Sebastian Vettel has romped to pole position – the 43rd of his career – with a superb qualifying demonstration at the Buddh International Circuit, ideally placing him to wrap up a fourth Drivers’ Championship title this weekend.
The German finished over three-quarters of a second clear of the rest of the field, leading home the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
The fastest three runners all opted to qualify on the Soft-compound Pirelli tyres, while Mark Webber elected to run on the Medium-compound rubber and claimed the fourth-fastest time, giving him a different strategy heading into Sunday’s race.
Felipe Massa was fifth-quickest, outqualifying teammate Fernando Alonso once again with a late flying lap to secure a third-row starting position alongside Kimi Räikkönen. Nico Hülkenberg and Alonso complete the fourth row, while the fifth row is an all-McLaren affair, with Sergio Pérez lining up ahead of Jenson Button.
Despite some not particularly impressive practice pace, both Toro Rossos made it into Q2, with Daniel Ricciardo narrowly missing out on another Q3 berth, falling short by less than six-hundredths of a second.
The Australian and his teammate Jean-Éric Vergne sandwich the Force India pairing of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, who were separated by just three-hundredths of a second. Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutiérrez were the slowest of the Q2 runners.
Undoubtedly the biggest shock of qualifying came with Romain Grosjean, who was embarrassingly eliminated in Q1 after a strategic blunder by his Lotus F1 team, who had perhaps anticipated that his banker lap time would prove good enough to keep him out of the slowest six runners. A disinterested Pastor Maldonado also joined him on the Q1 sidelines.
Jules Bianchi finished just a tenth of a second slower than Maldonado with an impressive qualifying performance in his Marussia to win the Caterham-Marussia backmarker battle. The Frenchman lines up ahead of Caterham duo Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic, while Max Chilton brings up the rear.
2013 Indian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:24.119|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:24.871||+ 0.752|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:24.941||+ 0.822|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:25.047||+ 0.928|
|5.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:25.201||+ 1.082|
|6.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:25.248||+ 1.129|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:25.334||+ 1.215|
|8.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:25.826||+ 1.707|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:26.153||+ 2.034|
|10.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:26.487||+ 2.368|
|Q3 Cut-Off – 1:25.458||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:25.519||+ 0.951|
|12.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:25.711||+ 1.143|
|13.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:25.740||+ 1.172|
|14.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:25.798||+ 1.230|
|15.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:26.134||+ 1.566|
|16.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:26.336||+ 1.768|
|Q2 Cut-Off – 1:26.178||Time||Gap**|
|17.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:26.577||+ 1.003|
|18.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:26.842||+ 1.268|
|19.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:26.970||+ 1.396|
|20.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:27.105||+ 1.531|
|21.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||1:27.487||+ 1.913|
|22.||Max Chilton||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:28.138||+ 2.564|
* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:24.568 by Sebastian Vettel
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:25.574 by Jenson Button