Sebastian Vettel has claimed the fiftieth pole position for the Red Bull Racing team at the Singapore Grand Prix, surviving a tense qualifying session to earn top spot from his compatriot, Nico Rosberg, by just nine-hundredths of a second.
The defending race-winner’s main rivals for pole position all opted for two qualifying runs in the final top-ten hit-out, but Vettel elected to save a set of Pirelli Super Soft tyres with a single flying lap. It was a brave decision, indeed…
“It was a weird feeling, standing in the garage with two minutes to go,” he said in the following post-qualifying press conference.
“It is much worse seeing others on their final attempts. I was watching the sector times very closely, in particular Romain [Grosjean], Nico [Rosberg] and Mark [Webber].”
With many runners forced to use their limited allocation of brand new Super Soft tyre sets in the earlier Q1 and Q2 sessions, only Vettel, his teammate Mark Webber and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean managed to get all the way into Q3 without resorting to a run on the softer rubber. Quite how that will pan in in terms of Sunday’s race strategy remains to be seen, but it will certainly afford them flexibility over their rivals.
Grosjean’s strategy paid off with the third-fastest time, crucially giving him a starting position on the ‘cleaner’ side of the grid, which may allow him to leapfrog Rosberg off the starting line.
Webber qualified fourth-fastest, losing out to Vettel in the final sector of the lap, where the German has proved metronomic in speed.
Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fifth position, lamenting the fact that he wasn’t able to extract the same potential out of his car as his teammate Rosberg had managed.
Felipe Massa outqualified Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso for the second round in succession, with the Brazilian securing the sixth-fastest effort in Q3, just four-hundredths of a second faster than the Spaniard. But celebrations in the Maranello camp will be distinctly muted, with the F138 over a second off the pace all weekend.
Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo each had another Q3 appearance, with both opting for a single Q3 run to claim eighth and ninth on the final session’s timesheets.
At the Italian Grand Prix, it was Nico Hülkenberg who shocked all comers with a brilliant qualifying performance, and this weekend it was the turn of his Sauber teammate Esteban Gutiérrez to provide the surprise performance in qualifying.
To say that the Mexican youngster has been unimpressive in his rookie F1 season would be a masterstroke of understatement, but the former GP3 Series champion pulled a rabbit out of the hat in Q2. It was a time good enough to get him into Q3 for the first time in his career, ironically at the expense of his teammate, Hülkenberg, who qualified eleventh-fastest.
Kimi Räikkönen was the biggest scalp in Q2, with the Finn only managing thirteenth-fastest in his Lotus. The 2007 World Champion had been struck by a painful back injury that had made driving in Saturday’s early practice session a nightmare, but he was resolute in his aims to take the grid on Sunday.
Jean-Éric Vergne (12th) and Sergio Pérez (14th) completed the sixth and seventh grid rows of drivers who were unable to match their teammates’ Q3 promotions, while Adrian Sutil and Valtteri Bottas completed the eighth row of the grid to also fall at the Q2 hurdle.
Paul di Resta suffered his fifth Q1 exit in eight races, frustratingly declaring that the Force India VJM06 “simply isn’t fast enough” on the updated Pirelli tyres, which have hurt the little team’s form more than anyone else in the field. The Scot qualified half a second faster than Pastor Maldonado, whose usual street racing skills went missing in Q1.
It was a Caterham and Marussia affair once again at the back of the grid, with Charles Pic finishing quickest of the quartet once again. His teammate Giedo van der Garde was lucky to survive a sizeable slide into the wall in Q1, and managed to complete the session despite concerns over his left-rear suspension.
2013 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:42.841|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:42.932||+ 0.091|
|3.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:43.058||+ 0.217|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:43.152||+ 0.311|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:43.254||+ 0.413|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:43.890||+ 1.049|
|7.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:43.938||+ 1.097|
|8.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:43.282||+ 1.441|
|9.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:44.439||+ 1.598|
|10.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||no time||+ 0.907|
|Q3 Cut-Off – 1:44.497||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:44.555||+ 1.650|
|12.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:44.588||+ 1.683|
|13.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:44.658||+ 1.753|
|14.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:44.752||+ 1.847|
|15.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:45.185||+ 2.280|
|16.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:45.388||+ 2.483|
|Q2 Cut-Off – 1:45.982||Time||Gap**|
|17.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:46.121||+ 1.925|
|18.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:46.619||+ 2.423|
|19.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||1:48.111||+ 3.915|
|20.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:48.320||+ 4.124|
|21.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:48.830||+ 4.634|
|22.||Max Chilton||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:48.930||+ 4.734|
* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:42.905 by Sebastian Vettel
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:44.196 by Lewis Hamilton