Vettel takes soft option for Indian pole


For once it looks like it isn't all about broadcaster hyperbole aimed at keeping viewers in their seats. For once it looks as though we could have a really fascinating battle on our hands.

While Red Bull has finished 1-2 in all three practice sessions, the uncertainty in terms of the option tyres means that for once the Austrian outfit really does look to be under threat.

Such is the rate at which the options 'fall off the cliff' the teams are going to have to take some brave gambles with some expected to try to qualify on the mediums this afternoon in order that they can start the race on them.

To add to the drama this morning's session was shortened to 38 minutes due to "visibility problems", the yellow smog that is a feature of the region meaning that the emergency helicopter couldn't take off.

Such is the concern surrounding the softs, Sergio Perez claiming that he fears a repeat of the Silverstone debacle, there is talk of drivers attempting to make one set of primes last for almost 50 laps tomorrow.

One really strange thing this morning, in a very strange session, was the lack of improvements in the final runs, nobody significantly improving their times on what should have been their definitive qualifying set-up.

The tyre situation aside, Lotus is looking very strong this weekend with Mercedes just behind. The Ferraris were quick this morning as was the ever-improving Hulkenberg in the Sauber.

Whilst the majority continue to focus on the title 'battle' - which, let's face it, is a foregone conclusion - we continue to say check out the real fights behind, not only in terms of runner-up spot in the Constructors' Championship but those drivers seeking to retain/find seats for 2014.

Whilst it's the Drivers' Championship that gets the kudos, the headlines, it is the teams' version that decides the prize money. Also, in terms of Mercedes, it might give those who hold the purse strings back in Stuttgart a little more faith.

There is more, much more, than the 2014 titles at stake here.

Minutes before the start of Q1, the air temperature is 30 degrees C, while the track temperature is 39 degrees.

There are two DRS zones at, the detection point of the first is 16m before Turn 3 and its activation point is 350m after Turn 3. The second zone's detection point is 10m after
Turn 15, with the activation point 36m after Turn 16.

The lights go green and Gutierrez is first out, the Mexican having a low-key weekend following his success in Japan.

As Gutierrez begins his flying lap, he is joined by Button, Rosberg, Hulkenberg and Sutil. All are on primes.

Gutierrez gets proceedings underway with a 27.529. Shortly after, Rosberg posts 45.785!

As expected, Chilton, Van der Garde, Pic and Bianchi are on the softer rubber.

No sooner has Hamilton posted 27.262 than teammate goes quickest with a 26.622. Moments later di Resta splits the Mercedes duo with a 27.193.

Raikkonen goes second (26.817) having gone quickest in S1 but then messed up the final corner. Shortly after Hulkenberg goes third (26.970), the German also losing time in the final sector.

Perez goes top (26.533) but is almost instantly leapfrogged by Rosberg, the German stopping the clock at 26.252.

With 9:00 on the clock all but Grosjean, Alonso and the Bulls have posted times, the Frenchman being the only one of the quartet on track.

Raikkonen improves to second (26.522), ahead of Perez, Hamilton and Hulkenberg.

Gutierrez turns things on their head by switching to options and posting a 26.057. A move that, if followed by some of the other lesser ranking drivers, could cause a strategic problem for the big guns.

As Alonso begins "three timed laps" on the options, Hulkenberg also switches to the softer rubber. Vettel and Webber also on track.

Alonso goes quickest (25.934) despite only going quickest in S1, and only marginally quicker than Gutierrez. Moments later, Vettel, on primes, goes second with a 25.943, the German quickest of all in the final two sectors.

Webber (options) goes third (25.955), ahead of Gutierrez, Rosberg, Perez and Raikkonen.

Vergne and Maldonado are in the drop zone with 2:21 on the clock, with di Resta and Bottas hovering.

A 25.908 sees di Resta go quickest, the Scot on the softer rubber. Elsewhere, Perez goes quickest in S1.

Raikkonen goes quickest as the track rubbers in, the Finn crossing the line at 25.819. Perez can only manage seventh (26.107).

Webber goes quickest (25.665) as Vettel returns to the pits having settled for his time. The German has dropped to eighth.

Hulkenberg goes quickest in S1 demoting Grosjean to sixteenth, the Frenchman having pitted. A big gamble.

Massa goes fourth (25.793) and Hulkenberg eighth (25.883), thereby demoting Grosjean to seventeenth. Told that he has missed the cut the Frenchman replies: "No way!"

Button is quickest, ahead of Webber, Ricciardo, Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, di Resta and Alonso.

We lose Grosjean, Maldonado, Bianchi, Van der Garde, Pic and Chilton.

A very curious session that changes constantly, Gutierrez, as we said, turning things on their head. Grosjean, along with Vettel, was the only driver who didn't use the option rubber.

Raikkonen is first out for Q2, the Finn, who has admitted that his qualifying performance of late have not been impressive, now Lotus only hope of a strong result here.

Alonso, Hulkenberg, Gutierrez and Sutil are also out early, 'The Hulk' on a set of primes, the rest of softs.

Raikkonen posts 26.279 with Alonso leapfrogging him with a 25.546 moments later. Hulkenberg goes third (26.871) on his primes.

A 25.611 sees Massa make it a Ferrari 1-2, with di Resta going third and teammate Sutil eighth.

All eyes on Rosberg who goes quickest in the first two sectors. Though he loses time in S3 the German goes quickest (25.337), with teammate Hamilton going second moments later.

As Vettel prepares to come out, Ferrari reveals that it has an issue with Alonso's radio.

Bottas posts 26.134 to go sixth as Webber finally leaves the pits. Vettel, along with Gutierrez, yet to make an appearance.

Button splits the Mercedes duo with a 26.548 as Vettel finally heads down the pitlane, the German now sporting options. Ricciardo (12th) and Hulkenberg (13th) are the only drivers on primes.

Going quickest in S2, Webber makes full use of the wide track and then some. At the line the Australian posts 25.097, thereby dropping Raikkonen into the drop zone.

As one would expect, Vettel goes quickest in all three sectors, crossing the line at a mighty 24.568. with 2;15 on the clock, Bottas, , Vergne, Sutil, Ricciardo and the Saubers comprise the drop zone.

Raikkonen improves to third (25.191) having gone quickest in S3. All 16 drivers are on track.

Alonso goes second (25.885) having posted PBs in all three sectors.

Ricciardo improves to eighth, but is it enough? Moments later Hulkenberg goes sixth and Perez seventh.

Vettel remains quickest, ahead of Alonso, Webber, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Perez, Massa and Button.

We lose Ricciardo, di Resta, Sutil, Vergne, Bottas and Gutierrez.

Webber is first out for Q3 and, as expected, he is sporting a set of primes, as is Alonso who follows.

However, when Vettel heads down the pitlane he is wearing option tyres, as are Rosberg, Hamilton, Massa, Perez, Hulkenberg and Raikkonen. Button is on primes.

Webber goes quickest but his time of 37.849 is soon destroyed by Alonso who posts a far more serious 25.826.

No such messing from Vettel who stops the clock at 24.119, the fastest time of the weekend. Moments later Webber improves with a 25.215 while the rest of the drivers head back to the pits.

With 3:00 on the clock only three drivers - Vettel, Webber and Alonso - have posted times.

For the final run, Webber, Alonso, Button and Perez are on primes. A bold move by McLaren whilst Red Bull is hedging its bets.

Rosberg goes second, albeit almost 0.7s off Vettel's pace, with Hamilton subsequently going third (24.941). Nobody can get near Vettel.

Raikkonen goes fifth ahead of Alonso, who locks-up in the final corner, and Perez, while Webber can only manage fourth having had a poor opening sector.

Vettel takes pole ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton, Webber, Massa, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Perez and Button.

Eleventh is Ricciardo, ahead of di Resta, Sutil, Vergne, Bottas, Gutierrez, Grosjean, Maldonado, Bianchi, Van der Garde, Pic and Chilton.

Out of the car, pole-man Vettel grabs a blower and immediately gets to work cooling his front brakes.

He has pole but one has to wonder how it's going to work out for him tomorrow, especially compared to his teammate who will start the race on the primes.

A strong performance from Rosberg, while teammate Hamilton barely got a mention. Webber, unsurprisingly, has a wry smile on his face.

Alonso's qualifying misery continues, the Spaniard once again out-qualified by his teammate, while Raikkonen has his best qualifying session since Hungary.

Another excellent performance from Hulkenberg, whilst McLaren must also look good for a decent points haul tomorrow if its tyre strategy plays out as expected.

Check out our Qualifying gallery, here.

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Published: 26/10/2013
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