The morale of those hoping to best the three-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel, in the Indian Grand Prix on Sunday should have taken a massive hiding as the German, driving five exhilarating laps in Qualifier 3, clocked the fastest time (1:24.119s) to take the pole position at the Buddh International Circuit on Saturday.
The Red Bulls — Vettel and Mark Webber — were split by the two ‘Silver Arrows’ of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who were quite happy with the way their Mercedes behaved on the track on Saturday.
Rosberg (1:24.871s), who just about managed to beat his teammate Hamilton (1:24.941s) and will start alongside Vettel on Sunday, said: “To be honest, I’m on a knife’s edge. Really pushing the limits this weekend, just trying to extract that little bit more out of the car. Trying different things, new ways, new set-ups and until now it works. So I’m very pleased with that. Qualifying second is better than what I had hoped for.”
Hamilton though seemed to be a bit under the weather. “It’s been a tough weekend for us. Congratulations to Sebastian, it is obvious that it is some serious pace that they have. But we have been pushing as hard as we can. We really want to get a great result this weekend,” the 2008 World champion said.
Red Bull’s pace was all too evident as Vettel effortlessly skimmed in and out of the turns in the middle sector, his rhythm astounding and his flow mellifluous. It was an out and out Vettel show in Q1 and Q2. And the way the last couple of days have gone for him, it is hard to fathom the defending champion not capturing his ultimate prize here barring a shunt.
“So far, it has been a brilliant weekend. The car has run basically very, very well since yesterday (Friday) morning... I am trying not to think about it (the World Championship). Obviously, it’s difficult when every second person in the paddock asks you the same question.
“Yeah, we are in a good position. I think we have a quick package and should be in good shape tomorrow,” said Vettel when asked about his chances of winning the Indian Grand Prix and with it his fourth world title on the trot.
On a day when the qualifiers were largely influenced by the choice of tyres, Fernando Alonso, who is second in the drivers’ standings, proved to be a big disappointment.
The Ferrari driver, who was the second quickest going into Q3 with a time of 1:24.885s, struggled for pace riding on medium tyres. A time of 1:25.826s meant he would start from eighth position on the grid.
The starting grid:
1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:24.119; 2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:24.871; 3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:24.941; 4. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:25.047; 5. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1:25.201; 6. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 1:25.248; 7. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1:25.334; 8. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1:25.826; 9. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 1:26.153; 10. Jenson Button (McLaren) 1:26.487; 11. Daniel Ricciardo (STR) 1:25.519; 12. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1:25.711; 13. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 1:25.740; 14. Jean-Eric Vergne (STR) 1:25.798; 15. Valterri Bottas (Williams) 1:26.134; 16. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1:26.336; 17. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1:26.577; 18. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1:26.842; 19. Jules Bianchi (Marussia) 1:26.970; 20. Giedo van de Garde (Caterham) 1:27.105; 21. Charles Pic (Caterham) 1:27.487; 22. Max Chilton (Marussia) 1:28.138.