(formula1.com) — Sebastian Vettel will start from pole position in his quest for a record-equalling ninth consecutive victory after completely dominating the final qualifying session in Brazil on Saturday.
However, in his search for a final victory before retiring from F1 racing, Red Bull team mate Mark Webber will have to deal with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso before he can challenge the new world champion.
There was never any question that Q1 would be wet; the question was how wet. And with more rain imminent Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton went out straight away and in a great piece of opportunism and commitment banged in the fastest lap we would see in the session with a 1m 25.342s. Vettel was out moments later but just came up short with 1m 25.381s, as Rosberg managed 1m 25.556s.
Further back, though Lotus’s Heikki Kovalainen jumped from 14th to fifth and Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne got himself out of trouble, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, Williams’ Pastor Maldonado and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez all failed to improve. The Australian just got through with his previous 1m 27.209s, leaving the Venezuelan as the first faller on 1m 27.367s ahead of the Mexican on 1m 27.445s and an impressive Charles Pic in 19th for Caterham on 1m 27.843s.
The other Caterham of Giedo van der Garde was next on 1m 28.320s, with the Marussias of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton right behind on 1m 28.366s and 1m 28.950s.
It was still raining for Q2, which was slightly wetter. This time it was Lotus’ Romain Grosjean who set the pace with a lap of 1m 26.161s – three-tenths up on Vettel and four on Alonso.
As Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg did 1m 27.441s, Kovalainen was the first man to lose out with 1m 27.456s, which was unfortunate given his team mate’s pace. Paul di Resta was next on 1m 27.798s for Force India, with Valtteri Bottas 13th for Williams on 1m 27.954s.
McLaren duo Sergio Perez and Jenson Button were 14th and 15th on 1m 28.269s and 1m 28.308s respectively, but the Mexican got it wrong trying to go faster and tore off his right-rear wheel and both wings in a shunt right at the end of Q2. Force India’s Adrian Sutil, on 1m 28.586s, completed those who didn’t make it to Q3.
The rain did not abate for Q3, but the start was delayed, initially by 10 minutes, due to the adverse conditions and the Mercedes medical car was sent out to conduct a track assessment. Eventually it was announced that the session would restart at 15.30, after around a 45-minute delay.
Everyone went out on full wets at the start of Q3, but whilst everyone else opted to complete a timed lap, Grosjean came straight in and switched to intermediates. It proved a good move as the Frenchman immediately displaced Vettel’s early best of 1m 28.830s by banging in a 1m 27.773s.
That didn’t last, however. With everyone now on inters, Webber did 1m 27.623s before Vettel beat that with 1m 26.479s. Rosberg then pushed ahead of Webber with 1m 27.555s, was supplanted by Alonso on 1m 27.539s, then grabbed the place back with 1m 27.102s.
Hamilton also improved, but not enough, 1m 27.677s leaving him fifth behind Webber who had trimmed to 1m 27.572s.
Grosjean also disappointed, with 1m 27.737s, as Ricciardo just beat Toro Rosso partner Vergne, 1m 28.052s to 1m 28.081s. Home favourite Felipe Massa could only clock a 1m 28.109s in his Ferrari for ninth, as Hulkenberg struggled to 10th with 1m 29.582s.
With the weather forecast remaining unsettled for Sunday, we could be in for an unpredictable race.
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