Vettel takes vital pole position at Austin over his championship rival

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel is edging closer to his third drivers’ title after taking pole position at the Circuit of the Americans.

The Red Bull driver was quickest in all three practice sessions at Austin and he underlined the superior performance in the Renault-powered RB8 to take his 35th career pole at Austin, Texas.

His title rival Fernando Alonso could only managed ninth in the Ferrari.

In a Q3 battle that saw everyone driving around on long runs trying to bring their tyres to life, Vettel put in a lap of one minute, 35.877 seconds.

There was two minutes to the chequered flag and he nearly got upstaged by Lewis Hamilton. The margin between the Red Bull and McLaren was only 0.051 seconds.

Vettel started another flying lap and went quick still, crossing the start/finish line at one minute, 35.657 seconds.

Hamilton was still setting very competitive sector times on his final attempt, but in the end, fell up a tenth short.

However, the McLaren driver still prevented an all-Red Bull front row, forcing Mark Webber down to third.

Lotus showed very strong form in fourth and fifth with Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, although the former will drop back five positions due to a gearbox change penalty.

That will elevate Michael Schumacher into the top five. Just as his Formula One career appeared to be limping to a depressing end, the seven-time champion showed great form throughout Austin qualifying to go sixth quickest.

Alonso struggled to make his Ferrari’s tyres work in Q3, weaving frantically between flying laps.

His Scuderia team-mate Felipe Massa managed better and took seventh position, with Alonso back in ninth between the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado.

This was not the ideal scenario for Alonso. Starting on the dirty side of the grid while his main championship rival starts from the front.

Hamilton was the only McLaren in the top ten shoot-out. An apparent throttle problem left Jenson Button crawling back to the pits in Q2, and he was pushed down to P12.

Jean-Eric Vergne’s P14 marked his best qualifying result since the Spanish Grand Prix. The Frenchman has been eliminated in Q1 eight times this year, but at Austin it was his Toro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who dropped out.

Q3 remained elusive for Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta, who were P11 and P13 as their respective team-mates Maldonado and Hulkenberg made it to the final segment.

Sauber had been among the teams most concerned about tyre warm-up issues following practice and in qualifying, those problems became a big issue. Sergio Perez – racing in front of a large Mexican spectator contingent – and Kamui Kobayashi were a long way off the pace in P15 and P16.

Nico Rosberg was a full 1.4 seconds slower compared to his Mercedes team-mate Schumacher in Q2, and that resulted in a disappointing P17.

Marussia ended Q1 in a positive mood after beating Caterham. Both Timo Glock and Charles Pic were quicker than the leading Caterham of Vitaly Petrov. In fact, the margin was 0.8 seconds based on Glock’s lap time.

Despite its troubled start to the United States Grand Prix weekend, and Narain Karthikeyan parking at Turn 2 with a mechanical problem, HRT got both cars within the 107 per cent qualifying margin with several tenths to spare.

Qualifying positions for the United States Grand Prix:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m35.657s
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m35.766s
3.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m36.174s
4.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m36.708s
5.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m36.794s
6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m36.937s
7.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m37.141s
8.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m37.300s
9.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        1m36.587s*
10.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m37.842s
11.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m37.604s
12.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m37.616s
13.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m37.665s
14.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m37.879s
15.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m38.206s
16.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m38.437s
17.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m38.501s
18.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m39.114s
19.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth    1m40.056s
20.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m40.664s
21.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m40.809s
22.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m41.166s
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m42.011s
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m42.740s

107 per cent time: 1m43.317s

*Five-place penalty for gearbox change

15 thoughts to “Vettel takes vital pole position at Austin over his championship rival”

  1. Championship leader Sebsastian Vettel will focus on the race on Sunday and will ignore Fernando Alonso’s plight. has the story.

    Sebastian Vettel will exclusively focus on his own race after securing pole position for the United States Grand Prix as Formula 1 championship rival Fernando Alonso struggled.

    The Ferrari driver will start from eighth position after a difficult qualifying. Vettel secured his sixth pole position of the 2012 season.

    Vettel, 10 points ahead of Alonso in the standings, will be champion on Sunday if he wins the race and Alonso finishes outside the top four.

    The Red Bull driver insisted he was not getting ahead of himself.

    “There’s not much to feel. We have to look after ourselves,” said Vettel. “I am happy we had a smooth session with no issues. Yesterday afternoon was not ideal, but these things can happen and they might happen again.

    “It is the best strategy to keep your head down and try to do your best. I am very happy with the result but so far nobody has scored any points.

    “We saw in the last race how quickly things can change and starting from the back gives you opportunities. We will focus on our race and tomorrow aim to seal the constructors’ title for the team.”

    The world champion said the problems he suffered during second practice on Friday will not affect his race performance.

    “Not really. We could get a decent run on lower fuel. The boys did a good job to get the car ready in time to have enough for a short run. It was very important, otherwise we would have been a little bit in the dark.

    “Obviously you can’t tick all the boxes you would like for Sunday, but if anything we missed a little on the short runs.

    “I think we can say we were quite competitive and happy with the results today.”

  2. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was taken by surprised as to how close compared to Sebastian Vettel after qualifying. has the details.

    Lewis Hamilton admitted he did not expect he would be able to get anywhere near Red Bull’s pace in United States Grand Prix qualifying.

    The McLaren was the only driver who could threaten Sebastian Vettel, who had dominated practice and looked assured of pole from the outset.

    Hamilton was able to push the second Red Bull of Mark Webber back to third, and got within 0.109 seconds of Vettel.

    “I’m very, very happy with my lap,” said Hamilton.

    “I saw in Q2 they were massively quicker, a second or nine tenths. I didn’t know where I would find that.

    “I went into Q3 and pushed as hard as I could, and found everything. I found more time in the last sector. I did two laps consecutively and surprisingly the second lap was quicker.

    “On that lap I was on the limit everywhere. I think I lost about a tenth at the last corner – I gained it on the way in and lost it on the way out – but still I’m really, really happy to be where I am.”

    But Hamilton acknowledged that starting on the dirty side of the grid in second place might prove to be a disadvantage.

    “I am not really concerned about the first corner, I’m more concerned about the dirty side of the grid,” he said.

    “I did a launch from it in P3 and it is quite slippery.

    “It is so wide in Turn 1, I don’t think much can go wrong.”

  3. Red Bull’s Mark Webber is under investigation by the United States Grand Prix stewards for allegedly missing a weight check in qualifying.

    Race officials said the incident happened at 12:19 local time, near the end of Q1.

    Webber had qualified third on the grid, two places behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

    “I’m happy with the last part of Q3,” the Australian said at the end of qualifying.

    “I had to manage a little problem in Q3 – and did a strong laptime.

    “I would have liked to have had more pace but I’m happy with third on the grid, and we can have a very strong grand prix from there.

    “Constructors’ wise we have an eye on that to put that to bed. That would be a huge result for everyone at Milton Keynes and Renault.”


  4. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is quite certain he will outscore his championship rival Sebastian Vettel on Sunday despite a poor qualifying session. has the news story.

    Fernando Alonso is convinced he will reduce the gap to Sebastian Vettel in the championship in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix despite starting seven places behind the German.

    Vettel secured his sixth pole position of the year at Austin on Saturday as his only title rival struggled for pace and finished down in ninth position.

    Alonso will start from eighth thanks to a penalty for Lotus’s Romain Grosjean.

    The Ferrari driver, who was outqualified by team-mate Felipe Massa for only the second time this year, said his position was no surprise to him.

    “Yes, we expected it,” Alonso said. “We knew it was going to be complicated. We started seventh in Abu Dhabi and eighth here, so more or less the positions have been the same.

    “As always, the race is tomorrow. I still think that tomorrow we are going to reduce the gap to Sebastian, which is what counts.

    “He starts from pole and he has a very strong pace, but the race will be long and let’s see if we can seize our opportunities.”

    The Spaniard needs to finish in at least fourth position to keep his championship hopes alive if Vettel wins the race, but he insisted he remains confident about his prospects.

    “We’ll see how the start goes. If he wins the race and then wins again in Brazil he will be champion and deservedly so.

    “We are fighting to make it into Q3, so we have got here miraculously and we are going to try to hang on to hope.

    “As I said, for whatever reason, I have the strange feeling that tomorrow we will reduce the gap.”

  5. McLaren’s Jenson Button is concerned about the first-lap chaos following a poor qualifying session. has the details.

    Jenson Button fears he is at risk of getting caught up in a chaotic first corner after a technical problem left him 12th on the United States Grand Prix grid.

    An apparent throttle issue forced the McLaren to return to its garage near the end of Q2 at Austin.

    Having recently been eliminated in first-lap chaos in Korea following a troubled qualifying session, Button admitted the chances of a shunt at Austin’s distinctive first corner were playing on his mind.

    “It’s going to be a long day. I don’t think it’s that easy to overtake here. I think it will still be a fun afternoon,” he said.

    “But Turn 1 is the tricky bit, starting from the middle of the pack.

    “I was there a couple of races ago and it didn’t end well for me so we’ll see what we can do.

    “Hopefully we can put on a great show for the American fans here.”

    The Briton said it was too soon to identify what had caused his McLaren to slow.

    “I don’t really know what the issue is. We’re looking at the data,” he said.

    “But top speed was probably about 100 km/h, so we had a problem.”

    Button was relieved that he had at least managed to get a reasonably competitive Q2 time in before the issue struck.

    “I did get one lap in and luckily enough I pushed on that lap otherwise I would be starting 17th,” he acknowledged.

    The problem came amid a run of technical glitches for McLaren in recent races. The team remains adamant that the failures are unrelated rather than evidence of fundamental problems, and Button said the latest issue would definitely hurt.

    “It’s something that McLaren doesn’t take lightly, we’ll definitely feel it, as they do every reliability issue,” he said.

    “We’ll make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

  6. Heikki Kovalainen is certain that his Caterham team will beat main rival Marussia in the United States Grand Prix despite admitting that it underperformed in qualifying.

    The Finn qualified down in 22nd position, while team-mate Vitaly Petrov managed one place better.

    Both men, however, qualified behind the Marussias of Timo Glock and Charles Pic for the first time this season.

    But Kovalainen insisted this did not mean Marussia was now faster.

    “Qualifying today was as expected, struggling to get the tyres working on short runs,” he wrote on his Twitter account, “but tomorrow we will beat both Marussias. We are the better team.”

    The Finn said Caterham’s qualifying strategy had not worked.

    “We underperformed today, it’s really that simple,” said Kovalainen. “We went with a plan that didn’t work and unfortunately both Vitaly and I weren’t able to get enough heat into the tyres to get the best out of them, or manage the traffic well enough to get a clean lap in.

    “Tomorrow’s another day so now we need to regroup and have a better performance in the race than we did today.”

    Petrov also blamed traffic issues for failing to achieve a better result, and reckons Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT stopping at the end of the session also hurt him.

    “Quali obviously didn’t go how we wanted it to,” he said. “I had traffic issues on every lap and wasn’t able to put a clean lap together, but even without that we’ve struggled with the tyres here all weekend and that showed today.

    “It was bad timing for us that the HRT stopped on track just when Heikki and I were on our quickest laps and having been stuck behind them, but you can’t plan for that so we need to put today behind us and hopefully we’ll be better tomorrow.”


  7. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa fears for even-number starters at Austin due to the lack of grip. has the story.

    Felipe Massa believes the start of the United States Grand Prix will be a disaster for anyone on the ‘even’ side of the grid – where both Ferraris are set to start.

    Although Massa and team-mate Fernando Alonso qualified seventh and ninth at Austin, they will both gain a place – and switch sides of the grid – when Romain Grosjean’s gearbox-change penalty takes effect.

    “I think it will be the biggest difference you ever saw at a start,” said Massa.

    “It will be massive. This morning I did the start on the left, and I was slower than in the wet.”

    The Brazilian said the start issues will be exacerbated by the difficulties with tyre warm-up at Austin, which he felt was Ferrari’s key issue in qualifying.

    “The problem we have here is the tyres are too hard for this track. The warm-up is really difficult,” Massa said.

    “You go out of the garage and it is like you are driving on ice. It takes forever to get temperature in the tyres.

    “Every lap you do, you improve on the next lap, as you have the grip, so the best lap is always the last.

    “It was better in Q2 than Q3, but I did more laps, so that was better for the tyres.

    “In Q3 I didn’t do a really clean, perfect lap, but I’m sure having less laps on the tyres was not helping.”

    Although Alonso’s championship hopes are on the line with title rival Sebastian Vettel storming to pole, Massa said he would not just be trying to help his team-mate progress on Sunday as Ferrari was still in a constructors’ championship tussle with McLaren.

    “We’re fighting with McLaren for second place in the championship,” he said.

    “It’s very important for us. The target for tomorrow is to do the best we can to score points for the constructors’ championship.

    “Fernando is not starting in a great position, but if I can help him, for sure I will do everything I can to help.”

  8. After out-qualifying Caterham, Marussia are now saying it has an edge over their rivals. has the news story.

    Marussia team boss John Booth believes the United States Grand Prix qualifying results show his squad is now faster than rival Caterham.

    For the first time this season, both Charles Pic and Timo Glock qualified ahead of Caterham drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov.

    Kovalainen said after qualifying that he was convinced Caterham was the better team and that it will beat Marussia on Sunday.

    Booth, however, feels the result is the reward for his team’s development push since the halfway point of the season.

    “Today is an important day for the whole team as it represents the culmination of the aggressive development programme we have undertaken since the mid-season,” said Booth.

    “We have demonstrated that we are now faster than the Caterhams after both cars achieved the objective of outqualifying them.”

    Glock was the quickest of the Marussia drivers in 19th position, finishing nearly a second ahead of the fastest Caterham.

    The German was delighted with his day.

    “We are almost 0.8 seconds ahead of the Caterhams and we have to be very pleased with that,” he said.

    “This is great development from the team and although it seems like we remind everyone every race just now, we’ve managed all that without the advantage of KERS and that is a significant point.

    “I’m very excited for the race and I hope we can continue the good work.”

  9. Ferrari’s decision to use scrubbed tyres in Q3 at Austin had no influence on its poor qualifying result, insist drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.

    Amid major tyre warm-up issues, the duo eschewed fresh rubber for the start of the pole shoot-out, but still struggled more than rivals and did not feature at the front.

    But when asked by AUTOSPORT if Ferrari had made a tactical error Massa said he was confident the tactic had been correct.

    “The last lap is the best,” said Massa. “Normally it is a mistake if you don’t use the tyres at the beginning [of their lives]. But it’s not the case.”

    Alonso felt the tyres had not been a huge factor in Ferrari’s struggle and that it was another case of it lacking qualifying pace relative to his title rival Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull, which claimed pole.

    Asked about the scrubbed tyre choice, Alonso replied: “I think it was very similar. I think there was no difference.

    “We decided to start with the scrubbed thinking it was not better or not worse. I don’t think there was any problem with that.

    “We were positions seventh and ninth in Abu Dhabi [qualifying]. The car is more or less the same. We are positions seventh and ninth in Austin. It’s not surprising for us, to be honest.”

    Alonso stood by his post-qualifying declaration that he was certain he could beat Vettel on Sunday despite starting so far behind.

    “We said yesterday after qualifying Red Bull will probably be one and two, we will probably be seventh or eighth and people will say it’s all over,” Alonso said.

    “Then on Sunday we will show that we can score more points than Vettel. I don’t know how, but we have this feeling inside.”


  10. Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher will not be sanction following a qualifying incident with Fernando Alonso. has the details.

    Michael Schumacher has escaped any punishment for his incident with Fernando Alonso in Q2 at Austin.

    The United States Grand Prix stewards spoke to both drivers after Schumacher appeared to impede Alonso during the second part of qualifying.

    The near-miss prompted furious gestures and angry radio messages from Alonso.

    But after looking into the incident, the officials decided no action was required as neither driver was on a flying lap at the time.

    “Both drivers advised that they were on their first (preparation) lap of a multi-lap stint and were able to continue their respective laps,” said a stewards’ statement.

    Schumacher produced his best qualifying performance since September’s Italian GP as he took sixth in Q3. That will become fifth on the grid thanks to Romain Grosjean’s penalty for a gearbox change.

    Alonso could only manage ninth place in qualifying, though he will also benefit from Grosjean’s demotion.

  11. As for Mark Webber, the Red Bull driver escapes with a reprimand over weight check following the qualifying session at Austin. has the story.

    Mark Webber has been reprimanded for having missed a weight check during qualifying for the United States Grand Prix.

    The Australian Red Bull driver was under investigation after officials said he had missed a call to be weighed near the end of Q1.

    Webber went on to qualify in third position.

    The stewards gave the Australian a reprimand for the incident, meaning he will was able to keep his grid slot for Sunday’s race.

    “The driver failed to proceed directly to the FIA garage for weighing when signalled to do so,” said the stewards. “However upon realising the error, the team brought the car back to the FIA garage immediately.”

  12. Kimi Raikkonen described Lotus’s strong United States Grand Prix qualifying form as a pleasant surprise given how badly it had struggled with tyre issues in practice.

    The Abu Dhabi race winner had hoped on Friday that Lotus would find form once the surface of the new Austin track cleaned and it became easier to get this weekend’s medium Pirellis into their operating window.

    As Lotus continued to struggle in practice, it looked unlikely that the team would be a frontrunner.

    But in qualifying Romain Grosjean and Raikkonen were able to take fourth and fifth places. Grosjean will move back five positions due to a gearbox-change penalty.

    “I think it’s been very difficult to get the car working at some races where it’s been difficult to get the tyres working,” said Raikkonen.

    “I really expected a much more difficult qualifying, but luckily it warmed up a bit and we got the tyres working a bit better.

    “It’s still not 100 per cent what we want, but it’s getting there, so this is pretty good after how difficult it’s been.”

    The Finn admitted that Grosjean’s penalty was a mixed blessing for him, as it would elevate his car onto the dirty side of the grid in fourth.

    “I’d probably rather take fifth place but if we can make a good start hopefully we won’t lose too many places,” Raikkonen said.

    Grosjean was particularly pleased with his qualifying pace given his gearbox drama in practice.

    “The guys did an awesome job to change the gearbox between P3 and qualifying. It was really tight,” he said.

    “So it’s good to be able to do that – miss half of P3, then jump in and just go for it.

    “I think we did quite well today. It’s good to be back at the front in qualy.”


  13. The United States Grand Prix stewards have decided not to take any action against Sergio Perez or Charles Pic over their collision in final practice.

    Pic’s Marussia was punted into a spin at Turn 7 when Sauber driver Perez tried to pass down the inside.

    Although Perez made his move from a long way back, Pic was on a slow lap at the time and running off the pace. The Marussia suffered minor floor damage in the clash.

    A statement from the officials said: “Having heard from both drivers, the stewards are satisfied this was a racing incident.”

    Had Perez received any censure for the incident, it would have resulted in a grid penalty.

    The Mexican had already accrued two reprimands this month, one for impeding Bruno Senna in Abu Dhabi GP qualifying and the other for delaying Pic’s team-mate Timo Glock on Friday in America.


  14. Marussia wanted a grid penalty on Sergio Perez over the clash with Charles Pic during final practice. has the details.

    Marussia’s sporting director Graeme Lowdon was surprised Sergio Perez got away without a penalty following his clash with Charles Pic during final practice at Austin.

    Perez made contact with the Marussia driver some 20 minutes into the session, spearing the Frenchman’s car at Turn 7 after leaving his braking too late.

    The crash, which the stewards deemed was a racing incident, damaged the floor of Pic’s car.

    Lowdon believes it was clear that Perez was at fault.

    “It looked to me like a guy driving into one of our cars,” Lowdon told AUTOSPORT. “Our car was in front, you could clearly see it. It’s a big enough track and he was in full control of his car.

    “So it’s a bit of a surprise they ended having a collision.”

    Lowdon revealed the damage to Pic’s car was more severe than initially thought, and said the mechanics had to work flat out to get the car ready for qualifying.

    He also believes the incident had compromised Pic’s work.

    “It was really unfortunate for Charles, because it pretty much ruins what we can learn on the car from that session, because the floor was completely ruined,” he said.

    “It was a real tight job to get that car back in qualifying condition for qualifying. It could have ruined his qualifying as well. The mechanics had to an amazing job making sure it was put back together.

    “There was a huge amount of damage. It didn’t look like it when we finished the session and it compromised Charles’s weekend.

    “I only saw the replay once but it’s surprising to see. That said, the stewards have access to all that stuff and they made the decision, and that’s what it is.”

    Despite the problem, Pic qualified in 20th position, behind team-mate Timo Glock but ahead of both the Caterhams.

  15. Mercedes stands by its decision to switch Nico Rosberg back to an older car specification for United States Grand Prix qualifying, despite him struggling to 17th on the grid as a result.

    Rosberg’s car reverted to a standard exhaust rather than the Coanda effect system used since the Singapore GP in September.

    While he could only manage 17th, his team-mate Michael Schumacher was sixth in the latest car.

    Rosberg said he had been content to follow the team’s strategy and was taken aback by his lack of qualifying speed.

    “We tried our car from four months ago, practically,” he said.

    “On Friday we tried it, but not for one lap, on a long run. And on a long run it looked good, not too far off Michael’s car.

    “But then this morning I was in our current car and we decided ‘let’s give it a go’ and for qualifying changed to the older version because it wouldn’t be too different and maybe there was something we could learn.

    “So we did that and it put me much further back than expected. It’s very, very surprising to lose that much performance.”

    Team boss Ross Brawn said the speed deficit was exacerbated by Rosberg’s car failing to generate tyre temperature.

    “What became critical was getting the tyres warm,” Brawn conceded.

    “Every car had to do quite a lot of laps to get the tyres warm, and with Nico we just fell off that edge with getting the tyres hot enough.”

    Rosberg insisted the move was still useful even though it compromised his weekend.

    “The positive is that we learned something. And also that if you look at what Michael did and what I did, it proves we’re doing well on development and we are moving forward quickly,” he said.

    Brawn also defended the strategy, saying 2012 results are less important to Mercedes than rebounding properly in 2013.

    “I think the stuff we’re doing with Nico is all very important stuff for next year,” he said.

    “Our priority now is to make sure we go into the winter with as clear an understanding as we can of how the tyres work and how the car’s working so we can come out next year in a much stronger position.”

    Despite his lack of qualifying pace, Rosberg remained hopeful of a better race.

    “One of the reasons we did it was hoping that the race pace would be better, so maybe tomorrow I can be very strong,” he said.

    “It didn’t feel like it today, but you never know.”


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