Vettel rides high to take pole position as Alonso struggles in Austin

Lewis Hamilton ran Sebastian Vettel close in Austin qualifying but not close enough

Lewis Hamilton ran Sebastian Vettel close in Austin qualifying, but not close enough

Nov.17 (GP247) On the occasion of his 100th grand prix weekend, Sebastian Vettel powered to his sixth pole position of the season in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix, at Circuit of the Americas while Fernando Alonso,  his only rival for this year’s Formula One World Championship crown struggled and will start from eighth on the grid.

Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012.Vettel in his Red Bull RB8 has looked mighty since the lights went green on Friday morning in Austin, topping all three free practice sessions and all three qualifying segments, setting the scene for what could be another dominant display and a step closer to his third drivers’ title in three years.

The last time F1 was in the USA, back in 2007, the German made his debut at Indianapolis with the BMW-Sauber team. Since then – 100 races down the road – his career has hit stellar levels, and he has notched up 26 wins, two world titles and today his 36th pole position.

Vettel summed up his afternoon, “We’re very pleased. We started on the right foot in first practice. It was extremely slippery to start with. The circuit is brand new and it takes a while to come in, but it was quite a lot of fun to slide a couple of corners. In the final section I would have loved to have gone a bit quicker. It was a bit closer than I wanted, but fantastic to start on the front and on the clean side.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27. Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012.Lewis Hamilton has stalked Vettel all weekend, never quite matching him but in qualifying got as close as he has been and was only 0.109 seconds shy off the top time in his penultimate race with McLaren. He and his team will nevertheless be buoyed by the fact that they have slashed the deficit of 1.5 seconds in the opening session on Friday to a tenth of a second, in qualifying.

Hamilton reflected,  “I’m not really concerned about the first corner, I’m more concerned about being on the dirty side of grid. I did a launch there earlier and it was quite slippery. My aim is to get a good getaway. I don’t want to get in the way of Sebastian’s race but I do want to win. I will try my best to get through the first turn cleanly.”

On the other side of the McLaren pit garage, Jenson Button was not having a good afternoon as he failed to make it beyond Q2 after his car ‘died’ on him in what appears to have been a throttle pedal problem on the MP4-27. He will start 12th.

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8.Formula One World Championship, Rd19, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, Friday 16 November 2012.Half a second off his teammate’s pole winning time was Mark Webber, the energy drinks duo will start in tandem on the clean side of the circuit.

“I’m happy with qualifying. I was pretty happy with last part of Q3 I had to manage a little problem with the car but the two guys ahead of me were pretty quick and did very strong lap times. Overall, I’m happy to be third on the grid. We can have a strong grand prix from there. It’s a great job by the team. We’ve got our eye on the constructors’ championship and trying to put that to bed,” said Webber.

Red Bull are on the verge of notching up their third F1 Constructors’ Championship in succession, thus becoming only the fourth team to perform the feat after Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.

Next up on the timing screens were the Lotus pair, who appeared to find some pace after having a somewhat subdued lead in to qualifying. Although Romain Grosjean was fourth fastest, he will drop five grid places for an unscheduled gearbox change and will start from ninth.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20. Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012.Thus Abu Dhabi GP winner Kimi Raikkonen will start fourth instead, after setting the fifth best time in qualifying.

Michael Schumacher surprised everyone with a sensational performance to notch up the sixth best time in the Mercedes, against all odds, while his team mate Nico Rosberg struggled and will start 17th. Schumacher pulled the lap out of the blue and will start fifth.

Behind the seven time world champion was his former protege Felipe Massa who out qualified his Ferrari teammate Alonso for only the second time this season. Alonso was ninth fastest and will start eighth, the last of the drivers to benefit from Grosjean’s demotion.

Splitting the Maranello boys, eighth fastest, was Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India, again out shining his teammate Paul di Resta who will start 13th.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012. Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012.Next up were the Williams pair of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna, in 10th and 11th respectively.

Down the grid, both Marussia drivers Timo Glock (19th) and Charles Pic (20th) outqualified the Caterham duo for the first time this year.

At the sharp end, Vettel will be the ninth triple champion since 1950 if he scores 15 points more than  Alonso. The Red Bull dirver last achieved that margin in Japan in October and has done it on three occasions this season so far.

The title clinching scenarios are:

  • If Vettel wins, Alonso must finish fourth or higher to stay in contention.
  • If Vettel is second, Alonso needs to be at least eighth.
  • If Vettel is third, Alonso must be 10th or higher.
  • Should Alonso fail to score, Vettel must still finish at least third.
  • Anything less then the title decider moves to the season finale in Brazil next weekend.

Final word to pole winner Vettel: “There’s not much to feel [about Alonso qualifying ninth]. We have to look after ourselves. I’m very happy, we had a smooth session. We had an issue yestersday and we lost time, things have happened and they might happen again. We are very happy with the result but so far nobody has scored any points; we’ve seen how things quickly can change from the last race.”

Subbed by AJN.

United States Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americas – Saturday, 17 November 2012

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.558 1:35.796 1:35.657 20
2 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.058 1:36.795 1:35.766 20
3 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.215 1:36.298 1:36.174 20
4 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.486 1:36.906 1:36.587 28
5 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:38.051 1:37.404 1:36.708 26
6 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:37.927 1:37.102 1:36.794 22
7 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:37.667 1:36.549 1:36.937 24
8 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:37.756 1:37.066 1:37.141 20
9 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.968 1:37.123 1:37.300 24
10 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:37.537 1:37.011 1:37.842 26
11 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:37.520 1:37.604 20
12 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.565 1:37.616 12
13 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:38.104 1:37.665 15
14 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:38.434 1:37.879 17
15 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.500 1:38.206 16
16 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.418 1:38.437 15
17 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.862 1:38.501 16
18 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:39.114 9
19 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.056 12
20 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.664 11
21 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1:40.809
22 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:41.166
23 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:42.011
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:42.740
Q1 107% Time 1:43.317

Note: Grosjean drops five grid places for an unscheduled gearbox change

  • alonso_is_slow

    Seb and Lewis in a different dimension.

    Schumi at his best.

    Good performance by Massa as well.

    Alonso has fallen apart.

  • Butterfly

    Obviously they’ve geared that car for race. Still, one piece of sh*it car…

  • Butterfly

    It turns out Fernando’s car was also on used tires to get them up to temp quickly.

    At least they tried something.

  • Lauda Fan

    Wow. Ferrari looks pathetic. Alonso needs a new ride…

  • Butterfly

    @Lauda Fan:

    The chief designer said last year the F2012 will make us go wow, didn’t he. Mission accomplished.

  • Lauda Fan

    Yeah Butterfly – good one! You know, I just want a straight fight between Alonso and Vettel is all. I’m pissed off because Alonso is HELPLESS in this situation. Plus the frustration of losing the ’10 title to Vettel is still fresh in his mind as it is in mine and it was incompetent Ferrari team management that lost that race with that stupid pit stop call amid all the pressure. To reduce Alonso to wishing Vettel’s car will fail is an insult to the man. No, the Ferrari team will splinter apart badly after this year is over. Alonso is not a saint. He will be crushed by this and will not forgive them this time…

  • AlonsoFan

    Wow either Fernando’s car is setup exclusively for race or is Alonso feeling the pressure and frustrated..but anything can still happen until its over.I am always optimistic and Fernando can still win the WDC,till vettel wins it..IF anyone can,its Alonso

    FORZA FERNANDO,FORZA FERRARI

  • Speedo

    @Butterfly as I understand Ferrari fitted the so called upgrades to Alonso’s car only and it went backwards while Massa’s car minus the upgrades progressed. What a set of jokers. On this new slippery track I expect many to go off track and also expect accidents with the likes of Perez, Grosjean and Maldonado resulting in safety car. The safety car came to Vettel’s aid at Abu Dhabi and the same may happen and favour Alonso in Austin.

  • McHare

    Can’t see past some carnage at the first corner. Just hope Seb keeps his nose clean and finishes the job this weekend. At least Lewis seems to understand the importance of keeping out of the championship battle.

  • jl

    sour grapes, alonso failed then alonso blame the car.

  • fools

    this article doesn’t even pertain jut about Alonso. Yet 2 idiots seem to comment about him and him only. smh…

    Alonso for the 2012 WDC!

  • Butterfly

    @fools:

    jl and alonso_is_slow are one and the same. It’s that pesky troll…

  • Butterfly

    @Speedo:

    Yeah, well, upgrades haven’t worked for some time now. No wind-tunnel equals no upgrades that work, but the designer really has no clue what to do… I mean, look at the way the Ferrari has looked for the last four years. Now compare that to the championship-winning cars.

    There have been a lot of changes in that team – good changes – since Fernando came along. He raised the bar and that prompted change, but the design office is the weakest link right now.

    I understand Tombazis had to work both as a designer and aerodynamicist (manage the wind-tunnel), which you just don’t do. Now they brought in the guy that did the aero work on the Brawn car to manage the wind-tunnel. I guess that’s why they shut it down.

    I read somewhere that he fixed Merc’s problem with their own wind-tunnel when going from 50% to 60%, so he’s the guy to have at Maranello.

    Ferrari are rebuilding themselves, yes, but I just wished Fernando had won more in these last three years.

    Ferrari will pounce. Maybe not next year since it takes time to get the wind-tunnel working and get a good design out the door, but they will be back and will steamroll RBR.

    Either way, 2nd in both championships is a step forward compared to the last three years.

  • alonso_is_slow

    bitterfly is funny in mixing me with jl