Vettel Takes A Giant Leap Towards Title As Alonso slips to eighth In Austin qualifying
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By:   |  17 Nov 2012   |  10:32 pm GMT  |  266 comments

Sebastian Vettel claimed his sixth pole position of the season and surely one of the more important, to put one hand on the world championship crown, as fellow contender Fernando Alonso could only manage eighth place for Austin’s inaugural United States Grand Prix.

A win tomorrow would mean that Vettel would need at worst a 6th place finish on Brazil to be champion, regardless of Alonso’s results, but if Alonso doesn’t climb at least five places from his grid slot, the German will be champion tomorrow night.

Vettel maintained his supremacy from free practice to top every phase of qualifying and illustrate his continued dominance at this stage of the season, on his 100th GP weekend. He is to be joined on the front-row by Lewis Hamilton, who pushed the Red Bulls harder than they anticipated, with Mark Webber unable to match his team mate in third.

Webber and Michael Schumacher were under investigation after qualifying but nothing resulted from it.

Red Bull need just four points to take their third consecutive Constructor’s title tomorrow and with both cars in the top three it would take a pile up or a reliability disaster to stop the Milton Keynes based squad from doing so.

Vettel seems to have found a way around this circuit, particularly the final sector with the tricky Turn 19 that has caught out so many drivers and the triple apex Turn 17. He improved lap after lap during the first two phases of qualifying and heading in to the final shoot-out it looked as if nobody would be able to get within half a second of Vettel, let alone beat the double World Champion to pole.

However, a highly motivated Hamilton made it an exciting battle as they exchanged fastest sector times and he came within 1/10th of stopping Vettel secure the 36th pole position of his career and his fourth in five races.

Hamilton seemed to be the best of the rest behind the Red Bull pair, but he hustled his McLaren around the new circuit and was able to split the two. Although, the result will be bittersweet for the Briton as the even numbered side of the grid is highly disadvantaged at the start of the race due to very low grip levels, meaning maintaining second position will be his prerogative tomorrow.

Estimates of one second difference in the run to Turn 1 have been mentioned between the clean and dirty sides of the grid. Hamilton will have to come across to the clean side as soon as possible at the start to avoid being swallowed up.

Alonso has struggled throughout the weekend, ending qualifying slower than Felipe Massa as he couldn’t get the best from the tyres and will need another rabbit-out-of-the-hat race to stop Vettel from heading to Brazil as a three-time World Champion. If Vettel is to claim victory tomorrow then Alonso will need to finish fourth or better to take the fight to the final race of the season.

“We never managed to put together the best lap,” said Alonso. ” We knew it would be a complicated weekend but clearly today we were too slow and we will start from too far back.”

With a conservative approach to the tyre selection by Pirelli it has been clear during the weekend that a one-stop race is very likely. This also meant that the cars needed to complete a run of three to five laps on the option tyre to produce the fastest lap, a point which proved crucial in this morning’s final free practice. However, temperatures rose dramatically before qualifying and it became easier to bring the tyres up to operating temperature.


In the colder temperatures of FP3 McLaren showed very strong pace on the longer prime tyre runs, which could offer Hamilton a chance tomorrow should the weather allow it. The sister McLaren of Jenson Button suffered a power issue in Q2 and will start the race in 12th place.

Behind the top three, Romain Grosjean had an impressive session taking into account his lack of running in practice, taking fourth place ahead of team mate Kimi Raikkonen, but he will be demoted five places down the grid due to a gearbox change.

This will push Michael Schumacher up to fifth place in his penultimate Grand Prix, the veteran producing a stellar performance whilst Nico Rosberg will begin the race in 17th place.

The Force India of Nico Hulkenberg proved right his recent employment with Sauber as he will take seventh, after Grosjean’s penalty, as team mate Paul Di Resta could only manage 13th.

Behind Alonso is Pastor Maldonado, the Venezuelan completing the top ten after once again having a strong Saturday. It looked as if the Williams could have been even more of a threat during the early phases of the session, but they were unable to improve in the same way as the top teams.

Another notably strong performance came from Jean-Eric Vergne, the Frenchman taking 14th place and his best start since the Spanish GP. He has been the victim of the Q1 drop-zone eight times this year, but today it was the turn of team mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Crucially at the tail end of the field both Marussia cars were able to out-qualify the Caterham duo and give themselves a very good chance of maintaining tenth place in the Constructor’s Championship.

[More to follow]

UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX, Austin, Qualifying
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m35.657s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m35.766s + 0.109
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m36.174s + 0.517
4. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m36.587s + 0.930
5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m36.708s + 1.051
6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m36.794s + 1.137
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m36.937s + 1.280
8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m37.141s + 1.484
9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.300s + 1.643
10. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m37.842s + 2.185

11. Bruno Senna Williams 1m37.604s + 1.808
12. Jenson Button McLaren 1m37.616s + 1.820
13. Paul di Resta Force India 1m37.665s + 1.869
14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m37.879s + 2.083
15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m38.206s + 2.410
16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m38.437s + 2.641
17. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.501s + 2.705

18. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m39.114s + 2.556
19. Timo Glock Marussia 1m40.056s + 3.498
20. Charles Pic Marussia 1m40.664s + 4.106
21. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m40.809s + 4.251
22. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m41.166s + 4.608
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m42.011s + 5.453
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m42.740s + 6.182

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1

Newey, come on give me more downforce nwo, come on!

2

Give him a car 3 seconds per lap faster than ultar racers likr ALO & HAM. He will need it to become world champion.

3

So gearbox-gate. Is this F1 I’m watching or the WWE. Absolutely ridiculous that Ferrari choose these kind of tactics. Honour of the brand, don’t make me laugh. Ferrari have gone from taking the glory of the chequered flag to winning behind the scenes in the stewards office. It might be within the rules but whilst things like this happen it cannot be considered a sport.

F1 now turns to entertaining manipulation of the rules more than NASCAR.

4

Even if Alonso some how manages to rob Vettel of the championship, he will be ever remembered as the unworthy champion of 2012, following the decision to deliberately move Massa back five places so Alonso starts on the clean side of the track. It’s a blatant and flagrant abuse of the rules by Ferrari and very unsporting. Alonso the man has neither class nor shame if this is the lengthhe will go to in order to win. This episode puts his McLaren season into perspective, what a petty, grubby little man.

5

Oh my word, Ferrari truly have no integrity at all! Massa should do himself and quit ASAP. Let some other sap be their whipping boy.

6

I am a huge admirer of Alonso but I find it very convenient that the seal was broken on Massa’s gearbox, thus promoting Alonso to the clean side of the track. I was actually looking forward to seeing how Massa would drive in this race as his pace has been really good this weekend. Alonso has had an incredible season and I would be elated if he won the WDC but I think that it’s Vettel’s to lose.

7

Autosport is reporting a possible gear box change for Massa, which would promote Alonso to 7th and the clean side of the grid. Conspiracy?

8

All I am hoping is that after Massa’s gearbox change, Alonso gets a good start from the clean side of the grid and is able to keep the championship alive until Sao Paulo; with a wet and wild finale (which is currently forecast).

9

All I am hoping is that after Massa’s gearbox change, Alonso gets a good start from the clean side of the grid and is able to keep the championship alive until Sao Paulo; with a wet and finale (which is currently forecast).

10

Ferrari Conspiracy theory No 1001

Light fuel Massa giving him a speed advantage over the Red Bull and send him out on a seek and destroy mission… 😉

11

Hi James,

I have heard the rumor that Massa is going to have a gear box change so that he gets moved back 5 places, to move Alonso up the field and put both Ferraris on the clean side. Can you confirm this?

12

Poor qualifying pace for Ferrari and especially Alonso. People say luck is not a factor in F1, but Grosjean’s penalty isn’t really helping either. Now both Ferrari drivers start from the dirty side of the track.

It’s not a surprise that the rumors say that Ferrari might change Massa’s gearbox to promote Alonso to 7th place and the clean side of the track.

Seems pretty unsportmanship like behavior, if it is to happen.

13

Lets hope FA is fast in the race and takes the WDC fight to the last race. I like the Brazil GP very much so I will watch it regardless but I hope that it still has meaning. Marc

14

James if Hamilton was in RedBull this year, do you think Webber would have outqualified him 7 times? Would really love ur answer on this.d

15

So Pirelli, in their aspiration to be fair to everyone and not influence the title fight, they brought way too hard tyres to US. It is kind of ironic then, that due to this, half the field will be put at disadvantage at the start, and bring the risk for incidents up considerbly due to lack of grip on the dirty side. One of those put in the middle of this mess is the main title contender…Lottery has gotten a new meaning.

16

I just do not get it. While other top teams become faster, Ferrari goes backwards and makes the package SLOWER. The fastest Ferrari is 1.3 SECONDS behind the RB over ONE LAP, just when ALO really need something to fight with. VET has a tank and they give ALO a Samurai sword to fight the tank with…Confused!

Either they are thinking VET is really lousy driver…or that ALO is superman. What they do not get is that, even if ALO IS superman and I believe he is the F1 Superman, it would be against the regulations to win while airborn…

17

Impressive stuff from Vettel and Hamilton but I was more impressed by the Marussia boys. Great result for them. I really would like to see some info on how they achieved this result. It looks like the 10th place it set in place for them.

Sometimes I think there is too much focus on the big teams, and I’m a Mclaren fan. Pieces about the smaller teams would be good for everybody.

18

oh no. not the one finger salute again!!! 😉

Day dreaming here but it would be nice to see Schumacher finishing on a high!

19

On that ‘who is more worthy champion?’ question: Vettel’s noting that they had equal fare of bad luck is misplaced – his bad luck came down to reliability issues and this is a technical sport. On the other hand Red Bull have shown great form in the last part of the season… If you ask me, Alonso has shown more champion like drives – Massa beating him in Austin qualy was really one off… but hey, why should Massa be considered slow?

20

because he is

21

If you ever watch the season reviews of 07 and 08 Massa is like a completely different driver, pole positions, race wins the alot, think playing number 2 to Alonso has affected him, he’s only getting back to himself now

22

“Vettel’s noting that they had equal fare of bad luck”

That is expected isn’t it? What VET should not forget is that, despite all his poles and apparent package domination relative to the Ferrari, he would be way behind ALO in the standings today, had ALO not been taken out twice from behind by Lotus drivers. Someone is lucky, that is for sure.

23

Hamilton will win this race and Alonso will win the championship.

How’s that for denial?

I just don’t want it over yet.

24

You’ve got it!

25

Ok, so maybe it’s not denial…great drive from H.A.M.

26

I reckon if Hamilton can somehow manage to take the lead on the first lap and not have any technical issues, he will win the race. Vettel would play it safe and stay in 2nd position. This factor is Hamilton’s advantage. His disadvantage is that he will start on the gripless side of the track.

27

James, Pirelli are saying they’ve been choosing the conservative tyres lately because they haven’t wanted to influence the championship too much. Do you think they’ve gone the full retard in harming Ferrari’s chances by not bringing out the softer tyres lately?

28

Pat Fry was very smiley after qualifying. Have they something up their sleeve or has his relationship with Alonso soured that much?

Alonsos been pretty quick all weekend and quicker than Massa. Either he genuinely underperformed/couldn’t manage the tyres OR has gone full-out for a race-set up (maximise DRS?)

The only other possibility is that the upgrades are a step backwards. In which case things are even worse than they look.

29

Massa is 1.3 seconds behind pole setter, over one lap. So yes, step backward I would say. Not very big step backward though, only somewhat bigger that usual Ferrari steps this season…

30

James,

Could Alonso have set his car up for the race and sacrificed qualifying third/fourth for a faster race pace? This would be a gamble but based on the practise sessions he was never going to beat Seb in a straight shootout.

Might just be a gamble worth trying.

31

Looks like overtaking will be not so easy here. I’m sure he’s thinking more about the race, but still track position at the start is important and staring in row 4 leaves him open to risks like in Suzuka. If that happens today it’s all over

32

Starting on the clean side of the grid is going to be a massive advantage according to the drivers. Massa said he did a practice start from the dirty side of the grid (odd numbers) and it was slower than a start in the wet… I fear Ham and Rai will get bad starts

33

Hamilton will probably still manage a better start than Webber. 😉

34

After 18 races If ferrari cant outqualify a force india a williams & 2 lotus then really maybe they dont deserve an y titles!

Roll on the excuses for 2013!

Let me guess they had 2 fix the windtunnel!

They might aswell hand Vettel next years title while they @ it!

Mclaren even when they have the fastest cars either cant put half a decent pitstop together or they cant get their cars 2 finish a race!

Ferrari are having windtunnel issues for what seems like 2 yrs now! They bring upgrades like here @ COTA that takes them a step backwards!

Is there any surprise Red Bull are really mopping the floor with Ferrari & Mclaren!

What a joke!

35

what you are forgetting is the newly announced change in DRS for practice and quali next year. that will likely have a profound effect on Newey’s aero and Red Bull’s race philosophy and set up.

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