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Sat 21 Apr 2012 04:04 PM

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Vettel takes pole position for Bahrain Grand Prix

Red Bull's world champion driver wins first qualifying session of season

Vettel takes pole position for Bahrain Grand Prix
Red Bull Racings German driver Sebastian Vettel celebrates in the parc ferme on April 21 after the qualifing session at the Bahrain international circuit in Manama. (Getty Images)

Sebastian Vettel topped the times in Formula One qualifying on Saturday and will start the Bahrain Grand Prix in pole position.

The Red Bull driver produced a blistering lap to start at the front of the grid on Sunday, ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Vettel's teammate Mark Webber.

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who claimed his first victory in the Grand Prix in Shanghai last week, will start race in fifth position, one behind Jenson Button.

Former world champion Michael Schumacher, in his Mercedes, was the biggest casualty of qualifying after he surprisingly went out in the first stage of qualifying and will start 18th on the grid for Sunday's race.

Finn Kimi Raikkonen was also dumped out earlier than expected as he failed to get his Lotus car into the top 10 places of the race grid.

This year's Formula One race in Bahrain has been dogged by controversy with regular protests around the country in the run-up to the sporting event.

Earlier on Saturday, opposition party Wefaq said a Bahraini protester was found dead after clashes with riot police. Wefaq said the body of a man named as Salah Abbas Habib, 37, was found on the roof of a building in a rural village.

Bahrain's Interior Ministry said via Twitter that it was launching an investigation.

On Friday, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa said Sunday's race would go ahead despite growing tensions in the Gulf kingdom.

Addressing media at the Sakhir Circuit, he said cancelling the race would "empower extremists", adding that he was "here to go racing".

"I genuinely believe this race is a force for good... We are not trying to say we are perfect. We are a real country with real issues," the Crown Prince, who was instrumental in bringing Formula One to the country in 2004, said.

On Thursday, Force India tightened up their security procedures after petrol bombs were thrown near a car taking staff back to their hotel from the Bahrain Grand Prix circuit.

The team said two staff, one a data engineer and the other a radio contractor, had decided to return home to Britain after the incident.

Unrest forced the cancellation of last year's Grand Prix, and the 2012 race had been in doubt as Bahrain's human rights record has come under fire from abroad.

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