Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel will be the leading man once again, as the second race of the 2013 FIA Formula One season takes place tomorrow. "It’s a long race tomorrow and whoever wins will have done the best job. We managed to save some tyres today which will help if the race is dry, but we will see," said Vettel.
The triple World Champion secured his second pole position at the Sepang circuit in the final moments of what was partly a soggy qualifying session. The conditions improved during the final qualifying segment and the German dived into his pit box to take on fresh Pirelli intermediates in the closing minutes.
Vettel commented: “It was very difficult as the circuit was half dry and half wet today – so it was difficult to find the right compromise between pushing hard and also saving the tyres."
As he sailed around the circuit, Vettel was able to find the dry line to post a 1m49.674s and snag the pole by nearly a full second over his closest rival. "It was the right strategy to come in and change the tyres and the pace was there," he said.
The Brazilian driver not only showed good form to take second place, but also pipped his team mate, Fernando Alonso, in the process who dropped slightly down the pack and will start in third place for the Grand Prix tomorrow.
When the 22 drivers take to the track, the top three driver’s closest threat will come from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. The former McLaren driver was within touching distance of the top spot, as the chequered flag waved to mark the end of qualifying. The 2008 World Champion failed to match Vettel though, but did beat the German’s Red Bull team mate, Mark Webber to fourth place.
Said Hamilton, "I'm pretty happy with fourth place considering the conditions today. The car was not too bad in the dry but the balance could have been a lot better, then it was pretty tricky conditions in the wet during Q3."
The Australian is likely to have an interesting start to his Grand Prix tomorrow, as he will be sandwiched between the two Mercedes drivers, the second being Nico Rosberg who could take a lot of positives from qualifying after being in first place on several occasions.
Towards the latter end of the top 10 line up on the grid there will be a couple of other World Champions in the mix with the midfield runners. Last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix winner, Kimi Raikkonen will need to do a bit of work in the race, if he is to achieve the same result as his drive round Albert Park gave him. The Finnish driver ended up a little way down the pack as qualifying came to a close and he will start from seventh place.
“We weren’t quick enough on the intermediates so I don’t think we could have found much more time in the wet today. For sure I wanted more but it is what it is and I hope we’ll do better on Sunday," Raikkonen said.
The first of the two McLaren drivers to make it into Q3 was Jenson Button. The Englishman pipped his new team mate, Sergio Perez to the higher grid slot and the pair will line up in 8th and 10th position respectively.
Force India’s comeback kid, Adrian Sutil was the sole one representing the team in Q3 after his team mate, Paul Di Resta was sadly caught out by the unexpected rain shower that caused him to spin out of qualifying at the end of Q2. Sutil finished slightly better off though and did enough to get eighth place for the starting grid, despite being surrounded by the two McLaren cars with one ahead of him and the other alongside him.
Where the rest of the field were concerned, there were some unfortunate casualties who will have to work quickly at the beginning of the race to battle their way through. The drivers include; Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Di Resta, Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Eric Vergne, in addition to the five rookies in the sport this season as well who make up the back of the grid.
Vettel may be in pole position today, but as last weekend’s Australian season opening race proved, anything can happen and it certainly did with Raikkonen going on to take the victory. However the task for Raikkonen will be difficult as he received a penalty for blocking Rosberg, and now will start 10th on the grid.
Vettel is likely to have a challenge on his hands, if he does not want a repeat of last week’s chequered flag finish when he had to settle for the third and final spot on the podium. It is certain that the 21 other drivers on the track and in particular, Vettel’s closest rivals will give him a run for his money as they get the green light to go racing in Malaysia.