Felipe Massa,Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Sepang, 2013

Malaysian rain can’t keep Vettel from pole again

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix qualifyingPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013Sebastian Vettel came within a quarter of a second of being knocked out in the first part of qualifying.

But a smart tyre call in a rain-hit top ten shoot-out secured his second consecutive pole position of the year. Felipe Massa joins him on the front row of the grid.

Q1

Sutil headed the times in the first part of qualifying, his 1’36.809 lap on medium tyres almost seven-tenths of a second faster than his team mate could manage.

But the top teams appeared to be more concerned with preserving their tyres than setting the quickest times. This was particularly true of Red Bull, whose drivers put in steady laps on medium tyres that were merely sufficient to guarantee their passage to Q2. Vettel was inside the cut-off time by a quarter of a second in 15th.

Both Sauber drivers made it through, Esteban Gutierrez improving to 11th with his last effort. Team mate Nico Hulkenberg complained on the radio after being held up by Sergio Perez at turn nine.

Marussia headed Caterham in the drop zone, with Jules Bianchi being congratulated by his engineer after coming within half a second of reaching Q2. He out paced team mate Max Chilton by 1.2 seconds.

Charles Pic also out-qualified Chilton, and they were joined in the drop zone by Jean-Eric Vergne and Valtteri Bottas.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’38.157
18 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1’38.207
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1’38.434
20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1’39.314
21 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1’39.672
22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1’39.932

Q2

Di Resta was the first driver out at the start of Q2 but he abandoned his run and made for the pits.

He would regret that decision, as a few minute later a rain shower arrived, making the track surface treacherous from turns five to eight. Di Resta spun twice as he tried in vain to produce a lap that would get him into Q3.

By then almost all the other drivers had set times, Nico Rosberg leading them on a 1’36.190. Pastor Maldonado did not get a lap in and was consigned to eliminated among with Di Resta.

The Sauber drivers joined them along with Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’37.636
12 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1’38.125
13 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’38.822
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1’39.221
15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’44.509
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault

Q3

With rain still falling as Q3 began Sutil took up place at the pit lane exit with Perez, Webber, Button and Raikkonen queued up behind him.

All ten cars took to the track straight away on intermediate tyres but with the track drying rapidly they faced the question of whether to change tyres mid-session – for slicks or another set of intermediates.

Vettel was quickest as the drivers completed their first runs, then made the call to take on a fresh set of intermediate tyres. Raikkonen, Sutil and the Ferraris did likewise – with mixed results.

Among those who stayed out on the worn but warm intermediates was Webber, who briefly took to the top of the times, before losing it to Hamilton.

But Alonso revelled in the grip afforded by his fresh tyres and flashed across the line with a 1’50.727 to claim provisional pole position.

Not far behind him Vettel was going quicker still, and his time of 1’49.674 sealed a second consecutive pole position. Making matters worse for Alonso, he was then knocked off the front row of the grid by his team mate.

Raikkonen couldn’t find the same improvement on his new intermediate tyres and ended up seventh, with the McLarens and Sutil behind him.

Top ten in Q3

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’49.674
2 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’50.587
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’50.727
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’51.699
5 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’52.244
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’52.519
7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’52.970
8 Jenson Button McLaren 1’53.175
9 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’53.439
10 Sergio Perez McLaren 1’54.136

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty