Brazilian GP Qualifying: Vettel the rain master takes pole by hefty margin
23 November, 2013
Sebastian Vettel does not always get the credit he deserves for his prowess in adverse conditions, those in need of reminding were treated to Red Bull’s quadruple Formula 1 World Champion powering to his ninth pole position of the season in the worst conditions in memory – and as is now his custom he simply pulverised the opposition.
Vettel’s time of 1:26.479 was over half a second up on his closest rival, set with Pirelli’s temperamental Intermediate tyres in the dying moments of a dramatic qualifying session which was delayed for nearly an hour due to too much rain, and a track surface far too wet to drive on.
This happened to coincide with Segio Perez shunting his McLaren after getting onto the slippery kerbs on the outside exiting Descida do Lago, losing control and slamming the barriers on the inside of the track.
The Mexican emerged unscathed and later said, “I think the crash looked bigger than it was. The hit was not that big. I saw the damage to the front wing and suspension. [The weather] was getting worse and I was trying my best to find the lap time. The car was not performing at all. I tried to risk everything I could and it ended badly.”
Back to Q3, and when finally the remaining ten were unleashed, Vettel opted for the Full Wet tyres – popped a lap then informed his crew that Intermediates were what was needed. With these bolted on he was untouchable around the Autodromo Carlos Pace.
He said afterwards, “[The gap to second was a] big surprise, I was so happy after Q3. It was a long time for us to get out, a lot of rain after Q2 so we had to wait. If there’s too much water on the track, the risk of aquaplaning is too high. We got out and I was surprised how much of the water had gone. I went straight to the Intermediates and got a good lap straight away. I tried again and was close. I’m happy with both my laps. It’s great in these conditions to get it all right. Very happy.”
Most of the ‘smart’ money might have been on Nico Rosberg to snatch pole position, as on day one the Mercedes driver was unbeatable, but when it mattered he had to settle for second but will be confident that he has a car to match the Red Bull should the wet conditions prevail for the race.
The German was upbeat, “It was a good day. Everything went to plan and the whole team did a good job. We had a perfect strategy in the end on Inters. It’s a great place to start tomorrow, at the front of the grid.”
Another expert in adverse conditions is Fernando Alonso, and once again he rose to the occasion by wrestling the Ferrari to the third best time, while his teammate Felipe Massa – competing in his final weekend as a Ferrari driver – could only manage the ninth best time.
Alonso summed up his wet afternoon, “Usually we are better in the wet, so we have been waiting for a wet race, but unfortunately it came in the last race of the season. It makes a change to be so far up the grid. Obviously it was not possible to beat Seb who is too far ahead. I lost seven or eight tenths in Turn Four and I think second could have been possible, but I’m not sad with third. We have an opportunity starting so far up the front.”
In an almost poetic end to his Formula 1 career, Mark Webber will start his final grand prix alongside his mate Alonso. The Red Bull driver at one stage looked good for second but his final run let him down.
Half a second down on his Mercedes teammate was Lewis Hamilton who ended fifth fastest and will head up the third row of the grid for the race.
It was a disappointing day for Lotus because at one stage Romain Grosjean appeared to have the edge in Q3, as he ducked into the pits a lap earlier than all his rivals to bolt on a set of Intermediates. Immediately he was fastest of all, but on his final run he made a mistake and sixth was his reward.
Earlier, Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement, Heikki Kovalainen failed to make it beyond Q2 despite ending Q1 at the sharp end of the timing screens.
The Toro Rosso duo will start the final race of their partnership from the fourth row of the grid, with Daniel Ricciardo starting seventh and Jean Eric Vergne beside him in eighth.
Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten for Sauber, the German looking strong in Q1 and Q2 but lacked the fire power in the final stanza of qualifying.
Despite his crash Perez was still faster than McLaren teammate Jenson Button, the pair starting form 14th and 15th respectively. Ironically Perez, who has been sacked from the team, has beaten Button 10-9 in the qualifying stakes this year.
On a sobering note for McLaren, who won this very race 12 months ago with Button, they look to be heading for one of their worst seasons ever as it is not since 1980 that a McLaren driver has not been on a podium during the course of a year.
Weather forecasters are predicting that Sao Paulo will dry up overnight, which will add some spice to proceedings as the lack of dry running will make setup and strategy decisions a huge gamble. On the other hand if it rains things could turn into a lottery.
Whatever the case Interlagos is likely to throw up an eventful race – something of a Formula 1 tradition in Brazil – remember last year…
Subbed by AJN.
Brazilian grand Prix, Qualifying Result – Saturday, 23 November 2013
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:25.381||1:26.420||1:26.479||23|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:26.689||1:26.963||1:27.572||23|
|12||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:26.275||1:27.798||16|
|16||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:26.874||1:28.586||19|
|20||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:28.320||6|
|Q1 107% Time||1:31.315|