Vettel is still running rule over World Championship rivals in Valencia

By Ian Stafford

So much for rule changes halting Sebastian Vettel's charge to a dominant defence of his world title.

The German again took pole for the European Grand Prix - his seventh out of eight this season - and with his team-mate Mark Webber accompanying him on the front row of the grid, it appears to be business as usual for Red Bull.

Changes to the rules governing engines brought in this weekend were thought by many to be aimed at Red Bull, who were able to alter 'engine mapping' - which helps to provide an injection of power to aid lap time - between qualifying and racing.

Out in front: Sebastian Vettel in qualifying for the European Grand Prix

Out in front: Sebastian Vettel in qualifying for the European Grand Prix

But yesterday Vettel and Webber shrugged their shoulders and got on with the job.

'There has been a lot of talk about it with people expecting us to lose out more than the rest but I disagree,' said Vettel.

Webber, who survived an horrific crash in Valencia last year when his car went airborne after colliding with Heikki Kovalainen at 160mph, added: 'If we lose here it will be fair and square. Everyone has been talking about the changes except us.'

Sitting pretty: Sebastian Vettel is 60 points clear in the World Championship

Sitting pretty: Sebastian Vettel is 60 points clear in the World Championship

Behind them, Lewis Hamilton went a little way to answering his growing band of critics by claiming third place, while his team-mate Jenson Button, who harried Vettel into a final-lap mistake in the previous race in Canada, will start sixth.

On a street circuit with few chances to overtake, Button will be hard pushed to repeat his stunning victory in Montreal, with Vettel, 60 points ahead of the Briton in the title race, primed to take his sixth win.

The 23-year-old is not a worried man here in the port built specifically for the staging of the 2007 America's Cup.

'At the time I was disappointed and it took a little while to get over it, but by the Monday it was history,' he said. 'It was important to take good points and it's easy to make one mistake in a long race. A championship is not decided by one race or one position.'

Hamilton had promised to go on 'full attack' today despite a list of racing luminaries, including Sir Stirling Moss, Niki Lauda and Eddie Irvine, accusing him of driving too aggressively for his own or other drivers' good.


'Can I beat Red Bull?' he asked. 'That's always the question. It's a very difficult track to overtake so we'll see. I'm pleased with starting third, though - I wasn't expecting to be so high.'

He also admitted that he would 'think twice' this time before he embarked on an overtaking manoeuvre.

'I want to finish the race, that's the key,' he said. 'That said, I'll always be aggressive but I may think twice, not once, if an opportunity comes my way.'

Button's euphoria from Canada was dissipated by sixth place in qualifying.

'It's extremely hard when someone has a 60-point lead, has a very fast car and hardly makes a mistake,' he said. 'We need to start finishing in front of Seb in pretty much every race from now. We're giving them a race but we start each one on the back foot.'