Sebastian Vettel took his 28th career pole position today equalling the great Juan Manuel Fangio, as Red Bull Racing set a new record for poles in one season with 16. There are still two races to go.
Lewis Hamilton went into qualifying knowing that he would have to go three places back on the grid from where he qualified, following an incident in practice where he ignored waved yellow flags, as did Sergio Perez. Vitaly Petrov carried a five place penalty from the previous race.
The hard tyres are 2 seconds a lap slower than the softs here, so the game for the top five teams was to try to get through Q1 without having to use up a set of soft tyres.
Jenson Button was struggling for grip on the hard tyre and had to use up a set of softs to be sure, this had a knock on effect later in the session when he was limited to one run only. But he knew he was in trouble in Q1 when his fastest time on softs was slower than Vettel’s on the hard tyre.
Williams had looked in real trouble in practice, but Pastor Maldonado managed to get through Q1 a couple of hundredths of a second behind Michael Schumacher.
Kamui Kobayashi was the one to drop out in Q1, his Sauber team decided to only do four flying laps in Q1 and although Sergio Perez did a good lap, Kobayashi was 1.2 seconds slower.
Although he has qualified 17th three times this season, this was only the second time he’d dropped out in Q1.
In Q2 Vettel enjoyed an even better advantage over McLaren on the soft tyre.
Meanwhile Toro Rosso looked competitive, the updates on the blown floor and engine maps from Ferrari making a difference in challenging the Force India cars.
Eliminated in Q2 were Petrov, Schumacher, who has only made it into Q3 on seven occasions this year, Di Resta, Maldonado, Senna, Barrichello and Perez.
In Q3, Hamilton was very close after the first runs, but aborted his second run and ended up 3/10ths of a second behind Vettel, which he was quite pleased with, “To be able to split the Red Bulls on qualifying pace is something that everybody in the team should feel proud about. In fact, I’ve been really happy with my qualifying performance throughout the whole year – it’s been getting more and more consistent.” This is true, since Silverstone, he has no qualified lower than fourth and has been mostly second or third.
Alonso did well to get ahead of Button who was struggling for grip, while Adrian Sutil put a smile on Indian faces with 8th place in the Force India car. For the second race in a row Michael Schumacher suffered from a tyre vibration. Team boss Ross Brawn explained that the Mercedes tyre balancing unit didn’t make it through Indian customs.
Talk from the Red Bull team about possible team orders to ensure that Webber wins a race were brushed aside by the Australian, who does not want any presents,
‘There’s been a lot of talk from the team, but I don’t want any positions off Sebastian for the rest of the year,” he said.
INDIAN GRAND PRIX, Buddh International
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m24.178s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m24.474s + 0.296
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m24.508s + 0.330
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m24.519s + 0.341
5. Jenson Button McLaren 1m24.950s + 0.772
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m25.122s + 0.944
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.451s + 1.273
8. Adrian Sutil Force India
9. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso
10. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m26.319s + 1.662
12. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.337s + 1.680
13. Paul di Resta Force India 1m26.503s + 1.846
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m26.537s + 1.880
15. Bruno Senna Renault 1m26.651s + 1.994
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m27.247s + 2.590
17. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m27.562s + 2.905
18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m27.876s + 1.687
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m28.565s + 2.376
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m28.752s + 2.563
21. Daniel Ricciardo HRT 1m30.216s + 4.027
22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m30.238s + 4.049
23. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m30.866s + 4.677
24. Timo Glock Virgin 1m34.046s + 7.857