Vettel rides high to take pole position as Alonso struggles in Austin
17 November, 2012
Nov.17 (GP247) On the occasion of his 100th grand prix weekend, Sebastian Vettel powered to his sixth pole position of the season in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix, at Circuit of the Americas while Fernando Alonso, his only rival for this year’s Formula One World Championship crown struggled and will start from eighth on the grid.
Vettel in his Red Bull RB8 has looked mighty since the lights went green on Friday morning in Austin, topping all three free practice sessions and all three qualifying segments, setting the scene for what could be another dominant display and a step closer to his third drivers’ title in three years.
The last time F1 was in the USA, back in 2007, the German made his debut at Indianapolis with the BMW-Sauber team. Since then – 100 races down the road – his career has hit stellar levels, and he has notched up 26 wins, two world titles and today his 36th pole position.
Vettel summed up his afternoon, “We’re very pleased. We started on the right foot in first practice. It was extremely slippery to start with. The circuit is brand new and it takes a while to come in, but it was quite a lot of fun to slide a couple of corners. In the final section I would have loved to have gone a bit quicker. It was a bit closer than I wanted, but fantastic to start on the front and on the clean side.”
Lewis Hamilton has stalked Vettel all weekend, never quite matching him but in qualifying got as close as he has been and was only 0.109 seconds shy off the top time in his penultimate race with McLaren. He and his team will nevertheless be buoyed by the fact that they have slashed the deficit of 1.5 seconds in the opening session on Friday to a tenth of a second, in qualifying.
Hamilton reflected, “I’m not really concerned about the first corner, I’m more concerned about being on the dirty side of grid. I did a launch there earlier and it was quite slippery. My aim is to get a good getaway. I don’t want to get in the way of Sebastian’s race but I do want to win. I will try my best to get through the first turn cleanly.”
On the other side of the McLaren pit garage, Jenson Button was not having a good afternoon as he failed to make it beyond Q2 after his car ‘died’ on him in what appears to have been a throttle pedal problem on the MP4-27. He will start 12th.
“I’m happy with qualifying. I was pretty happy with last part of Q3 I had to manage a little problem with the car but the two guys ahead of me were pretty quick and did very strong lap times. Overall, I’m happy to be third on the grid. We can have a strong grand prix from there. It’s a great job by the team. We’ve got our eye on the constructors’ championship and trying to put that to bed,” said Webber.
Red Bull are on the verge of notching up their third F1 Constructors’ Championship in succession, thus becoming only the fourth team to perform the feat after Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.
Next up on the timing screens were the Lotus pair, who appeared to find some pace after having a somewhat subdued lead in to qualifying. Although Romain Grosjean was fourth fastest, he will drop five grid places for an unscheduled gearbox change and will start from ninth.
Michael Schumacher surprised everyone with a sensational performance to notch up the sixth best time in the Mercedes, against all odds, while his team mate Nico Rosberg struggled and will start 17th. Schumacher pulled the lap out of the blue and will start fifth.
Behind the seven time world champion was his former protege Felipe Massa who out qualified his Ferrari teammate Alonso for only the second time this season. Alonso was ninth fastest and will start eighth, the last of the drivers to benefit from Grosjean’s demotion.
Splitting the Maranello boys, eighth fastest, was Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India, again out shining his teammate Paul di Resta who will start 13th.
Down the grid, both Marussia drivers Timo Glock (19th) and Charles Pic (20th) outqualified the Caterham duo for the first time this year.
At the sharp end, Vettel will be the ninth triple champion since 1950 if he scores 15 points more than Alonso. The Red Bull dirver last achieved that margin in Japan in October and has done it on three occasions this season so far.
The title clinching scenarios are:
- If Vettel wins, Alonso must finish fourth or higher to stay in contention.
- If Vettel is second, Alonso needs to be at least eighth.
- If Vettel is third, Alonso must be 10th or higher.
- Should Alonso fail to score, Vettel must still finish at least third.
- Anything less then the title decider moves to the season finale in Brazil next weekend.
Final word to pole winner Vettel: “There’s not much to feel [about Alonso qualifying ninth]. We have to look after ourselves. I’m very happy, we had a smooth session. We had an issue yestersday and we lost time, things have happened and they might happen again. We are very happy with the result but so far nobody has scored any points; we’ve seen how things quickly can change from the last race.”
Subbed by AJN.
United States Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americas – Saturday, 17 November 2012
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:36.558||1:35.796||1:35.657||20|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.215||1:36.298||1:36.174||20|
|8||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.756||1:37.066||1:37.141||20|
|13||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.104||1:37.665||15|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:42.011|
|Q1 107% Time||1:43.317|
Note: Grosjean drops five grid places for an unscheduled gearbox change
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