Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull team are on a big time roll. Saturday in India, Vettel took advantage of a dominant Red Bull race car and snagged his 35th career pole, out of only 98 total races started by the amazing 25 year-old defending two time champ. Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber came home just a eyelash behind Seb with the 2nd best time and the Red Bull team got to claim their 3rd straight front row lockout. Now Vettel is in the catbird’s seat for taking the Indian Grand Prix on Sunday, and with a win, he will take complete command of the 2012 F1 season, with only 4 rounds left, including this race. Lewis Hamilton took the 3rd spot, meaning he can cling to at least some fading mathematical hope for a title in 2012, which will be his last season with the McLaren team. Vettel’s closest challenger remains Fernando Alonso, who brought his Ferrari in the 5th spot today, behind the McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button in 4th.
Although everything looked perfect for Vettel, even the very best days are not quite as perfect as they may appear, “I was a bit greedy in Turn 4 on my first run,” Vettel said, “I locked up the right front, the car ran straight and I had to abort the lap. My second run was good though and I’m happy to be starting from the best place.”
It actually was Mark Webber who had laid down the fastest lap during the first part of Q3, but his final runs were held up by both McLaren cars on their warmups laps, “I was behind the McLarens, which run slow out laps to prepare for the quick lap, which is not what we do, so I didn’t have the grip on my last run, so I was surprised to finish up second actually, and I’ll take it.”
But Vettel was no doubt pleased to see that there are 3 cars between him and Alonso, since only 6 points separate Fernando from Vettel at the top. So it will be a tough sled for Alonso and Ferrari, who will still be happy with the now solid looking performance they have been getting lately from their recently resigned second driver Felipe Massa, who will start alongside his team mate Alonso in 6th. They will need good performances from both drivers on Sunday to maintain their newly won position of second overall spot in the Constructors title race over their bitter rivals McLaren-Mercedes. The fact that Hamilton and Button’s McLarens are both starting ahead of the 2 Ferrari cars should make for the most compelling battle of the race, since the main drama of both best driver and best race car seem to have already been ceded to the great Sebastian Vettel and the amazing Adrian Newey wonder Red Bull race car.
This new race circuit in India is only on it’s second try with the Formula One cars, which means the new track could also play a role in the final outcome since the teams are not that familiar with every nuance there yet. It does seem like all the drivers enjoy the spanking new Buddh International Circuit since it contains all the elements of a really great race track. Sector one is scary fast and hard braking zones, combining wide long straights with some tight nearly hairpin turns which should be great for overtaking. Then the second section features some twisting high speed turns like the awesome “S’s” in Suzuka, culminating in Turn 10/11, a magnificent multi-apex flat- out sweeping curve like the awesome turn 8 in Turkey, a turn custom made for Vettel’s Red Bull.
Or maybe its the other way around, a turn the Red Bull was custom made for? It makes loads of sense to me, after all, isn’t this kind of turn the very essence of what Formula One is all about? I think this sport is about pushing man and machinery to their very limits, and only a Formula One car and driver can define these kind of turns in 7th gear with 18 thousand red lines and jet pilot high G’s. Which makes the oncoming debut of the new American race in just 3 weeks even more exciting, since the gleaming new Austin Texas circuit also features lots of turns inspired by those historically awesome curves, including it’s own version of a high speed multi apex F1 event horizon.
Vettel and his Red Bull will be a pleasure to watch testing those horizons Sunday along with the rest of the grid. Most of the drama should be behind him in the battle between who has the second best car this year, Ferrari or McLaren-Mercedes? No doubt Alonso will be off the charts ready to pounce on any opportunity he can to stay within sight of Vettel in the title chase. Should be a load of fun to see at 5 am est, a lovely time for the DVR to hum away…
Indian GP – Saturday – Qualifying Session Results
POS DRIVER NATIONALITY ENTRANT TIME
1. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 1:25.283
2. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 1:25.327
3. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.544
4. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.659
5. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari 1:25.773
6. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari 1:25.857
7. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Lotus-Renault 1:26.236
8. Sergio Perez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.360
9. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Williams-Renault 1:26.713
10. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes GP No Time
11. Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault 1:26.136
12. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Force India-Mercedes 1:26.241
13. Bruno Senna Brazil Williams-Renault 1:26.331
14. Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes GP 1:26.574
15. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.777
16. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes 1:26.989
17. Kamui Kobayashi Japan Sauber-Ferrari 1:27.219
18. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:27.525
19. Vitaly Petrov Russia Caterham-Renault 1:28.756
20. Heikki Kovalainen Finland Caterham-Renault 1:29.500
21. Timo Glock Germany Marussia-Cosworth 1:29.613
22. Pedro de la Rosa Spain HRT-Cosworth 1:30.592
23. Narain Karthikeyan India HRT-Cosworth 1:30.593
24. Charles Pic France Marussia-Cosworth 1:30.662