Some unfinished business
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Vettel lights up Singapore with Pole Number 11: tomorrow match point
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Red Bull
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Sep 2011   |  5:56 pm GMT  |  38 comments

Sebastian Vettel set a blistering pace in qualifying today for the Singapore Grand Prix, taking his 11th pole position of the season. Mark Webber was second, with Jenson Button third and Lewis Hamilton fourth.

If tomorrow’s race ended like that it would mean that the title race goes on to the Japanese Grand Prix, with Webber still in the hunt. In all likelihood we will see Alonso come up from fifth on the grid as the Ferrari has better performance and stronger tyre life in race conditions.

It was Red Bull’s fifth 1-2 grid lockout of the season and Vettel’s 26th career pole position, equalling Mika Hakkinen. Only Fangio, Mansell, Prost, Clark, Senna and Schumacher lie ahead of him.

Hamilton was unable to go out for a second run in Q3, due to a problem with refuelling the car, after losing time getting back to the pits due to a puncture and a random FIA weight check. The upside is he saved a set of tyres, but he also lost one with the punctured set. He also lost a front row start slot and two places in the process, as he was second after the first runs. It is the first time he’s been off the front row since Silverstone.

It’s been a messy couple of days for McLaren, with problems on both cars in Practice 2 and a broken floor stay, a puncture and a refuelling issue for Hamilton this evening. They have good pace in the car, but so far haven’t been able to maximise it. Vettel meanwhile, has exceptional long run pace and good tyre wear and only something exceptional will stop him from collecting his ninth win of the season.

Webber was quite pleased with his efforts, ending up 3/10ths off his team mate, who excels on tracks with stop and start corners like this. He believes that the ends of the stints will be crucial tomorrow, but acknowledged that a good start will be vital, something he’s often failed to do this season.

Ferrari’s lack of qualifying pace was highlighted with Alonso in fifth and Felipe Massa sixth, fighting off the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg. Alonso said that his lap was probably his best of the season as it put him a tenth off Webber and the McLarens and a whole second faster than Felipe Massa. Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali observed that the qualifying result mirrored the story of the 2011 season; one car and driver in a league of their own with four drivers battling over who follows him home. Massa is very much adrift of that battle.

In the race we are likely to see the leading cars do three stints on supersofts and one on softs, with Ferrari possibly trying to make one stop less to gain track position. We could also see a one stopper in midfield, perhaps a Sauber.

The two Force India cars qualified in the top ten, but chose not to set a time in Q3, saving a set of soft tyres and two new sets of super soft tyres in the process. A one stop strategy could be on the cards for some of the midfield teams with good tyre durability tomorrow. Hamilton, meanwhile, will have to be aggressive in the race to make up the two places lost, even if he will have slightly better tyre life.

In the first part of qualifying the Renault’s weakness in traction out of slow corners was shown up with Vitaly Petrov eliminated with the new teams and Bruno Senna required to produce a high pressure lap to make it through. The Lotus cars were just over a second slower, while Daniel Ricciardo again outqualified his team mate Tonio Liuzzi, but lost out to the Virgin cars, with whom he’d been battling in Practice 3.

Kobayashi catches some air (Sauber)

In Q2 Sauber’s chances of getting into the top ten took a knock as Kamui Kobayashi crashed heavily after taking off over a kerb. This brought out a red flag stoppage. Team mate Sergio Perez had been on an out lap at the time. He wasn’t able to find the speed to take on the Force India cars and wound up 11th.

In Q3 Mercedes opted to do only one run at the end with Rosberg pressuring Massa, who responded and stayed ahead. Michael Schumacher, like the Force India cars, didn’t set a lap time, so all three have the option of what tyre to start the race on. Both Mercedes have two new sets of softs and one set of super softs available.

So the top ten grid slots are in team order, with Red Bull, from McLaren, from Ferrari, Mercedes and Force India. The midfield is jumbled up apart from the two Williams together in 12th and 13th and then the last three rows are in team order again.

SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX, Qualifying
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m44.381s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m44.732s + 0.351
3. Jenson Button McLaren 1m44.804s + 0.423
4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m44.809s + 0.428
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m44.874s + 0.493
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m45.800s + 1.419
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m46.013s + 1.632
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes no time
9. Adrian Sutil Force India no time
10. Paul di Resta Force India no time

11. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m47.616s + 2.685
12. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m48.082s + 3.151
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m48.270s + 3.339
14. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m48.634s + 3.703
15. Bruno Senna Renault 1m48.662s + 3.731
16. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m49.862s + 4.931
17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber No time
Q1 cut-off time: 1m49.588s Gap *
18. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m49.835s + 3.438
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m50.948s + 4.551
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m51.012s + 4.615
21. Timo Glock Virgin 1m52.154s + 5.757
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m52.363s + 5.966
23. Daniel Ricciardo HRT 1m52.404s + 6.007
24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m52.810s + 6.413

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38 Comments
  1. Dom says:

    Vettel makes it look so easy – finds the space and finds the time.

    I was really impressed by Lewis’ recovery effort in Q3 given all his issues and puncture and then with Massa especically given Jenson’s penultimate Q3 lap but then Button came back and beat it – very impressed. I think there’s going to be a ding dong battle between the 2 Mclaren drivers for second place in the championship.

    Is it me or was Jenson driving with an extra dose of commitment today.

    1. Stuart Harrison says:

      I don’t get what it is that makes him so fast. You see the other drivers in other cars that should be as fast as him and yet he’s regularly 1/2 second faster, which is an enormous amount when the rest are split by thousandths.

      He’s either very very special or cheating. :)

      1. Dom says:

        Webber has fast sector times but can’t string them together – I think Vettel is very talented, very cool and very switched on: in combination, more so than any other driver. There’s some who are very quick but aren’t quite so sharp – some very switched on and not quite so quick but Vettel seems to have everything.

  2. Craig says:

    Once again it’s all down to the start – someone has to get in front of Vettel before turn one, otherwise the race is over in terms of first place.

    It’s a shame Hamilton didn’t get a final run – he would surely have beaten Webber.

    Stand out performance in qualifying i’d probably have to give it to Massa – one whole second behind a team mate in the same car, that’s a lifetime in F1. I’ve noticed it seems more acceptable these days than it used to be though (in the top teams). In the past drivers would’ve been thrown out of the team for being so much slower. Luckily for Massa and Webber these deficits are repeatedly swept under the rug.

    1. JR says:

      Alonso did it in Monza with a lightning start at it was still not enough.

      1. Craig says:

        Oh i totally agree, but at least it would give us a chance of a different winner, plus on this track it will be harder to overtake in normal racing situations.

      2. JR says:

        True, let’s hopee we can see some racing for the lead.

  3. Marc says:

    Somehow, I have this feeling schumi will do well in the race. Not up to mr. Allen’s standards of rating on facts but, A podium is there. Marc

  4. TheLegend says:

    Fernando has really bad luck with his “superlaps”, he beats felipe by one second but it’s not enough to match the next time, it happened also in Montmeló. Just one tenth less and he would have been third…

    1. CartRider says:

      Unfortunately, Ferrari’s level this season is such that 1 sec better than Massa is still 0.1 slower than McLaren and 1 sec worse than Vettel. Can’t wait the 2012 season, especially if Kimi will be back!

      P.S. First time I tried to reply to this message the system informed me that I was posting too fast. Apparently, one message in a week is way too fast =)

      1. James Allen says:

        Hardly – if you look at how often some people post. Maybe you type too quickly! We’ll take a look at it

      2. AlexD says:

        James, I wanted to report the same thing. Every post ends up like this – you are typing too fast:-)

      3. Charlie B says:

        I get that report sometimes, but only when I use google chrome.

  5. Nico says:

    Hi James,

    We were at T1 tonight and I couldn’t help noticing Vettel, Button and Alonso putting all four wheels over the kerb at T2 by several inches at least.

    In the past the FIA has invalidated quali laps when all four wheels was off and been quite strict on it, so what’s the deal? Webber and other drivers were careful to make sure two wheels were still inside the track and it was obvious it was costing them some time into T2/3.

    Was there any comment on T2 in the driver briefings, or did the FIA mention it in one of their memos?

    Nico.

    1. Martin says:

      An interesting spot – I probably won’t see it confirmed but I’ll look for the white line position in that corner during the race.

    2. Martin says:

      I just took a look at the qualifying best sector times and Webber had the fastest time and the other results suggest there was no particular advantage gained by anyone in sector 1.

      Cheers,

      Martin

      1. Nico says:

        Cheers Martin, I guess that is why the FIA are not doing anything about it.

  6. It must be a logistical nightmare for Red Bull this weekend as I assume they have a victory party planned in case Seb wraps up the title. Do you think the deposits are refundable? lol

    Go Button!

  7. The other Ian says:

    As Hamilton only has 2 sets of super-softs, due to one set being punctured, I reckon McLaren will go for a 2 stopper, in his case.
    Super-soft, Super-soft, Soft.

  8. Rob Newman says:

    The qualifying was really good. But yes, the McLarens did look messy. I can’t imagine what’s wrong with Hamilton. In Q3 he simply made a fool of himself. There was no need to attack Massa at that point.

    If Vettel has wheel spin like he had last time then he will be in trouble. If the fast starting Ferraris and Mercedes get ahead then it is going to be a head ache for the Red Bulls.

    Not sure of the effect on DRS as there are no long straights.

    I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow. The race can be red flagged in that case.

    1. Martin says:

      Hi Rob,

      The run to first corner is too short here for Michael or Nico to get anywhere near Seb. Lewis is certainly vulnerable to Fernando due to the relative start performance and Fernando being on the clean side of the grid. Jenson described the Red Bull starts as similar to McLaren’s but well behind the Ferraris. If you ignore Webber, that’s probably true.

      Re Lewis, he was probably concerned about tyre temperature and also with Felipe being well of the pace, wanted to get by. The concern about having to get 4 laps and a pit stop into about 9 mintes 30 was obvious with the cue of cars, but Red Bull showed it wasn’t necessary – it could be that Reb Bull/Renault can go through the pit-refuel-turn engine on process faster than McLaren or Ferrari due to some features of the car and engine.

  9. Roddy says:

    The first four rows for tomorrow coincide exactly with the constructors standings and with the “lead” driver in each team ahead of his teammate. I don’t remember this happening before or has it?
    Only renault fail to make p9 and p10.
    Vittel and Button once again super impressive in delivering when it matters, as is Webber, but I don’t expect him to stay in p2 once the race starts, I think BUT and HAM will follow VET into turn 2…

  10. Dan says:

    I can see Vettel winning the title tomorrow, the weekend just has that sort of feel about it.

    The Ferrari-McLaren squabble over track position in Q3 summed up their combined challenge to Red Bull this season – falling over each other taking points off of themselves with one team never fast enough over the other to mount a sustained challenge to Red Bull.

    Vettel cruising round with all that space summed up Red Bull’s season, perfection.

    1. Martin says:

      Hi Dan,

      I guess Fernando’s efforts with the Ferrari – getting a slower car generally in qualifying and race conditions (Valencia and Silverstone are pretty much the only exceptons) ahead of both McLarens in the championship is always at risk of ending. I would describe the racing performances as McLaren making a mess of things and Alonso picking up the scraps.

      The vibe James is giving suggests that Ferrari have better race pace here than McLaren. Recent start performance would suggest that Fernando should be the favourite to be ahead of Lewis by turn 3. Then it will be about the tyres and James now thinks there will be hree stops based on performance. Lewis doesn’t have the tyres to do this having lost the punctured set, so any attempt at an undercut at the first stop will hurt later.

      Cheers,

      Martin

  11. goferet says:

    Waka Waka Baby!

    Geez, the Wunderkid keeps pulling those rabbits out the hat for didn’t a certain Aussie block say after the summer break that Sebi’s era of domination is over *Cough*

    Also I recall back in the day when Red Bull where an innocent team where getting pole was like Christmas morning for the mechanics but today, I think I saw one of their mechanics yawn after another dominant performance.

    As for the Mclaren team (excluding the drivers), they’re rubbish, end of. The only thing they’re good at is talking all day long for all we get are promises but on track the mistakes never end!

    Anyway good performances from Vettel, Alonso, Perez, Sutil, Heikki & Senna & Ricciardo.

    Now my predictions for tomorrow’s crashfest:

    List of drivers who can’t possibly win;

    Vettel – No driver that has won this race has gone on to win the WDC so look out for Vettel’s spectacular crash

    Webber – Is going to lose places at the start + has hidden clauses in his contract to uphold so no win for him either

    Hamilton – Tyres aren’t going to be kind to him

    Alonso – He had his cake & ate it too last year.

    So my podium finishers are;

    Jenson
    Alonso
    Webber

    1. rfs says:

      “Vettel – No driver that has won this race has gone on to win the WDC so look out for Vettel’s spectacular crash”
      I highly doubt that trend will have any bearing on tomorrow’s proceedings. Vettel’s looking untouchable this weekend, as he’s often been this year.

    2. Martin says:

      You might be better of predicting a win for Seb. That way if he does you won’t be wrong and if he doesn’t you’ll be happier :-)

  12. Edward Valentine says:

    I don’t think the race will be as straight forward for Seb as some other media reports seem to think. Due to the street layout, the as near as makes no difference 2 hour race length, the inevitable train of back markers and possible use of the safety car will make for an exciting GP. It would be great if an unlikely winner could emerge like Nico or Di Resta.

  13. Irish con says:

    Vettel I think really has proved he is the real deal and the best out there. I think he will end up atleast a 4 time world champion and the record pole sitter ever when he is done. Only alonso can take it to him for a season but Ferrari are not giving fernando a car worthy of his talents at the minute.

  14. Amritraj says:

    What a lap by Alonso!!He found half a second on his final run!

    It is a shame that the Ferrari isnt quick enough in the qualifying trim. I hope he can jump the McLarens, and get after the Red Bulls in the race tomorrow.

  15. Dave Deacon says:

    Give any of the top 6 or so the best car and he would have won it – some sooner some later but won it he would have done. SB is nothing special – he is lucky… JB is arguably the best overall driver but is hampered by LH being so erratic. JB would do well to go to RBR and beat SB assuming same car…

    1. James Allen says:

      I’m afraid that there is overwhelming evidence this year that your observation of SV is wrong

    2. Glenn says:

      I assume SB is Sebastian Vettel….
      No, nothing special about this young man. 11 poles, 8 wins this season. Has out qualified, out raced a very capable teammate all season. He will be the youngest double WDC in history soon. It’s all well and good to be patriotic but sometimes you have to face facts mate. This kid IS something special. Having said that, I would love to see him and Lewis competing in one of the midfield teams together. Say, Sauber or Force India, Toro Rosso for example. I’d pay to see that ;)

    3. Cliff says:

      I’m no fan of RBR or SV, but to say that he is lucky makes no sense at all. His performances since Spa 2010 have been exceptional. Yes he has the best car, but its his level of consistency that has got him to this position.

      Most WDC have had the best car in their championship year, on that point SV is no different.

      1. driver says:

        That’s not entirely true. Having the best car hides many things. You will see once the RB is no longer the clear dominant car on the grid. 2010 would have been just like 2011 for RB had it not been for reliability issues. SV is nothing special you will soon see. When you’re qualifying on pole by a significant margin all the time and you have a teammate who can’t get off the line to challenge for wins, a ton of weight is lifted off your shoulders, which makes it a lot easier to do your job. SV has had no challenges. Hamilton had both Massa and Kimi in equally strong cars. Kimi had to deal with Hamilton, and Button with a dominant Brawn to fight the Red Bulls a bit. And Alonso had to deal with the great Schumacher. Who has Vettel had to fight? No one!

  16. If you’re asking for my predictions for the race, then all I can tell you is that D’Ambrosio won’t score points. Period. Just by looking at pictures of the car I can predict this outcome because my expertise in the field of F1 is just HUGE! I also noticed, although I didn’t actually see it, Red Bull were running a different colour buttons on their steering wheel – please retweet and put it on Facebook.

    It’s also interesting that some guys chose not to run at all in the last SIEGment of the qualifying. I understand tactical games but fans pay a lot of cash to see them cars and drivers on the track. Perhaps qualifying tyres – just like Pirelli boss was suggesting – is the answer to our woes.

    Having said that, FI boys did a good job, PdiR’s my man.

  17. vancouver j says:

    Somebody take away Coulthard’s TV screen please.

    I was watching qualifying and when MB asked him about marbles on the track he got a few words in and then immediately got distracted and lost the plot when the camera switched to a Toro Rosso rounding turn 14. He does this all the time.

    DC can actually make a decent point once in a while on camera. In the commentary box he’s hopeless.

  18. Eamonn says:

    James. It would be good if you listed what tyres drivers have for the race besides there times list.

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