United States GP Qualifying: Vettel steals pole from Webber in final lap shootout
16 November, 2013
It came down to a final sector surge, on the final lap of Sebastian Vettel’s run to knock teammate Mark Webber off the top of the timing screens at the end of Qualifying for the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.
It seemed as if we were in for a repeat of Abu Dhabi where Webber had upset the form book to take pole a week earlier. The Australian appeared to have done the business with an impressive final lap of 1:36.441, but Vettel – despite being down in the first two sectors, pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the bag – with a scintillating final sector to claim the top starting spot for the race in Austin.
It was close on all counts, as Webber’s final effort was about a tenth better than Vettel’s best to that point. The World Champion just made it across the line for a final lap attempt – he crossed it with a couple seconds left of the session – and when it seemed that there was no way that he would dispense of Webber, he did exactly that with an astounding time of 1:36.338.
Vettel, who will start from pole for the eighth time this season, reflected afterwards, “Happy birthday to Christian [Horner]. It’s a good result to have both cars on the front row. It was a tricky session as the wind picked up quite a lot from this morning. It’s not that easy round the high-speed corners. I was not happy with my first run, but I think I had a solid run at he end which was enough to put the car on pole.”
“It was a good battle with Mark, he has got closer and closer as the weekend has gone on. I think he might have had a mistake in his final shot. I’m happy with pole position. I really like this place – I like this circuit. It’s important to start on the clean side so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Webber said of his effort, “I had two shots and the first part of my final lap was very good, but I didn’t get Turns 19 and 20 as I wanted. Sometimes you’re happy but today I let pole slip through my fingers. Well done to Seb, obviously. He put three sectors together and I put two-and-a-half together. It’s not satisfying when you do that – it’s not your job. But I’m happy to be there on the front [row].”
Behind the Red Bull pair was Romain Grosjean, and not a Mercedes or two as had been expected. The Lotus driver again delivered a mature performance during a time of high duress within the confines of his team. The Frenchman is clearly easing himself into the lead-driver position within the team now that Kimi Raikkonen is Ferrari-bound.
“We are doing a good job, it hasn’t been an easy weekend. We were struggling a bit yesterday and this morning. The conditions were not easy in the morning and I don’t like to wake up early in the morning. We went through Q1 on the Primes even though we didn’t plan to, but we had the pace. The Red Bulls are very quick, but we are quickest of the rest. The race is long and we will see what we can do with strategy, but it’s good to be here,” said Grosjean.
Also performing way above his station was Nico Hulkenberg, who was fourth fastest in the Sauber and best of the Ferrari powered herd.
It was a disappointing session for the Silver Arrows, who many predicted would take the fight to Red Bull, but when it mattered they fell short with Lewis Hamilton fifth fastest and Nico Rosberg failing to make it beyond Q2. He ended the day 14th fastest.
In fact Q2 also claimed McLaren’s Jenson Button and Felipe Massa in the Ferrari, the pair finishing 13th and 15th respectively. Button’s plight has been worsened by the fact that he will drop three places to 16th on the grid thanks to a penalty in FP1 for ignoring red flags.
Button was perplexed by the disappearing performance, “It’s strange – we’ve been very quick this weekend. It’s very weird, especially in Q1 when you see Bottas quickest and his team-mate out. The most frustrating thing is that we’ve been quick all weekend.”
Back at the sharp end, Fernando Alonso, who is nursing a back injury, muscled the cumbersome Ferrari F138 around the COTA twists to claim sixth place on the grid.
Credit to Sergio Perez for putting thoughts of his recent sacking from McLaren aside and going on to set the seventh fastest time, comprehensively out-qualifying his teammate in what is his second last race for the Woking outfit.
Arguably the drive of the day award must go to Heikki Kovalainen, who prior to Friday had never sat in the Lotus E21, yet come Saturday afternoon and he had plonked it eighth on the grid – justifying the faith put in him by the team ahead of reserve driver Davide Valsecchi who spent the session staring glumly at the proceedings from the Lotus pit garage.
Also starring on the day was rookie Valtteri Bottas who topped the timing screens at the end of Q1, while his teammate Pastor Maldonado failed to make it into Q2. Bottas will start from ninth, with Maldonado lining up 18th on the grid.
Rounding out the top ten was Esteban Gutierrez in the Sauber, although the Mexican may incur the wrath of the stewards for some bizarre weaving during Q1, which saw him nearly collect Maldonado in the process.
It is more than likely that a Red Bull driver will stand on the top step of the COTA podium come Sunday afternoon and betting against Vettel being that driver would be foolish. The World Champion is, at the moment, virtually unbeatable. (GP247)
Subbed by AJN.
United States Grand Prix, Qualifying Result – 16 November 2013
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:38.516||1:37.065||1:36.338||12|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:38.161||1:37.312||1:36.441||14|
|12||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.894||1:38.139|
|17||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.250|
|19||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:40.491|
|Q1 107% Time||1:44.668|
Note – Button penalised 3 grid spots for passing under red flags in FP1. Pic penalised 5 for unscheduled gearbox change.