Sebastian Vettel achieved his 43rd pole position in Formula 1 with a commanding qualifying performance at the Buddh International Circuit.
The Red Bull Racing driver, who is on the verge in winning his fourth consecutive world championship at this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix, was 1.7 seconds faster than his rivals thanks to his first flying lap – a time of one minute, 24.119 seconds – which ultimately became pole.
That statistic was skewed by the fact that all those out on that stage were using medium compound whereas Vettel was on softs.
But even the soft tyre option for Mercedes meant Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were seven tenths off the championship leader as they took second and third.
The shock of qualifying was Romain Grosjean’s Q1 exit. After fighting for the Suzuka victory in the previous race, the Lotus driver will need to get through the field at Buddh having chosen to use medium tyres in Q1.
Vettel was the only other driver who went for that strategy, but while he had no problem getting through in P11, Grosjean could only manage P17.
Mark Webber used the medium sets successfully in Q3 to take P4. He was only 0.928 seconds slower than his Red Bull team-mate, but crucially 0.8 seconds and four positions ahead of next-best medium user Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard’s Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa qualified in fifth, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg for Lotus and Sauber respectively.
McLaren used mediums for both its drivers as Sergio Perez and Jenson Button completed the top ten.
There were no surprises in Q2, with the Toro Rossos and Force India lining up on rows six and seven, ahead of Valtteri Bottas’s Williams and the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez.
Pastor Maldonado joined Grosjean among the Q1 departures, and was only 0.128 seconds clear of Jules Bianchi’s Marussia and 0.265 seconds ahead of Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham.
So a dominant qualifying performance by the defending world champion. His third successive pole at the indian Grand Prix and he is looking very strong in the race judging by the speed in the RB9. Vettel just needs to finish fifth or higher to become world champion.
Qualifying positions for the Indian Grand Prix:
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m24.119s
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m24.871s
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m24.941s
4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m25.047s
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m25.201s
6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m25.248s
7. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m25.334s
8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.826s
9. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m26.153s
10. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m26.487s
11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m25.519s
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m25.711s
13. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m25.740s
14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m25.798s
15. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m26.134s
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.336s
17. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m26.577s
18. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m26.842s
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m26.970s
20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m27.105s
21. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m27.487s
22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m28.138s
107 per cent time: 1m31.564s