In what has easily been the most dominant showing from any one driver at any Grand Prix this season, Sebastian Vettel has claimed pole position for the Indian Grand Prix after being the quickest driver in each of the lead-up practice sessions.
With team-mate Mark Webber finishing fractionally behind in second place, the result gave Red Bull Racing its third successive front-row lockout, the first time the team had achieved the feat.
Webber was on course to upset his younger team-mate with an excellent run in qualifying, only to mess up his final flying lap with a wobbly moment through the third turn. Vettel remained out on the circuit in the final seconds just in case he needed to put in another flier to defend his position, but once it became clear he couldn’t be challenged, he then aborted his lap.
To cap it all off, his nearest championship challenger, Fernando Alonso, could do no better than fifth-fastest in qualifying. The Spaniard will star behind the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who will occupy the second row of the grid for Sunday’s race. It’s an all-Ferrari third row, with Alonso joined by Felipe Massa.
Four different teams claimed the final four positions in the top-ten pole shootout, with Kimi Räikkönen qualifying seventh-quickest at his first ever visit to the circuit, while Sergio Pérez will start from eighth, no doubt hoping for a clear opening lap after his troubles last time out at Korea.
Pastor Maldonado – who was quickest in the opening phase of qualifying in his Williams – made it into Q3 once again and finished ninth-fastest, while Nico Rosberg opted to save his tyres and not set a timed lap.
The competition to make the Q3 cut was fierce, with eight of the nine runners who failed to make the benchmark managing to miss out by less than a second, and it was a case of trying to get a perfectly clear lap in their quest to get through.
Romain Grosjean found himself bundled out of the reckoning in the dying seconds and he will start from eleventh position. The Frenchman had a few wild moments through the lap’s second sector, twice running off the circuit at the Turn 6/7 complex.
Despite Bruno Senna’s promising pace in this morning’s practice session, that didn’t translate to a top-ten berth and he was consigned to thirteenth place, while Michael Schumacher made a mistake on his final flying lap and could do no better than fourteenth.
Daniel Ricciardo did as well as could be expected in the Toro Rosso, getting the STR7 into fifteenth place, while team-mate Jean-Éric Vergne continued his struggles here and failed, once again, to make it out of the first phase of qualifying.
Qualifying was also a disaster for Force India at the team’s ‘home’ race. Nico Hülkenberg qualified 12th-fastest – missing out on Q3 by just over a tenth of a second – while Paul di Resta had his worst qualifying showing of the season and will line up from a lowly sixteenth.
Di Resta wasn’t the only runner to suffered a poor qualifying performance, with Kamui Kobayashi going slowest of the Q2 runners to equal his worst qualifying result of the season.
As usual, it was the mix of Caterhams, Marussia and HRTs on the rear three rows, but today’s session threw up a few surprises in the battle for the lower places.
For just the fifth time this season, Vitaly Petrov outqualified team-mate Heikki Kovalainen in the battle for honours at Caterham. The Russian was helped by a wild spin by his team-mate in the dying seconds of Q1, ensuring he finished over seven-tenths faster than his more experienced stablemate.
Timo Glock qualified 21st-fastest in the Marussia, while the HRTs of Pedro de la Rosa and local hero Narain Karthikeyan managed to outqualify Charles Pic, with the final three runners covered by just five hundredths of a second.
2012 Indian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:25.283||+ 0.074|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:25.327||+ 0.044|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:25.544||+ 0.261|
|4.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:25.659||+ 0.376|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:25.773||+ 0.490|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:25.857||+ 0.574|
|7.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:26.236||+ 0.953|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:26.360||+ 1.077|
|9.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||1:26.713||+ 1.430|
|10.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||no time|
|Q2 Cut-Off – 1:26.111||Time||Gap|
|11.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:26.136||+ 0.025|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:26.241||+ 0.130|
|13.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||1:26.331||+ 0.220|
|14.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:26.574||+ 0.463|
|15.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:26.777||+ 0.666|
|16.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:26.989||+ 0.878|
|17.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:27.219||+ 1.108|
|Q1 Cut-Off – 1:27.517||Time||Gap|
|18.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:27.525||+ 0.008|
|19.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||1:28.756||+ 1.239|
|20.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||1:29.500||+ 1.983|
|21.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:29.613||+ 2.096|
|22.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:30.592||+ 3.075|
|23.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:30.593||+ 3.076|
|24.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:30.662||+ 3.145|