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Sports

Vettel pips Webber to pole in Austin as Red Bull cruise

World champion Sebastian Vettel has claimed pole position for Sunday's US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. His outgoing teammate Mark Webber was a close second, and no other drivers came close to the Red Bull pair's pace.

Sebastian Vettel laid down his fastest qualifying lap right at the close of Saturday's action, securing pole position with a time less than one-tenth of a second quicker than Red Bull teammate Mark Webber's.

Lotus' Romain Grosjean will start Sunday's race from third position on the grid, although his time was almost three-quarters of a second shy of the Red Bull drivers'.

Vettel wished team boss Christian Horner a happy birthday over the radio after his fast lap, saying "good present with a 1-2" after Horner had congratulated his four-time champion.

The German driver Nico Hülkenberg secured an unlikely fourth position spot on the grid for Sauber, as several of the front-runners struggled with changing wind and difficult conditions.

"I'm actually quite optimistic; the car felt good yesterday as well," Hülkenberg told Germany's Sky Sports when asked how he rated his chances against the more traditional top performers in the race. "But our car can be quite susceptible to the wind, so we'll need some luck there."

Rosberg, Button and Massa struggle

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso will occupy the third row of the grid after comparatively disappointing sessions.

Outgoing McLaren driver Sergio Perez qualified seventh, ahead of Heikki Kovalainen - driving as a stand-in for Lotus after his Finnish countryman Kimi Raikkonen withdrew from the last two races of the season to undergo back surgery. According to Michael Schumacher's manager, Sabine Kehm, the 44-year-old German turned down the chance to deputize for Raikkonen.

Another Finn, Valtteri Bottas, looked impressive all Saturday in the usually uncompetitive Williams, but a mistake marred his decisive lap late in the session and he only secured ninth on the grid.

Nico Rosberg endured his worst qualifying of the 2013 season. The Mercedes man will start in 14th, sandwiched between the similarly off-color Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.

Adrian Sutil fared worst out of the German runners and will start the race in 17th position. Still, Sutil said he was optimistic that he could make up places on race day.

The second Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, is the penultimate race of the 2013 season. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull have already wrapped up both championships.