Red Bull Racing locked out its third front-row start in succession with Sebastian Vettel taking pole and Mark Webber finishing second in qualifying for tomorrow’s Indian Grand Prix.
“Pole is the best place to start from, so I’m happy with that,” said Vettel of his 35th career pole and Red Bull Racing’s third in three races – a new record for the team. “We had a good qualifying session and a good weekend so far with no car issues.”
Webber, meanwhile, professed himself happy with second place, saying it had been a close fought battle between him and his team-mate. “It was great for us today,” he said. “We put in a lot of effort to make sure we had a great car to get as high up the grid as possible. It was very close with Seb and I, both of us only really had one run in Q3. Seb made a mistake on his first lap and I couldn’t get the tyre prep right for the second run, but that’s how it was.”
It was a similar story for Mark, with the Australian initially joining his team-mate in a waiting game at the beginning of the session. Once out on track, however, he was only marginally slower than his team-mate, recording a time of 1:26.744 to finish the opening segment in a comfortable seventh place.
All the pair’s main rivals made it through and the drop zone was largely as expected with the HRTs, Marussias and Caterhams eliminated. The Q1 hot spot is always P18 and this time out it was occupied by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman had been marginally ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo but with a last throw of the dice the Australian put in an excellent lap to vault to 12th, though at the expense of his team-mate.
The middle segment was almost a carbon copy of the first for the Red Bull drivers. Seb claimed top spot with a lap of 1:25.435, while Mark eased through to the final top-10 shoot out in third place with a time just under two tenths of a second shy of his team-mate’s.
Once again, the pair’s main rivals also made it cleanly through, with Jenson Button second, Lewis Hamilton fourth and Fernando Alonso fifth. Further back, Michael Schumacher was the man to miss out, the Mercedes driver finishing in 14th place, lapping half a second slower than his sixth-placed team-mate Nico Rosberg. Elsewhere, Sauber’s Sergio Pérez put in a fine final flying lap to finish eighth and book his place in the last session.
But while the first two segments had been comfortable for the Red Bull drivers, the final session saw them pushing hard to stay ahead of their competitors. Sebastian suffered a small moment, locking up at turn four.
It was an error that left Mark in provisional pole and which forced the defending champion to make a second run, and the German delivered a big performance in his final lap to cross the line 0.044 ahead of his team-mate.
Mark tried to respond, but after not being able to work the tyres properly on his final out lap he was forced to abandon his attempt and Vettel secured his fifth pole position of the season.
“My first attempt in Q3 wasn’t great, I was a bit too greedy with braking into Turn 4, but after that we had a good second run and it was enough for pole,” said Vettel. “McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus look competitive in race trim, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow – they will be pushing hard.”
Mark concurred, though he insisted the team should be competitive enough to battle for another victory. “Tomorrow should be a good race,” he said. “I think it will be tighter between all of us, but we should have enough. It’s a challenging track with quick chicanes and you need to be very accurate when entering the corners.”
The good news for Vettel’s championship bid is that row two for tomorrow’s race will be occupied by third-placed Hamilton and McLaren team-mate Button. Their performances in qualifying mean that Vettel’s main championship rival Fernando Alonso, will start in fifth place, just ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa. The final four top-10 slots will be occupied by Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez, Pastor Maldonado and Nico Rosberg.
Red Bull Racing