Indian GP: Red Bull dominates again, Vettel on pole, Webber second
By Berthold Bouman
No big surprises today during qualifying for round 17 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Indian Grand Prix. Red Bull showed their supremacy again with championship leader Sebastian Vettel taking another pole position, his team mate Australian Mark Webber was second, while Lewis Hamilton was third for McLaren.
“I made a mistake on my first run so we only had one set of tyres left but I was pretty happy with my [final] lap,” Vettel said. “We need to keep pushing; we have a lot of important races to go but the best chance of doing well is to focus on every single step.”
Paul di Resta was first out in Q1 and the first driver to set a representative time of 1m28.786s, but his time was soon beaten by his team colleague Nico Hulkenberg, all drivers were still on the harder tyre compound at the start of the first session.
But it was Felipe Massa who set the benchmark in his Ferrari with a lap of 1m26.939s, he later gave his team mate Fernando Alonso a tow on the back straight, but it didn’t work and the Spaniard actually lost time and took fifth position at the time.
With ten minutes to go both Red Bull and McLaren drivers were the only ones who hadn’t set a timed lap yet, Lewis Hamilton tried but missed his braking point and ran wide, at the same moment Massa spun as he went too far over the kerbs, he regained control but retreated to the Ferrari garage for a new set of tyres.
Sebastian Vettel not surprisingly took first place on his first run with a lap of 1m26.621s, while Webber was still in 24th place, but after a flying lap climbed to third position. For the drivers in the drop-out zone it was time to go out on the softer tyres to ensure a place in Q2, despite their best efforts Jean-Eric Vergne, Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock, Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan and Charles Pic did not make it into the second session.
In Q2 all 17 remaining drivers went out on the soft tyres, and it was again Vettel who was quickest with a lap of 1m25.435s, Webber was also quick and took second place. Massa was again struggling with his Ferrari, the same could be said about Hamilton, who missed several opportunities to improve his time, as he was visibly struggling to keep his car on track.
With just two minutes to go Kimi Raikkonen was in 12th place, while Romain Grosjean was seventh, but the flying Finn improved his time and took eighth place. Michael Schumacher and Massa were also in the danger zone, only Massa could improve his time and took tenth place, while the seven-times World Champion slid further down the order as others improved their fastest time.
Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Bruno Senna, Schumacher, Daniel Ricciardo, di Resta and Kamui Kobayashi did not make it into the third and final qualifying session.
Thus ten drivers started in Q3 to battle for pole, Alonso was on track first, he was soon followed by Hamilton, who again had problems with the balance of his car and had to abort his first fast lap.
Vettel was also out quick but made a rare mistake and had a massive moment when he ran wide and had to cut a corner, he was clearly under pressure to score pole. Webber was fastest with five minutes to go, while the others stayed in the garage to save tyres.
Two minutes to go and Button had taken second place, time for the other drivers to leave the pits for their final run. Vettel took first place from Webber, and took pole for tomorrow’s Indian Grand Prix. Webber was second and Hamilton took third place on his very last lap. Button took fourth place, while Massa showed he has regained his confidence and speed again after a troublesome season, and finished sixth behind Alonso who was fifth.
About tomorrow’s race Vettel said, “You know that a lot of things can happen in the race. I am very happy to be on pole but there is a hard race coming tomorrow. We had a bit of a surprise on Friday on the long runs, everyone was quite close, so we’ll see what that means with strategy tomorrow.”
Webber, who was just 0.044 seconds slower, said to the BBC, “The lap itself wasn’t too bad. I got onto the astroturf at the last corner so it wasn’t the smoothest run to the finish line, but I’m driving the car. Then I didn’t get to do my final lap, the McLarens were doing very slow out-laps so I didn’t get my second lap. I had no front grip at the start of my lap so it was finished. So I was surprised to end up second — I’ll take that.”
Hamilton was quite happy with his third place, “I’m very satisfied that I’ll be starting tomorrow’s race from the second row. This is one of the best circuits we race on and I definitely think third position gives us a fighting chance to win tomorrow. At the start tomorrow, I feel I have a lot less to lose than Sebastian [Vettel] in front of me, so I’ll certainly be pushing a bit. Seb has more to worry about than I do, and, if I can get up with the two Red Bulls, I’d love to take a win!”
Alonso remained calm as ever and was optimistic ahead of the race, “I think it’s more challenging for us now but I remain 100% confident that we will fight for this championship and we will win it. The first target is to finish in front of them [Red Bull] tomorrow and I think we have chances to do it.”
Raikkonen was the fastest Lotus driver and took seventh place, Sergio Perez who had skipped the first free practice due to a severe cold, was eighth for Sauber, Pastor Maldonado was ninth, and Nico Rosberg, who didn’t even bother to score a fast lap and stayed in the garage during Q3, was tenth.