Indian GP Qualifying: Vettel too good, but Mercedes emerge as challengers

Sebastian Vettel will start the Indian GP from pole position

Sebastian Vettel will start the Indian GP from pole position

After topping the times in all three free practice sessions ahead of qualifying for the Indian Grand Prix, it came as no surprise when Sebastian Vettel powered around Buddh International Circuit faster than anyone ever has, in a time of 1:24.119 to claim pole position for the race and with it take a step closer to wrapping up his fourth consecutive Formula 1 World Championship title.

Vettel, who has been on pole for every edition of the Indian GP since it’s inception, said afterwards, “Mark chose a different tyre. I have to start on the [other] tyre, obviously the strategy is different. I think in the end, if everybody does his bit it probably doesn’t matter so much. It’s a great result for the team, we’ll see what the result is tomorrow.”

If there was a surprise it was the emergence of Mercedes as the most likely to challenge the dominance of the Red Bull driver with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton second and third respectively. However they will be scratching their heads wondering how Vettel was nearly three quarters of a second faster in Q3.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates pole position for the Indian GP

Sebastian Vettel celebrates pole position for the Indian GP

Rosberg appeared pleased with his effort, “I’m pleased, because the aim this weekend was to be best of the rest. Second place is a great place to start. It’s been a demanding weekend. We went wild with the set up on Friday to try and find a few tenths – and luckily we found it, so it’s cool. We looked at both strategies and we think the Soft [tyre] is the better one.”

Hamilton reflected, “It’s been a tough weekend, congratulations to Sebastian – he showed serious pace. We have been pushing and we wanted to get a great result this weekend. I was surprised to be where we are. I did have some traffic through Turn 8 and 9 and [that] didn’t help. It might have been a Red Bull but we didn’t lose too much time.”

Mark Webber will start from fourth on the grid, but unlike the trio ahead of him he qualified on the harder compound Pirelli, which from a strategy perspective, may give him an advantage as (theoretically) he will be able to run a longer first stint.

Qualifying top three in parc ferme: Lewis Hamilton (third) Mercedes, pole winner Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg (second)

Qualifying top three in parc ferme:  Lewis Hamilton  Sebastian Vettel, and Nico Rosberg

It was an impressive effort, and Webber knew it when he said with a twinkle in his eye, “It was not a bad qualifying [result] to be honest. The second row we thought would probably not be possible. We had a plan to run the Mediums in Q3. In the end, we got the most out of it. We are going to have different start to race with the others on the Softs but I’ll need to put that tyre on at some stage. It’s 50-50 how it will go.”

Felipe Massa out-qualified Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso for a second race in a row, the Brazilian was fifth fastest with Alonso eighth.

It was a case of vastly mixed fortunes at Lotus where Kimi Raikkonen qualified sixth, while teammate Romian Grosjean – who had otherwise been at the sharp end all weekend – failed to make it beyond Q1. The Frenchman who took the race to Red Bull last time out in Japan, was 17th on the timing sheets thanks to a gamble to run only the Medium tyres – which did not pay off.

Felipe Massa was fastest Ferrari driver

Felipe Massa was fastest Ferrari driver

“We just missed the cut-off time, everyone went quicker than we thought. Today, for some reason, the Mediums were not quick enough. It’s a decision we [as a team] took together, we were confident we could do enough with them, but we got it wrong,” explained Grosjean.

Again Nico Hulkenberg’s performance was one of the highlights of the session. The Sauber driver will start from seventh which compares with rookie teammate Esteban Gutierrez down in 16th, and a second off his teammate in Q2.

McLaren duo, Sergio Perez and Jenson Button, were ninth and tenth respectively and will share the fifth row of the grid.

It was disappointment for Force India at their home race with Paul Di Resta 12th and Adrian Sutil 13th. Vijay Mallya’s outfit would have been targeting a top ten start for at least one of his drivers.

The scene is set for what looks like another Vettel and Red Bull walk in the park. Although the German needs only to finish fifth to claim his fourth consecutive Formula 1 World Championship title,  you can count on him going for all 25 points on offer for the win, and to do it in style. After all he has never been beaten in India… (GP247)

Subbed by AJN.


Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen was sixth fastest

Indian Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 26 October 2013

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:25.943 1:24.568 1:24.119 12
2 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:25.833 1:25.304 1:24.871 21
3 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:25.802 1:25.259 1:24.941 20
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:25.665 1:25.097 1:25.047 17
5 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:25.793 1:25.389 1:25.201 19
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:25.819 1:25.191 1:25.248 18
7 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.883 1:25.339 1:25.334 19
8 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:25.934 1:24.885 1:25.826 15
9 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.107 1:25.365 1:26.153 21
10 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.574 1:25.458 1:26.487 23
11 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:25.673 1:25.519 14
12 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:25.908 1:25.711 15
13 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:26.164 1:25.740 16
14 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:26.155 1:25.798 14
15 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:26.178 1:26.134 15
16 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.057 1:26.336 11
17 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:26.577 7
18 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:26.842 9
19 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:26.970 8
20 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:27.105 6
21 20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:27.487 7
22 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:28.138 8
Q1 107% Time 1:31.564
  • Tamburello_1994

    Compound strategies will make for an interesting race. ( hopefully )