pressure,” said Webber. “I think it was nine from nine in Barcelona and I made it 10 from 10. It’s a nice place to start the race.”

Vettel had been quickest in the first two parts of qualifying but said his car’s handling went astray in the final part, with the brakes locking repeatedly as he went into turns 12 and 14.

“I’m a bit lucky not to be fourth,” said the 22-year-old, using a different chassis - which he has dubbed “Randy Mandy” - to the previous six races.

Mercedes drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg filled the third row after a session that took place in front of largely empty grandstands at what looks sure to be the worst-attended race of the year. There was disappointment for glamour team Ferrari, preparing for their 800th grand prix, with Spain’s double world champion Fernando Alonso qualifying 12th while Brazilian Felipe Massa starts eighth.

Hamilton, who has yet to win this season, shredded his tires in final practice after skidding off at the tricky turn eight, but got everything right when it mattered.

“I think on full fuel it will be a little bit closer,” the Briton said.

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