It was echoes of qualifying back in March for the Australian Grand Prix, as rain delays caused chaos once again in Brazil. While Q3 was delayed due to heavy rain, the session did eventually resume and Sebastian Vettel once again rose to the top of the pile, claiming his 45th career Pole in sublime fashion. His massive margin of 0.7 seconds to Nico Rosberg in P2 was truly remarkable – His margin of 1.1 seconds to Mark Webber in P4, even more-so. A ninth consecutive victory is on the cards, yet rain at Interlagos can spring the biggest of surprises.
1 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:27.891 5 laps
2 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:28.195 +0.304 5 laps
6 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:28.921 +1.030 5 laps
“It was a big surprise,” Vettel said after the session. “There was a lot of rain after Q2, and once we got out, I was surprised at how much of the water had gone and I got straight onto the intermediates. I was able then to get a very, very good lap in straight away and then tried to beat that to beat that with the second one and was very close. So with both my laps I was very happy and surprised by the margin.” In securing Pole, Sebastian has taken a huge step towards equaling his fellow countryman Micheal Schumacher’s record for 13 wins in one season and equaling Alberto Ascari’s record of nine consecutive race wins. However, rivals will take hope from the fact that P1 on the grid is somewhat of a poison chalice in Brazil, as the last four races have been won from P2 on the grid.
Nico Rosberg will certainly hope that the sequence continues, as he starts from P2 tomorrow. Rosberg has performed excellently well in wet conditions all season and surly has the best chance of anyone tomorrow in stopping the Vettel landslide of victories. “That was a very demanding qualifying session today with really tricky conditions and a long break before the final session. I’m really pleased to have achieved second place on the grid and a big thank you to the team for their work; we did everything right today. My target was to give Sebastian a hard time so I was surprised that the gap was so big in these conditions.” A wet race tomorrow will undoubtedly provide Rosberg with his best chance of beating Sebastian. The Mercedes has an excellent balance in the wet conditions, despite Hamilton’s struggles to understand and adapt to the car after years of the McLaren rhythm. The Mercedes should seal P2 in the constructors by a comfortable margin tomorrow, yet with Fernando Alonso starting in P3, they will have to be on their toes throughout.
The Spaniard in P3 has to be driver of the day. Despite its typical characteristics suggesting that the Ferrari would be terrible in wet conditions, it is a trait of the team to find performance on a damp track. Alonso’s last Pole Position came at a rain soaked Silverstone in 2012 and today’s performance was nothing short of spectacular. “After the results of the last few Grands Prix, it’s really good news to be back in the top three,” he stated. “Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a perfect lap, because I went off the track at turn 4. I lost seven or eight tenths there and I think also second place on the timesheet, which I believe was within our grasp today.” It will undoubtedly be difficult for Fernando to jump Rosberg or Vettel off the line considering the short run down to Turn one, however, Alonso’s unquestionable race craft will surly pay dividend. Ferrari need Felipe Massa, (who starts from P9) to assist the Alonso effort, yet today has been a pleasing day for Ferrari – the best result they could have feasibly expected.
Toro Rosso experienced another fantastic qualifying session in which both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne progressed to Q3 – the third time this season. Vergne in particular was very fortunate to even progress from Q1 after a strategic mix-up meant that the team missed posting a time when the track was at its fastest. Fortunately for the Frenchman, a late halt in rainfall and fast track evolution meant that he managed to haul himself into Q2, sparing the blushes of his team in the process. Their Q3 credentials were undoubtedly abetted by a slip up from McLaren. Both Jenson Button and Sergio Perez dropped out of Qualifying at the Q2 stage – the latter in spectacular fashion, with a nasty crash on the exit of Turn 5 as the chequered flag dropped. Button evaluated the team’ issues; “We sat out most of FP3 in order to save tyres, which felt like the right thing to do at the time, but in retrospect maybe it wasn’t the right call. After all, we hadn’t run in wet conditions on the Intermediate tyres before qualifying, so we weren’t prepared for the problems we then encountered. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.” Another contributing problem was the team’s decision to run a low-downforce set-up, which will only be optimised in dry conditions. It is an ambitious gamble from McLaren which will only pay dividend if it is a totally dry race tomorrow.
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:26.4709
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:27.102 +0.623
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:27.539 +1.060
4 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:27.572 +1.093
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.677 +1.198
6 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:27.737 +1.258
7 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:28.052 +1.573
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:28.081 +1.602
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:28.109 +1.630
10 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:29.582 +3.103
11 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:27.456
12 Paul di Resta Force India 1:27.798
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:27.954
14 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:28.269
15 Jenson Button McLaren 1:28.308
16 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:28.586
17 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:27.367
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:27.445
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1:27.843
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:28.320
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:28.366
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1:28.950