Vettel and Red Bull set new pole record in India
Sebastian Vettel has taken pole at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, ensuring Red Bull’s new record of 16 pole positions in a season.
The German posted a time of 1 minute 24.178 seconds, to better his closest competitor Lewis Hamilton by around three-tenths.
‘Yeah, it was a good session for us a new circuit, new venue, tricky for all of us,’ commented the World Champion.
‘I think it was tricky all weekend with the dust on the track. In the end we had just one racing line.
‘I’m extremely happy. It’s good to be here. It’s a very interesting race, a challenging circuit, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.’
It brings Red Bull’s total of pole positions in 2011 to 16, an outright record in Formula One.
While Hamilton found himself second-fastest he’s set to be penalised by three places for tomorrow’s race after ignoring yellow flag conditions during Friday’s second free practice session.
‘It’s been a good day for me. I’m quite surprised that we were able to split the Red Bulls,’ reflected Hamilton.
‘The penalty was a bit of a silly mistake from myself. [But] overtaking should be a lot easier than in perhaps some other places. I’m still optimistic regardless of where we start.’
Mark Webber managed to qualify in third, only a tenth further back.
‘It’s been a good challenge for all of us,’ said Webber. ‘Tricky to work out the right strategy for the tyres.’
‘Overall, good job for the team. We laid a good foundation for a good race tomorrow.’
Vettel was the first to put forward a competitive time in Q3, predictably putting him to the top of the time sheet. He was followed closely by Hamilton and Webber, the three separated by less than a second.
The top three would ultimately remain unchanged, though Vettel would extend his lead by around three-tenths by the end of the session.
Fernando Alonso managed to post the fourth-fastest time of the afternoon, after stating publicly that qualifying will be of paramount performance at this new track.
Jenson Button could only manage fifth despite the promising sounds coming from McLaren all weekend.
Button complained early on from a surprising lack of grip, informing his team over radio that it was worst in the slow speed corners. He subsequently used up all three sets of his soft tyres by the end of the afternoon.
Massa will start from sixth despite crashing out at the end of Q1. He ran wide over a kerb, shattering his front- right suspension and sending him careering off into a barrier.
Nico Rosberg extracted the most he could from his Mercedes to qualify seventh, while Sutil, Buemi and Alguersuari each neglected to set a competitive lap, satisfying themselves with P8, P9, and P10, respectively, for tomorrow’s race.
Q2 proved to be a matter of which team could switch their tyres on most efficiently. The battle for a top 10 berth saw Michael Schumacher relegated to P12 for India’s first ever Grand Prix, while his teammate Rosberg continued to the final session.
Schumacher again complained that he was experiencing strong vibrations in the rear wheels of his car, after reporting a similar problem last round in South Korea.
Meanwhile, both Buemi and Alguersuari found themselves poised to take place in the top 10 shootout, as well as Force India’s Adrian Sutil in his team’s home race.
Petrov led the list of drivers eliminated, ahead of Schumacher, di Resta, Maldonado, Senna, Barrichello and Perez.
Petrov will be penalised by five places for causing a collision with Michael Schumacher last round, while Perez will be pushed three places down the grid for ignoring yellow flags during practice on Friday, as is the case for Hamilton.
Both Williams and Sauber entered the afternoon’s first qualifying session under immense pressure, neither being able to find decent pace during free practice.
Williams in particular had only managed to post times on Friday and Saturday morning just faster than the bottom three teams, and were at serious risk of a Q1 knockout.
Timo Clock was the session’s first confirmed casualty, with the Virgin driver’s gearbox failing after only three laps of the circuit.
Michael Schumacher came close to exiting qualifying early, the German having to resort to using his soft tyres to make it through to Q2.
His efforts were almost undone, however, after the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan got in his way between turns 10 and 12, apparently unaware of the rapidly closing Mercedes.
Ultimately, it was Kamui Kobayashi who would fall at Q1, ahead of Kovalinen, Trulli, Ricciardo, home crowd favourite Narain Karthikeyan, d’Ambrosio and the stricken Glock.