Sebastian Vettel returned to his 2011 default in qualifying for tomorrow’s (contentious) Bahrain Grand Prix by snatching a late pole position at the Sakhir circuit.

Michael Schumacher was a shock casualty of Q1 as the Mercedes man elected not to use a set of soft tyres and found himself trumped by a stellar lap from Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen. The seven-time champion will line-up 17th, ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne – who dropped out in Q1 for a third successive race – and the usual grid-proppers: Vitaly Petrov, Charles Pic, Pedro de la Rosa, Timo Glock, and Narain Karthikeyan.

Kimi Raikkonen was the big name exit from Q2, the Finn ending the session 11th fastest as the likes of Paul di Resta, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez produced strong performances to reach the top-ten shootout. The 2007 champ was joined by Kamui Kobayashi, Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa, Bruno Senna, Heikki Kovalainen and Pastor Maldonado in exiting proceedings.

Q3 saw Lewis Hamilton go fastest first as the McLarens and Red Bulls took their opening runs while pre-session favourite Nico Rosberg remained in the pits waiting to make his single punt at pole. However the German’s lap was nowhere near top-draw leaving him P5.

In fact it was the Red Bulls who had the pace. It was 2011 all over again as Sebastian Vettel nailed a blistering late lap to snatch pole ahead of Hamilton and team-mate Mark Webber. Jenson Button was fourth ahead of the somewhat muted Rosberg.

Ricciardo starts a stellar sixth ahead of Romain Grosjean, Perez, Fernando Alonso and di Resta.

The Provisional Grid for Sunday

POSDRIVERTEAM
1Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing - Renault
2Lewis HamiltonMcLaren - Mercedes
3Mark WebberRed Bull Racing - Renault
4Jenson ButtonMcLaren - Mercedes
5Nico RosbergMercedes AMG
6Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso - Ferrari
7Romain GrosjeanLotus F1 - Renault
8Sergio PerezSauber - Ferrari
9Fernando AlonsoFerrari
10Paul Di-RestaSahara Force India - Mercedes
11Kimi RaikkonenLotus F1 - Renault
12Kamui KobayashiSauber - Ferrari
13Nico HulkenbergSahara Force India - Mercedes
14Felipe MassaFerrari
15Bruno SennaWilliams F1 - Renault
16Heikki KovalainenCaterham - Renault
17Michael SchumacherMercedes AMG
18Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso - Ferrari
19Vitaly PetrovCaterham - Renault
20Charles PicMarussia - Cosworth
21Pedro de-la-RosaHispania - Cosworth
22Pastor MaldonadoWilliams F1 - Renault
23Timo GlockMarussia - Cosworth
24Narain KarthikeyanHispania - Cosworth