Normal service was resumed for Sebastian Vettel in Austin this afternoon as he saw off a stern challenge from Abu Dhabi polesitter and team-mate Mark Webber to seize pole position for the US Grand Prix.
Q1’s big name casualties were Adrian Sutil and Pastor Maldonado who both fumed at apparent baulking by traffic; Maldonado was hampered by Max Chilton on his final effort while the Force India man came up against so much traffic he was driven to swearing over his radio. Sutil’s problems got even worse when his last chance of saving himself disappeared with a right-front puncture.
Giedo Van Der Garde qualified 19th as fastest of the ‘new’ teams for Caterham.
Maldonado later claimed he ‘didn’t care about this year anyway’, with his focus ‘being on 2014’ – comments that sour the end of his relationship with Williams. He went even further while Q2 was underway, suggesting to journalists in the media ‘pen’ that his engineers had tampered with his car to inhibit his performance.
Q2 proved even more of a shock with Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa all falling victim to the infamous ‘cut’, prompted by a change in track conditions that caused a flurry of radio messages and drivers pitting to alter setups.
Webber’s 1:36:699 aced Vettel’s lap to take the spoils in the first Q3 runs, but Vettel hit back despite a poor first sector to set a 1:36:338 and reverse the order of the Red Bull front row-lockout.
Romain Grosjean was again the best of the rest, heading an equally-impressive Nico Hulkenberg who will start his Sauber 4th tomorrow. Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso share row three, but are over a second off the pole time, while Sergio Perez, Heikki Kovalainen, Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez round out the top ten.
* Gutierrez and Chilton later recieved penalties for impeding during qualifying. Gutierrez will drop to 20th on the grid, while Chilton must serve a drive-through penalty within the first five laps of the Grand Prix.
What They Say
“It was a tricky session as the wind had picked up quite a bit since this morning; it does influence the behaviour of the car and it’s not that easy, especially in the corners, I wasn’t that happy with my first run in Q3, but I think I had a solid run at the end which was enough. It was very close with Mark, he seemed to get closer and closer as the weekend went on, so fortunately I was just able to stay ahead. I think he might have had a mistake on his final run.” Sebastian Vettel, DEU, Red Bull
“I didn’t think I had done enough on the second run in Q3, we both had two shots with two sets of options. The first part of my final lap was very good, I was happy with that, but I didn’t quite get Turns 19 and 20; if I’d done what I did there initially in Q3, it would probably have been enough, but I tried to squeeze a bit more out and it’s easy to load the car a bit too much in these conditions. Sometimes you’re happy and think you’ve given your best, but today it slipped through the fingers. “ Mark Webber, AUS, Red Bull
“We managed to go through Q1 on the hard tyre which was not the plan initially, but it was a nice surprise and gave us options for the two following sessions. It’s great for the team to have Heikki in the top ten too – especially with Mercedes and Ferrari struggling a little bit – as we’re still fighting them hard in the Constructors’ Championship, so hopefully we can score good points with both cars tomorrow.” Romain Grosjean, FRA, Lotus
“I knew yesterday that we had a good car, but I didn’t really set myself a target for qualifying. I felt that I got pretty much everything I could from it today, as I struggled a bit compared to yesterday with the cooler temperatures this afternoon. Overall, everything’s been positive so far and we got into the top ten. I’m not making any predictions, but we’ve seen that Kimi could do pretty well working forwards from similar grid positions so hopefully tomorrow we can have another good day.” Heikki Kovalainen, FIN, Lotus
“I have felt comfortable with the car over the whole weekend, but it was a different story in Q1 and Q2, as the wind picked up compared to FP3 this morning. It was a tail wind out of turn one and, therefore, also sector one and a bit in sector two. It was tricky, because our car is pretty sensitive to wind. But we made a few changes to it and put it all together in Q3. I think this was the maximum today for us and I am happy with my lap.” Nico Hulkenberg, DEU, Sauber
“That was a really tricky session this afternoon so I have to be pleased with fifth place although, of course, I’d rather have been fighting for a position on the first two rows. The car was quick out there and I had a good balance but we just couldn’t get the tyres to work. The track was completely different from the final practice session this morning and it was really gusty round the back which affected our car quite a lot.” Lewis Hamilton, GBR, Mercedes AMG
“I had real problems getting my tyres into the right working window today and it’s so disappointing to have not gone through to Q3. It was all about finding the right compromise in the conditions which saw very hard tyres on a very soft track surface, and we saw a lot of surprises today as a result. Tomorrow should be warmer which will improve the situation for us but starting so far back is not ideal. “ Nico Rosberg, DEU, Mercedes AMG
“I don’t know what happened. I couldn’t find the balance or the grip. The pace just wasn’t there. That’s tough, especially when we’ve looked pretty quick for most of the weekend. But I don’t know where our pace has gone in qualifying – it’s not the first time it’s happened. It wasn’t necessarily the weather conditions – other drivers seemed to cope – although I guess it may have contributed. We’ll investigate.” Jenson Button, GBR, McLaren
CLASSIFICATION – QUALIFYING – US GRAND PRIX
|12||Di Resta||Force India||1:38:139|
|19||Van Der Garde||Caterham||1:40:491|
*Button 3-place penalty for passing under a red flag in FP1.
**Pic 5-place penalty for a gearbox change.
***Chilton must serve drive-through penalty in first 5 laps of GP for impeding
****Gutierrez handed post-qualifying 10-place penalty for impeding. Starts 20th.