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From Seb’s stunners to Max’s magic – 10 of the best Red Bull pole positions as they join the 100 club

Staff Writer

Mike Seymour
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Red Bull reached the latest milestone in their F1 journey at last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix when Max Verstappen secured the team’s 100th pole position. To mark the occasion, we’ve picked out a selection of memorable efforts from the five drivers to have topped the qualifying timesheets for the Milton Keynes operation over the years.

China 2009 / Pole #1 / Vettel

After a trio of podiums spread across the previous three seasons, Red Bull’s F1 breakthrough came at the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix, where Vettel grabbed pole position in the dry and then led home team mate Mark Webber for a one-two finish amid torrential rain the next day.

READ MORE: From Schumacher’s last win to F1’s 1000th race – Six unforgettable Chinese Grand Prix moments

Vettel’s run to the team’s first pole, though, was made even more impressive by the fact that Red Bull limited the German to just one timed run in the decisive Q1, Q2 and Q3 qualifying phases, having been hampered by driveshaft problems aboard his RB5 during practice.

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Vettel started Red Bull’s journey to 100 pole positions at the Chinese Grand Prix some 15 years ago

“If you only have one lap and if you have any mistake, you go wide or whatever, there is no second chance and it means it is the end,” Vettel said afterwards as he revelled in the landmark moment. “[It’s] unbelievable [that] we made it to pole position. I am very, very pleased, very happy for the team.”

Germany 2009 / Pole #4 / Webber

While it was Vettel who gave Red Bull their maiden pole and victory in Shanghai, Webber’s time would come just a few Grands Prix later at the Nurburgring, where he brilliantly got the better of his team mate and Brawn GP pair Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello across the weekend.

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Indeed, Webber’s final qualifying lap put him 0.250s up on fourth-placed Vettel, with the same amount of fuel onboard, as Barrichello and Button ran lighter to grab P2 and P3 on the grid. Despite a penalty for clashing with the Brazilian at the start, Webber converted his first-ever pole into a first-ever win.

Nürburgring 2009: Mark Webber's first F1 win

Australia 2011 / Pole #21 / Vettel

Although there were several pole examples to choose from across his 2010 season, the start of the 2011 campaign brought a particularly emphatic display from Vettel when he stormed qualifying for the opening round in Australia at the wheel of the exhaust blown-diffuser RB7.

Vettel’s best lap was a whopping 0.778s quicker than his nearest rival, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, with team mate Webber almost a second adrift in third – setting the scene for an incredible 15 out of a possible 19 poles that year to eclipse Nigel Mansell’s record from 1992.

READ MORE: Lauda, Schumacher, Raikkonen and more – The drivers Vettel could follow by coming out of retirement to make an F1 return

United States 2012 / Pole #46 / Vettel

Skipping past plenty more eye-catching qualifying laps from the wunderkind, the first visit to the Circuit of The Americas for the return of the United States Grand Prix in late-2012 yielded an exciting head-to-head between Vettel and the aforementioned Hamilton.

It started in the grid-deciding session, with the pair battling it out during the Q3 phase until Vettel clocked a spectacular final lap to pip Hamilton by a tenth. On race day, the tables were turned when Hamilton got the jump on Vettel and crossed the finish line just 0.675s ahead.

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Vettel pulled out all the stops to beat Hamilton to pole position on Austin’s F1 debut

India 2013 / Pole #54 / Vettel

Vettel’s final appearance on this pole list comes courtesy of another dominant qualifying performance at the 2013 Indian Grand Prix, where a near-perfect lap around the Buddh International Circuit set him up for victory and confirmation of a fourth world title.

Having built up speed through the Q1 segment, Vettel unleashed the beast in Q2 to comfortably lead the way and then, in Q3, went a staggering 0.752s faster than second-placed Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg as he and the RB9 mastered the high-speed sweeps.

READ MORE: 6 times the best F1 drivers and best cars combined to produce relentless brilliance

Monaco 2018 / Pole #59 / Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo experienced a combination of pure rage and heartbreak when victory slipped through his fingers at the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix thanks to a painful, botched pit stop, but two years later he got his hands on the trophy he had been craving via a special pole lap.

With grid position paramount around the streets of Monte Carlo, the Australian pumped in a track record opening lap in Q3, before posting another just 0.036s slower, to leave the competition in his wake – a cool, calm and collected performance that he repeated on race day.

ONBOARD: Daniel Ricciardo's Monaco pole lap

Abu Dhabi 2021 / Pole #73 / Verstappen

Max Verstappen could easily have been mentioned earlier in this feature with efforts such as his maiden pole in Hungary in 2019, the only non-Mercedes powered pole of 2020 in Abu Dhabi or a pole under pressure on home soil at Zandvoort midway through the 2021 season.

However, the first pick we have gone for is the 2021 finale at the Yas Marina Circuit where – as a tense title battle with Hamilton reached its climax – the Dutchman produced a sublime Q3 lap to end the session an eyebrow-raising four-tenths clear.

IN NUMBERS: How Perez compares to the other 11 drivers to have turned out for Red Bull

Saudi Arabia 2022 / Pole #74 / Perez

Sergio Perez has claimed three pole positions with Red Bull to date, but two of those – at the Saudi Arabian and Miami Grands Prix in 2023 – came when team mate Verstappen was impacted by technical problems and a red flag, effectively putting one of his main rivals out of contention.

However, there were no doubts over Perez’s first pole at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit early in the 2022 campaign when he topped a scrap with Verstappen and the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz – the Mexican grabbing P1 with a breathtaking last-gasp lap.

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Perez added his name to the list of Red Bull pole-sitters with a scorching lap at Jeddah in 2022

Monaco 2023 / Pole #86 / Verstappen

When it comes to last-gasp efforts, Verstappen’s performance during qualifying for the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix takes some beating, having overhauled Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Ferrari’s Leclerc and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso with his final lap to the flag.

Verstappen had been struggling to stay in the mix through the first couple of sectors, with recent Red Bulls typically proving weaker on tight, twisty street tracks, but posted the final sector of all final sectors – while brushing a few barriers for good measure – to snatch top spot.

INSIDE STORY: The greatest qualifying session ever?

Japan 2023 / Pole #92 / Verstappen

We go back to another sizeable pole margin for the 10th and final lap on this list, with Verstappen and the all-conquering RB20 combining to blitz the field around the fast, flowing Suzuka circuit last season – the soon-to-be 2023 champion ending qualifying in a league of his own.

Verstappen’s benchmark lap in the pole ‘shootout’ was some six-tenths up on the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, with Perez the best part of a second adrift in sixth position and left scratching his head as to where his team mate was finding so much time.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: How Verstappen edged ahead of Alonso to take pole for the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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