Sebastian Vettel has secured the 44th pole position of his career with a stunning lap set late in the session to secure the top spot for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.
Vettel’s laptime of 1:36.338, set in the dying moments of the final period of qualifying, proved just enough to pip his team-mate Mark Webber to pole, with the Australian just a single tenth down on the German, while Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg will fill the second row of the grid with third and fourth fastest for Lotus and Sauber respectively.
The final session to the finalise the grid for the Sunday’s race was dominated by the two Red Bull’s, who had the benefit of an extra set of fresh medium tyres, having cleared Q1 on the hard compound Pirelli’s.
Mark Webber topped the timesheets with his initial run in Q3 and looked set to beat his team-mate to pole for the second consecutive qualifying session, but while the Australian improved on his second run, it was not enough to hold off Vettel, who produced a stunning final sector to beat the outgoing Red Bull man to pole position, his eighth of the year.
Romain Grosjean proved to be the Red Bull pair’s closest challenger in qualifying, but the Lotus man was over eight tenths of a second down on Vettel’s pole time, ending the session third overall.
Nico Hulkenberg once again delivered a stand out performance for Sauber, the German will start fourth on the grid alongside Grosjean.
Lewis Hamilton could manage no better than fifth in the first of the Mercedes, with his team-mate Nico Rosberg stuck down in 14th, although the German will start 13th as a result of Jenson Button’s penalty, which will see the 2009 champion relegated to 16th on the grid.
Fernando Alonso salvaged sixth for Ferrari, ahead of Sergio Perez’s McLaren and Heikki Kovalainen, whose fine performance to earn eight on the grid will vindicate the Lotus team’s decision to choose him to substitute for Kimi Raikkonen.
Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas will be disappointed to only start ninth for Williams, having topped the opening period of qualifying before proceeding to Q3 with the fourth fastest lap in Q2, while Esteban Gutierrez will join the Finn on the fifth row with tenth for Sauber.
Adrian Sutil and Pastor Maldonado suffered the indignity of being eliminated in the opening knock-out session, the Force India man was forced to stop out on track with a break failure, while the Venezuelan pointed the figure at his Williams team, for his poor performance after qualifying 1.5 seconds down on his team-mate, the aforementioned Bottas in Q1.
Giedo van der Garde won the battle of the new teams with 19th fastest overall, but Jules Bianchi managed to split the two Caterhams, with Pic in 21st ahead of Max Chilton, who props up the table in last.
Qualifying – Classification:
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m36.338s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m36.441s +0.103s
3. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m37.155s +0.817s
4. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m37.296s +0.958s
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m37.345s +1.007s
6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.376s +1.038s
7. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.452s +1.114s
8. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m37.715s +1.377s
9. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m37.836s +1.498s
10. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.034s +1.696s
11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.131s +1.066s
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m38.139s +1.074s
13. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.217s +1.152s
14. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.364s +1.299s
15. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m38.592s +1.527s
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.696s +1.631s
17. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m39.250s +1.429s
18. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m39.351s +1.530s
19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m40.491s +2.670s
20. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m40.528s +2.707s
21. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m40.596s +2.775s
22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.401s +3.580s
Image courtesy of Pirelli Media