Sebastian Vettel took his eighth pole position of the year in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix – but his team mate made him work for it.
Vettel was second behind Mark Webber in the dying moments of Q3 but took back the time he’d lost in the last sector to deny Webber his second pole position in a row.
A warm track and blustery wind threw several drivers off their stride at the beginning of qualifying. And some of those who were able to master the conditions were then undone by the additional problem of traffic.
Romain Grosjean was one of several drivers to complain about being held up but he at least managed to claim a place in Q2. Pastor Maldonado was not so lucky after being held up by several drivers during the session.
Another driver who struggled in traffic was Adrian Sutil, who complained about his track position as he began his final run. He caught a Marussia at the end of his lap and was unable to do another time as he picked up a right-front puncture.
Sutil and Maldonado therefore joined the Caterhams and Marussias in failing to progress to Q2.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
|17||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1’39.250|
|19||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1’40.491|
Vettel had done the minimum three laps to gain a place in Q2 and only had to do the same to reach the final ten. Webber needed just two laps more to secure his spot in the top-ten shoot-out.
Neither Ferrari had looked particularly quick in Q1 but Fernando Alonso pulled a rapid lap out of the bag to reach Q3, leaving Felipe Massa behind.
But the most surprising elimination of Q2 was Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes, which ended the session 14th fastest as Rosberg grappled with the W04’s handling.
And while one Williams had gone out in the first part of qualifying the other – belonging to Valtteri Bottas – reached Q3 for only the second time this year.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
|11||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’38.131|
|12||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1’38.139|
|16||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’38.696|
In theory ten drivers were in competition for pole position but really there were only two drivers in it – each wielding a Red Bull RB9. And to begin with it was Webber who took the initiative, Vettel unable to match his pace on their first runs.
Webber maintained the upper hand initially as the pair returned to the track for their final attempts. Despite a couple of mistakes at the end of the lap he lowered his time again.
But that slight error gave Vettel the opportunity he needed. A clean run through the end of the lap saw him deny Webber pole position by one tenth of a second.
Grosjean had been unhappy with his Lotus’s handling at the beginning of Q3 but claimed ‘best of the rest’ behind the Red Bulls – although the deficit was in excess of eight tenths of a second.
Nico Hulkenberg claimed a second-row qualifying position for the second time this year, bumping Lewis Hamilton and Alonso back to row three.
Kimi Raikkonen may be absent but nonetheless there are two Finnish drivers in the top ten – his replacement Heikki Kovalainen, eighth for Lotus, and Bottas who took ninth for Williams.
Top ten in Q3
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’36.338|
|2||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’36.441|
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