World champion Sebastian Vettel took his thirteenth pole position of the season with a commanding performance in qualifying for Formula One’s inaugural Indian Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver was quickest in Q2, and carried that form into Q3 with a provisional pole time of one minute, 24.437 seconds on his first flying lap.
His rivals were unable to beat it and yet Vettel went even quicker to set a lap time of one minute, 24.178 seconds to firmly secure pole position at the Buddh International Circuit.
Following the penalty for Lewis Hamilton, who qualified in second but will receive a three-place grid drop for ignoring yellow flags during Friday’s practice session, it will be an all-Red Bull Racing front row.
Hamilton will now start the race in fifth position while Webber will be promoted from third to second on the grid.
Fernando Alonso was just 0.011 seconds down on Webber in the Ferrari, with Jenson Button next up for McLaren.
Felipe Massa took the sixth quickest time despite crashing in the final moments of Q3 when the Brazilian smashed his front-right suspension over a kerb at Turn Eight, which resulted in him skated off into the gravel at the next corner.
Nico Rosberg was seventh for Mercedes, while the remaining Q3 drivers all chose to sit out the segment to save a set of fresh Pirellis for the race.
Adrian Sutil was classified eighth for Force India while his team-mate Paul di Resta will start in P13. Both Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi also reached Q3 but Toro Rosso opted not to run.
Toro Rosso’s strong performance in qualifying squeezed some likely top ten names outside the Q3 cut. Neither Renault made it with Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna starting the race back in P11 and P15, although Petrov could consider himself unlucky as he equalled tenth-placed Alguersuari’s Q2 time but the Spaniard got there first. The Russian is also carrying a five-place grid penalty for colliding with Michael Schumacher in Korea.
Schumacher also narrowly missed out, by just a margin of 0.018 seconds and will start the Indian Grand Prix in P12.
The Williams of Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello sandwiched Senna in P14 and P16.
It was a tough qualifying session for Sauber. Sergio Perez was only P17 and will take a three-place penalty for the same misdemeanour as Hamilton, while Kamui Kobayashi was eliminated in Q1. The same could have happened to either Button or Schumacher had they not squeezed out strong late laps amid traffic.
HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan qualified ahead of both Virgin Racing for his home race, and will gain another position from his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo taking a gearbox penalty. Another gearbox fault meant Timo Glock was unable to set a lap time.
So yet another impressive performance by Sebastian Vettel in the flying Red Bull. His thirteenth pole position of the season, matching Ayrton Senna’s record. The youngest back-to-back champion is only one pole away from equaling Nigel Mansell’s achievement.
As for the team, this was Red Bull Racing’s sixteenth pole of the year. A superb record in their championship-winning season.
Qualifying positions for the Indian Grand Prix:
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m24.178s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m24.508s
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m24.519s
4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.950s
5. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.474s*
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m25.122s
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.451s
8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes No time
9. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari No time
10. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari No time
11. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.337s
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m26.503s
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m26.537s
14. Bruno Senna Renault 1m26.651s
15. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m27.247s
16. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m26.319s**
17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.876s
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m28.565s
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m28.752s
20. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.562s*
21. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m30.216s
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m30.866s
23. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m34.046s***
24. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m30.238s****
107 per cent time: 1 minute, 32.222 seconds
*Three-place penalty (speeding under double-waved yellow flags)
**Five-place penalty (caused an avoidable accident in the Korean Grand Prix)
***Outside 107 per cent time, will need permission from stewards to start
****Five-place penalty (gearbox change, according to team)