Indian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report

As Expected. Less Expected

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel 

 © Active Pictures

As expected, Sebastian Vettel won the pole for the Indian Grand Prix. Less expected, Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton grabbed the second and third grid places as tire strategy played an important role in all three qualifying sessions.

The ambient air temperature at the start of qualifying was 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), and the track temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius.)

Qualifying 1

Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez got things underway in the 20-minute Q1 session. He also set the first lap time at 1:27.529.

The Mercedes team radioed to Lewis Hamilton that the expected cutoff time to make it into Q2 would be 1:26.5.

6 minutes into the session, Nico Rosberg set the bar at 1:26.622 while his Mercedes teammate Hamilton turned a 1:27.262 that was good enough for second place until Paul di Resta (Force India) beat that with a 1:27.192.

9 minutes into the session, Sergio Perez topped the times with a 1:26.533 in his McLaren, but Rosberg beat that with a 1:26.252.

10 minutes into the session, Red Bull teammates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber along with Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) remained in the pits.

With 7 minutes remaining, Alonso took to the track. Vettel followed him.

With 6 minutes remaining, Gutierrez, now on the soft compound Pirelli, went quickest with 1:26.057. And Webber joined the fun.

With 5 minutes remaining, Ferrari radioed Alonso that he had time for three timed laps. He was on the soft tires. His first was a 1:25.934.

With 4 minutes remaining, Vettel moved into second with a 1:25.934.

With 3 minutes remaining, on softs like Vettel, took third with a 1:25.955.

With 2 minutes remaining, Alonso pitted as di Resta turned a 1:25.908. Red Bull told Webber to do another lap because his time was on the edge.

With a minute to go, Kimi Raikkonen clocked a 1:25.819 in his Lotus as Rosberg moved into second with a 1:25.833. Then Hamilton went ahead with a 1:25.802.

Next, Webber topped the list with a 1:25.665 and Jenson Button (McLaren) beat that with a 1:25.574. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) jumped up to fourth and that pushed Grosjean out. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) set the cutoff time at 1:26.178, and Grosjean was 17th with a 1:26.577.

The top 10 at the end of Q1 were: Button, Webber, Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso), Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber), di Resta and Alonso.

The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado (Williams), Jules Bianchi (Marussia), Guido van der Garde (Caterham), Guido van der Garde (Caterham) and Max Chilton (Marussia.)

Qualifying 2

It had been a shock to see Grosjean knocked out in Q1 because he had been very competitive in the practice sessions. He and the team had gambled and only used the medium compound tires, but so many other drivers switched to the softs right at the end of the session and he was pushed down to 17th.

First out in Q2: Raikkonen – the teammate of the disappointed Grosjean.

Having used the soft tires in Q1, the drivers were using the same set of tires, now used, at the start of Q2. It was essential to save a set of new softs for Q3.

With 10 minutes remaining, Raikkonen posted the first time: 1:26.279, but Alonso beat that with a 1:25.546.

With 8 minutes remaining, the Red Bull drivers had not left the pits. Rosberg took over first with a time of 1:25.337. Hamilton was second with a 1:25.495, but Button beat that with a 1:25.458.

With 4 minutes remaining, Webber and Vettel were out on track on new soft tires. Webber clocked a 1:25.097. Vettel came around and crossed the line with a 1:24.568.

With 3 minutes remaining, Raikkonen grabbed third with a 1:25.191.

With 1 minute remaining, Alonso moved into second place.

The top 10 at the end of Q2 were: Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Perez, Massa and Button.

The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Ricciardo, di Resta, Adrian Sutil (Force India), Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso), Bottas and Gutierrez.

Qualifying 3

Soft or medium tires? That was the question as the 10-minute 10-driver shoot out began. Webber was the first out. He was on mediums. Alonso next, and on mediums. Then Vettel on softs.

With 6 minutes remaining, Alonso clocked a 1:25.826.

With 5 minutes remaining, Vettel slammed in a 1:24.119.

With 4 minutes remaining, Webber set a 1:25.215.

With 3 minutes remaining, only those 3 drivers had set times.

With 2 minutes remaining, all 10 drivers were on track. Raikkonen took over third place.

With less than one minute remaining, Rosberg grabbed second place and Hamilton third. Both were on softs. Webber, on mediums, ended up fourth.

Massa, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Perez and Button filled out the top 10.

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