Sebastian Vettel failed to finish fastest in any of the three free practice sessions in Brazil this year – but he made it count when it mattered and blitzed the field in a rain-swept qualifying to start on pole for the last race of the V8 era on Sunday.
The first qualifying segment saw most cars rush to the end of the pitlane to bank a lap before the rain decided to come down again, and it was Hamilton who made the most of the conditions to head up Vettel and team-mate Rosberg. Esteban Gutierrez was the main disappointment of the session, ending it P18 behind the Williams of Pastor Maldonado. Jules Bianchi outqualified team-mate Max Chilton, but the Briton could yet recieve a penalty for blocking Romain Grosjean early on.
The second part of qualifying proved even more unpredictable than the first, but the established frontrunners all made their laps count and safely progressed; except for McLaren. Again the silver cars failed to live up to their free practice form and both Sergio Perez and Jenson Button failed to make it, the Mexican smearing his MP4/28 along the inside of the wall at turn four as the chequered flag fell. Heikki Kovalainen was 11th ahead of Paul Di Resta and Valtteri Bottas, while Adrian Sutil was the slowest of the Q2 victims.
Q3 was delayed by almost an hour after the rain intensity increased, but finally got underway at 15:30 local time. In the end the wet conditions did nothing to usurp Sebastian Vettel’s run of success and the German duly collected his 45th career pole position ahead of Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso, while Mark Webber ended his final F1 qualifying session in 4th place. Hamilton was 5th, followed by Grosjean, Ricciardo, Vergne, Massa and Hulkenberg.
“It was a surprise to get that time today. I was happy after Q3, it took a long time for us to get out as there was a lot of rain at the end of Q2. There was too much water on track, which is a shame for the people in the grandstands, but if there’s too much risk of aquaplaning, it’s better to wait. We then got out and I was surprised by how much the water had cleared. I went straight onto the intermediates and was able to get a very good lap in immediately. I tried to beat that and got close, but it wasn’t enough. I was very happy to hear I got pole, I even mixed up Spanish and Portuguese on the radio with my response!” Sebastian Vettel, DEU, Red Bull
“We are where we deserved to be I think, as I didn’t feel that quick in qualifying. The car felt slow and I was struggling for grip. It was tricky for all of us, but we’re on the second row and we can still do something from there. It’s tricky to get it all together in those conditions, I wasn’t too comfortable in Q1 and Q2 on the intermediate tyres, but that’s the way it goes. There’s not much more to add really than it was tricky, it’s easier to be a lot further back in those conditions and we can still do something from fourth, so let’s see tomorrow.” Mark Webber, AUS, Red Bull
“That was a very demanding qualifying session today with really tricky conditions and a long break before the final session. I’m really pleased to have achieved second place on the grid and a big thank you to the team for their work; we did everything right today. My target was to give Sebastian a hard time so I was surprised that the gap was so big in these conditions. I lost time in the last sector compared to him which was down to a lack of KERS power when you do two consecutive quick laps. Being on the front row gives us a great opportunity in the race but the most important thing is to stay in front of the Ferraris.” Nico Rosberg, DEU, Mercedes
“Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a perfect lap, because I went off the track at turn 4. I lost seven or eight tenths there and I think also second place on the time sheet, which I believe was within our grasp today. We know our car is more competitive in the wet and it’s a shame that this year, it’s only rained here, but now we have to look ahead and think about getting on the podium tomorrow, as if we were fighting for the World Championship, because it would be the best way to end the season. Here at Interlagos, you never get consistent conditions and we saw that again today, when we went from an extremely wet track to an almost dry one in ten minutes. That’s why I expect a very hectic race in which we will have to pay maximum attention to not making any mistakes. It will also be necessary to have a perfect strategy and an ability to react very quickly.” Fernando Alonso, ESP, Ferrari
CLASSIFICATION – QUALIFYING – BRAZILIAN GP
|12||Di Resta||Force India||1:27:798|
|20||Van Der Garde||Caterham||1:28:320|