SAKHIR, BAHRAIN (AP) - Two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for the first time this season on Saturday at the Bahrain Grand Prix, where security remains tight amid expectations of anti-government protests.
Vettel, whose best finish this year was second place at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, clocked 1 minute, 32.422 seconds in his Red Bull. That was 0.98 seconds faster than championship leader Lewis Hamilton of McLaren.
Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber was third followed by McLaren’s Jenson Button.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who won his first grand prix in China last week, took fifth place on the grid. But his teammate Michael Schumacher didn’t get past the first qualifying session and will start down in 18th.
Demonstrators have called for the race to be canceled until the ruling Sunni dynasty enacts reforms. The race was canceled last year because of unrest.
One man died near the scene of Friday’s clashes between protesters and security forces _ in an area about 12 miles from the race circuit.
There were checkpoints on the roads leading to the Bahrain International Circuit. Additional security troops have been deployed around the circuit and across the capital, Manama. But there were no signs of protests early Saturday near the circuit.
Drivers struggled with tough conditions on the track, with temperatures reaching 109 degrees and wind whipping up sand from the surrounding desert. The heat on the track was hard on tires with several drivers choosing to cut short their qualifying sessions.