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Vettel takes seventh pole of season

— PHOTO: AP

IN ROARING FORM: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time in practice to take the pole position ahead of Mark Webber.

VALENCIA: Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel chalked up his seventh pole position in eight races this season as Red Bull swept the front row in qualifying for the European Grand Prix on Saturday.

Australian teammate Mark Webber was second fastest with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton third and sharing the second row with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, racing in front of his home crowd.

Red Bull has now taken nine poles in a row dating back to the end of last year, the first team to do so since McLaren in 1998. Its continued dominance seemed to make a mockery of suggestions that the champion could suffer from a clampdown by the governing body on the use of engine electronics and exhaust gases to influence performance.

“People expect us to lose more than others but that's where I disagree,” grinned the 23-year-old German, who will be chasing his sixth win of the year around the Mediterranean port city's streets.

Vettel's fastest lap of one minute 36.975 seconds was the fastest ever in Valencia and made the pole a foregone conclusion with minutes still to run on a bright and breezy afternoon.

“I think, mate, we've said it enough. We've come here and we didn't expect any different,” said Webber, whose sole pole of the season so far came in Barcelona in May when Red Bull also swept the front row, of the rule change.

Sutil to start 10th

Force India's Adrian Sutil recorded his best qualifying performance of the season by capturing the 10th place on the grid while his teammate Paul di Resta will start 12th.

Top five grids: First row: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), Mark Webber (Red Bull); Second: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari); Third: 5. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren); Fourth: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes); Fifth: 9. Nick Heidfeld (Renault), 10. Adrian Sutil (Force India) .

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