Same old in Brazil with Vettel on pole
Sebastian Vettel’s record-breaking season has continued, setting the benchmark for most poles in a season with his 15th overnight at Interlagos.
Vettel entered the Brazilian Grand Prix with the aim of scoring the 15th pole of his season, and eclipsing yet another Formula One record – this time Nigel Mansell’s record of 14 pole positions.
The German, as per usual, delivered – his time of 1minute 12.248seconds early in the final session set the benchmark.
He bettered it, as if just to make a point, with an improved time of 1minutes 11.918, securing him pole position, and the pole record.
‘There was quite some talk before qualifying about this particular record,’ recalled Vettel. ‘I think the best thing was not to think about it at all.’
‘Very emotional when I crossed the line. I gave it all, and I was very pleased with that. Really special.
‘It took the master in this discipline, Nigel Manselll, a couple of races less, but still very special.’
Mark Webber backed him up to create the all-too-familiar Red Bull lockout of the front row, his time a little more than a tenth shy of P1.
‘Today’s qualii went pretty well, the whole weekend’s been very strong,’ said the Australian.
‘[But] unfotunately I couldn’t look after Nige today and get pole.’
Jenson Button occupied the front row briefly, but was relegated to third by the Webber’s faster Red Bull. But the Briton’s time was enough to better his team-mate Hamilton for the final qualifying session of the season.
‘I think we’re all excited about tomorrow,’ said Button. ‘Last race of the year, we all want to end on a high.’
‘This is a good start to the weekend. I always love racing here. Such a good circuit for racing and really fighting.
‘Hopefully we can get these two tomorrow, but I think whatever happens, it’s been a great season.’
Fernando Alonso reinforced Ferrari as the third-fastest team of 2011, his best time one tenth slower than Lewis Hamilton’s fourth place. He qualified half a second ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
Felipe Massa failed to capitalise on his home track advantage, his best time more than half a second slower than Alonso’s in the opposite Ferrari, ensuring he again finds himself in a less than optimal position for race start tomorrow.
Sutil did well to qualify in P8, making Force India a now consistent top ten qualifier.
He starts one place ahead of Bruno Senna, whose P9 in such uncompetitive machinery will help him plead his case for a full time race seat with Renault next season.
Michael Schumacher managed only P10 in the second Mercedes, with a Q3 time less competitive than his Q2 post.
Fear of rain escalated rapidly in the lead up to Q1, so much so that every car found its way onto the track in the first five minutes.
Both Lotus cars led the way, waiting at the pit exit for the green light to post a fast lap as quickly as possible, in hope that the weather may catch some of the midfield by surprise.
The weather stayed away for the first session, however, and it was Maldonado who suffered exclusion from the second qualifying session.
After Nico Hulkenberg qualified on pole for Williams this time last year, P18 is the best his replacement could manage. He heads the rear seven of the grid, with Kovalinen, Trulli, Liuzzi, Ricciardo, d’Ambrosio and Glock behind him for tomorrow’s race.
Q2 again saw most of the field bank a lap early on, with radars placing the rain less than 10 kilometres from the circuit.
Bruno Senna pulled his Lotus-Reanult-Lotus-Black&Gold into the top ten, to the delight of his homecrowd fans.
Nico Rosberg impressed, setting a time good enough for second in the session – giving him a psychological edge for the conclusion of the Mercedes intra-team battle.
His older team-mate Michael Schumacher – once particularly handy in his career’s previous incarnation – could only manage P10, avoiding elimination by just one-hundredth of a second.
Di Resta was eliminated late, after an uncompetitive final lap. He led Rubens Barrichello in P12 for possibly his final race, Alguersuari, Buemi, Petrov, Kobayashi, and Perez in the midfield knocked out in Q2.
The final round of the season, the 2011 Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix kicks off at 3AM Monday morning, AEDT.