As F1's top men battled for pole position at Valencia, the spotlight was once again on an underperforming Michael Schumacher.

As F1's top men battled for pole position at Valencia, the spotlight was once again on an underperforming Michael Schumacher.

His Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was also sitting out the decisive Q3 qualifying segment, but Schumacher was six tenths off the young German's pace and a dismal 15th on the grid.

Criticism of the 41-year-old's F1 return has already been intensifying, amid new rumours Mercedes might want to replace him for 2011 with Robert Kubica.

"If it was any other driver, other than the great Michael Schumacher, we'd be looking for his head, or most of the press would be looking for his head, because clearly this performance in the past couple of races has been very poor," said BBC pundit Eddie Jordan on Saturday.

David Coulthard thinks his old rival is cutting corners on the kind of detail that, in his first career, made him the most successful driver ever.

"He's running the (rev) limiter in some places -- that's just sloppy," the Scot said in Valencia.

"In his first career, even when his car wasn't performing he would deliver a lap time ... even on a bad day."

For the first time, Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn has admitted some disappointment with Schumacher's situation.

"We're a bit disappointed at the moment. Michael would admit he's not where he wants to be.

"We're seeing signs of progress in some races but not in others, but we've not had a great car this year, which has not helped him," added the Briton.

At the sharp end of the grid, Red Bull defied its own predictions by qualifying one-two at Valencia -- with the F-duct now fully up and running.

"Valencia should not be our strongest circuit," said delighted pole sitter Sebastian Vettel, ahead of his teammate Mark Webber and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.

The two Ferraris are fourth and fifth, followed by the consistent Robert Kubica.

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 5 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:38.324 1:38.015 1:37.587 18
2 6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:38.549 1:38.041 1:37.662 21
3 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.697 1:38.158 1:37.969 17
4 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:38.472 1:38.179 1:38.075 23
5 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:38.657 1:38.046 1:38.127 22
6 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1:38.132 1:38.062 1:38.137 18
7 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.360 1:38.399 1:38.210 22
8 10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:38.843 1:38.523 1:38.428 23
9 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:38.449 1:38.326 1:38.428 23
10 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:39.004 1:38.552 1:38.523 21
11 16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:39.096 1:38.586   15
12 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:38.752 1:38.627   12
13 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:39.021 1:38.851   14
14 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:38.969 1:38.884   15
15 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:38.994 1:39.234   19
16 22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.003 1:39.264   16
17 17 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:39.128 1:39.458   16
18 23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.343     9
19 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:40.658     11
20 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:40.882     11
21 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:42.086     11
22 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:42.140     9
23 20 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:42.600     9
24 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:42.851     10

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