Suzuka Qualifying: Webber trumps Vettel at last as Red Bull dominates

Mark Webber will start the 2013 Japanese GP from pole

Mark Webber will start the 2013 Japanese GP from pole

There was a big round of applause in the Suzuka parc ferme as Mark Webber emerged from his Red Bull after claiming pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix, and for the first time in a while, trumping teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Webber powered to his first pole position of the season at Suzuka, finishing ahead of team-mate Vettel, whose session was compromised by a KERS issue.

Championship leader Vettel’s problems began in FP3 when he missed the final, Option tyre runs of the session due to a problem with his car’s energy recovery system.

The problem seemed to have been cured as Vettel then sailed through the opening segments of qualifying with ease, ending Q2 at the top of timesheet just over two tenths ahead of Webber.

Suzuka qualifying top three in parc ferme (L to R) Sebastian Vettel (second), pole winner Mark Webber Red Bull Racing and Lewis Hamilton  (third)

Suzuka qualifying top three in parc ferme (L to R) Sebastian Vettel (second), pole winner Mark Webber Red Bull Racing and Lewis Hamilton (third)

In Q3, however, he ran into trouble. Keen to stake his claim to a fifth consecutive Japanese Grand Prix pole position, Vettel was first out on track in the top-10 shootout. However, midway through his lap his race engineer got on the radio to tell him “KERS shutdown”. The problem led to his first run being over three tenths of a second slower than Webber’s, the deficit excacerbated by a mistake at the exit of Spoon corner.

In the second run, there were no driver errors as Vettel set session-best times in the first and third sectors but a conservative middle sector saw him miss out on pole for the first time since the Belgian Grand Prix.

Webber meanwhile, was continuing the good form he has shown all weekend. His first run in Q3 netted him a time of 1:30.975 and at that point he was the only driver to record a sub-1m31s lap.

He then shaved eight hundredths of a second off that time to land his first front-of-grid start since last year’s Korean Grand Prix.

Romain Grosjean was fourth fastest

Romain Grosjean was fourth fastest

“The laps weren’t too bad to be honest,” he said of the 12th pole position of his career. “You always want a little bit more here and there but in general it was pretty good. Sebastian had a problem in qualifying, so a little bit of a hollow pole position if you like, but I’m happy to be on pole. You’ve got to grab the opportunities when you can and still put the laps in. It’s a very nice farewell for me to have pole here on my last attempt at Suzuka, a really phenomenal circuit. I’ll never forget the first sector today.”

Vettel, meanwhile, said that he was happy with his second place. “We did have an issue in qualifying but I’m not a big fan of ‘without this, with this, if this’,” he said. “It’s always unknown. As a fact, we are P2. So, happy, obviously, with the result. Front row for the team, which is great.”

With the Red Bulls locking out the front row, third place went to Lewis Hamilton, who admitted that third on the grid is a good result against his Red Bull rivals who he said have “had a better package for a long time now”.

Felipe Massa was fifth fastest

Felipe Massa was fifth fastest

“I’m really happy,” he said. “Realistically it was difficult, or almost impossible, to finish ahead of these guys. They’ve had a much better package generally for a long, long time but I think we’ve come a long way and to be as close as we are, I think, is a huge compliment to the team.

“The car was feeling good,” he added. “My car felt awesome so I can’t imagine how it felt for them – and congratulations to Mark. I’m looking forward to racing [against] them tomorrow.”

Fourth place went to Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, the fifth time in sixth races that the Frenchman has out-qualified team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who will line up in ninth place tomorrow.

Felipe Massa, meanwhile, beat team-mate Fernando Alonso for the sixth time this season. The Brazilian will line up fifth on the grid, in front of Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg. Alonso will start from eighth position, ahead of Raikkonen and 10th-placed Jenson Button.

Nico Hulkenberg was seventh fastest

Nico Hulkenberg was seventh fastest

Elsewhere, in Q1, Jean-Eric Vergne was forced to pull over at the side of the track with smoke and flames billowing out from the back of his Toro Rosso, an incident that briefly brought out the red flags.

“I thought I had an engine problem, but then I realised the rear brakes were stuck,” he said afterwards. “I tried to brake and there was nothing in the pedal, then I saw the fire and had to stop the car.

“The team will have a lot of work to do tonight, because it took quite a while for the fire to be [put] out,” he added. “Hopefully the main components are undamaged, the engine and gearbox, but there will be many things to change.” (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.

 

Mark Webber will start from pole for the first time in 2013

Mark Webber will start from pole for the first time in 2013

Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday 12 October 2013

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:32.271 1:31.513 1:30.915 13
2 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:32.397 1:31.290 1:31.089 13
3 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.340 1:31.636 1:31.253 17
4 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:31.824 1:31.565 1:31.365 21
5 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:31.994 1:31.668 1:31.378 17
6 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.244 1:31.764 1:31.397 17
7 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:32.465 1:31.848 1:31.644 19
8 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:32.371 1:31.828 1:31.665 16
9 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:32.377 1:31.662 1:31.684 19
10 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.606 1:31.838 1:31.827 15
11 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.718 1:31.989 16
12 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:32.286 1:31.992 15
13 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:32.613 1:32.013 14
14 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:32.673 1:32.063 15
15 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:32.875 1:32.093 15
16 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:32.804 1:32.485 11
17 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:32.890 10
18 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:33.357 6
19 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:34.320 8
20 20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:34.556
21 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:34.879
22 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:34.958
Q1 107% Time 1:38.251

Note – Bianchi, Pic have 10-place grid penalties after accumulating three stewards’ reprimands. Sutil has 5-place penalty for gearbox change