Vettel takes pole as Alonso struggles to fourth row

2012 United States Grand Prix qualifying

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2012World championship leader Sebastian Vettel struck a key psychological blow against rival Fernando Alonso by taking the first ever pole position around Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.

Lewis Hamilton put his McLaren alongside Vettel on the front row, while Alonso could only manage P9, which will become P8 after Romain Grosjean’s grid penalty for a gearbox change is applied.

Q1

Track temperature had doubled to 31??C compared to the final practice session at the start of Q1. Abu Dhabi winner Kimi Raikkonen was the first big name to set a time, posting a 1’41.058, which was soon easily eclipsed by his team mate Romain Grosjean, who lowered the benchmark to a 1’39.078.

With the new track surface evolving rapidly, most teams chose to stay out on long runs to take advantage of the changing grip levels. Maldonado had another oversteer moment through Turn 19 on his way to comfortably getting through into the second session.

The concerns over the pace of the two HRTs to qualify within the 107% time were not realised, but Narain Karthikeyan suffered an apparent problem and stopped out on track. As the session neared conclusion, both Rosberg and Ricciardo traded laptimes to try and secure the crucial P17 slot, with the Toro Rosso driver ultimately missing out.

In a big result for the Marussia team, both Charles Pic and Timo Glock out-qualified their Caterham counterparts. It was Daniel Ricciardo joining the usual suspects eliminated from the first session this weekend. At the front, Sebastian Vettel was quickest with a 1’36.588, with Lewis Hamilton half a second behind.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’39.114
19 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1’40.056
20 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1’40.664
21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1’40.809
22 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1’41.166
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1’42.011
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’42.740

Q2

The softer Medium compound was now a necessity for the remaining cars in the second session. Raikkonen again set the initial pace with a 1’37.457.

Fernando Alonso, already struggling for pace in comparison to the Red Bulls, appeared to be held up by the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher at apex of Turn 15 – gesiticulating to the German driver amidst the flash of the blue lights.

With just under five minutes to go, the McLaren of Jenson Button hit trouble. An apparent loss of power left Button coasting back to the pits and unable to improve his time, leaving him to tumble out of the top ten and, therefore, Q3.

Kimi Raikkonen just held off Bruno Senna to make it through in P10, while Paul di Resta will have been very disappointed with P13, with his team mate Nico Hulkenberg easily making it through into Q3. The Sauber team mates of Perez and Kobayashi and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg will also be scratching their heads at their respective lack of pace, and will start from P15, P16, and P17 respectively.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1’37.604
12 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’37.616
13 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’37.665
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’37.879
15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’38.206
16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’38.418
17 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’38.501

Q3

The shootout for the inaugural pole position around the new Circuit of the Americas looked set to be a forgone conclusion before it began.

Mark Webber was the first man into the 1’36s before Lewis Hamilton easily beat the Australian with a 1’36.209. World championship leader and fastest man all weekend, Sebastian Vettel, posted a 1’35.877 to comfortably take provisional pole, while title rival Fernando Alonso struggled to keep within a second of the German’s time.

Vettel’s ultimate pace, resulting in a 1’35.657 – the fastest lap all weekend – proved enough to secure his sixth pole position of the season, but Lewis Hamilton pushed the Red Bull driver hard, missing out on pipping the German to pole by just one tenth.

Mark Webber will provisionally start third behind his team mate, but is currently under investigation for apparently missing a weight check. Grosjean’s P4 will become P9 after his penalty, promoting, Raikkonen, Schumacher, Massa, Hulkenberg and title contender Alonso. The extra grid slot could prove to be more of a curse than a blessing for the Ferrari, as it means the double world champion will begin the race on the dirty side of the grid.

Top ten in Q3

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’35.657
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’35.766
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’36.174
4 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’36.587
5 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’36.708
6 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’36.794
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’36.937
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’37.141
9 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’37.300
10 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’37.842

2012 United States Grand Prix

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113 comments on Vettel takes pole as Alonso struggles to fourth row

  1. Hairs (@hairs) said on 17th November 2012, 22:22

    Since this year’s championship is over, should we start doing the predictions championship for next year?

    My prediction is Vettel and red bull win again, unless Helmut Marko is given the sort of power the lunatic Montezemalo has at Ferrari.

    Yes, Luca. Sacking Schumi & Todt, losing Brawn and Byrne was a great move for your team. Thankfully, Marko isn’t so deluded that he’d get rid of the real talent in order to try and grab more glory for himself. Err …

  2. HoolyF1 (@hoolyf1) said on 17th November 2012, 23:12

    I don’t like to say it but unless Alonso produces a momentous drive tomorrow (which is entirely within the realms of possibility), as in gets on to the podium, I’m afraid the championship is over. I also envisage heads rolling at Ferrari over the break. I can’t imagine Mr. Montezemelo being happy at the large lead being shattered so easily. But I also question weather or not he is the right man for the job….

  3. HoHum (@hohum) said on 18th November 2012, 1:30

    @keithcollantine, according to Formula1.com Vettel got a new front wing last night for p3 and Q. Any news if Webber also has the new wing?

  4. Jono (@me262) said on 18th November 2012, 2:03

    vettel starting from pole and alonso from 8th: what a mouth watering prospect for a spectacular finish to the championship! sadly i live in the southern hemisphere and have seen Vettel win a race before so ill be happy to wake up in the morning to read of Vettels victory/championship conquests xD

  5. Palle (@palle) said on 18th November 2012, 2:15

    It is irrational to be pushing the “sad if the title fight is over tomorrow” argument again and again. Its just a try to argue logically for an irritation to see Vettel win a third well-deserved title – if he wins it. We have seen a great season up until now, with fantastic battles, an unprecedented streak of races with a new winner every time and an intense battle for the lead up until this race, where Vettel seems to be untouchable. However even if he wins from pole tomorrow a majority of You will still not vote him as DOTW, because of annoyance over his “finger” or his helmet designs or the fact that he has the best racecar, or because he isn’t able to out-race the cars ability, like Hamilton and Alonso can, the list is endless. My advice to those of You who are clearly annoyed over Vettel: Get over it! He will be at the front of this sport a least a few seasons more, and if You loosened up a bit, he is actually a stunning race driver – otherwise he wouldn’t be there with 2 titles and leading the battle to a third. And for next season I’m afraid Hamilton needs a miracle to push to the podium regularly. McLaren’s driver line up for 2013 doesn’t seem to match RBR and Ferrari, but maybe Lotus can show up with a competitive car for Kimi? Its going to be exciting, even if we maybe get a finale for 2012 tomorrow.

  6. silencer (@silencer) said on 18th November 2012, 3:08

    Regardless what happens at the front of the grid, Marussia vs Caterham battle is quite interesting to me comes sunday.

  7. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 18th November 2012, 11:26

    I don’t regard Senna as a great driver; jim Clark for me

  8. TMF (@tmf42) said on 18th November 2012, 11:53

    Overall I wished it would be a bit closer in the championship and still a 3 way race. There is nothing better than seeing wheel on wheel fights for the championship. This year Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso drive in their own league and it would have been nice to see it in the championship too.
    Vettel very headstrong showing rarely nerves and demonstrating his skills (Spa, Abu Dhabi).
    Alonso almost achieving a perfect season by scoring each race where he survived turn 1 – with an underperforming car.
    Hamilton – Mr. raw speed – and whenever his McLaren and the tires are up to the task he’s there to score big time.

  9. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 18th November 2012, 14:42

    Why is everyone acting like the championship ‘being over’ a bad thing? It’s the penultimate race of the season for goodness sake!

    Decent qualifying session , seems Vettel’s confidence in the car got him through as pretty much everyone else was having the odd moment here or there. I can see Button potentially being a headache for Alonso as McLaren will be keen to run him on fresher tyres for as long as possible.

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