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Sebastian Vettel has picked up another pole position in India, leading Mark Webber in the third consecutive Red Bull front row lock-out. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button form an all-McLaren second row, with Fernando Alonso fifth for Ferrari. Both Force Indias were eliminated in Q2 and Narain Karthikeyan starts his home Grand Prix 23rd.
Heading into Formula 1’s 17th qualifying session of 2012, all Red Bull’s rivals could do was wonder what on earth could be done to prevent another blue front row. The answer was nothing, as Vettel easily took the top spot with his best effort of 1:25.283; this edged out Webber by less than half a tenth, but the fastest McLaren was three tenths off pole.
There were no major surprises in Q1, with HRT managing to stay ahead of Charles Pic’s Marussia. Heikki Kovalainen was out-qualified by Caterham team-mate Vitaly Petrov for the fifth time this year, just as the Finn threw his car into the gravel trap at Turn 11. Ahead of the three newest teams, Daniel Ricciardo removed himself from the drop zone which meant that Toro Rosso partner Jean-Éric Vergne was out at the first hurdle for the seventh time.
In Q2, Lewis Hamilton proved that McLaren could be rapid on the back straight as his McLaren hit the rev limiter. For Ferrari, the same piece of track had been used for Alonso to gain a tow behind Felipe Massa, but Red Bull’s speed in the high-speed, twisty second and third parts of the lap again proved unbeatable. The same could not be said for Romain Grosjean, who made a mistake and ended up 11th after running across the grass.
‘Disappointment’ did not sum up the general emotion at Force India. Vijay Mallya’s wish of seeing his two cars first-on track in qualifying was granted, but a non-appearance in Q3 was certainly not in the script for the team’s home Grand Prix. Nico Hülkenberg and Paul di Resta will line up 12th and 16th, with Bruno Senna, Michael Schumacher and Kamui Kobayashi also taking early baths when progressing to the top ten shootout could have been possible.
As Q3 began, sole Mercedes representative Nico Rosberg chose to bed in a set of Hard compound tyres before returning to the pits and settling for tenth place. Back on-track, Kimi Räikkönen – feeling the effects of Lotus’ lower budget in comparison with Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren – pushed hard to achieve seventh spot, ahead of Sergio Pérez and Pastor Maldonado. The Sauber driver should receive particular credit for managing eighth place, though, as on Friday he missed the entire first practice session after being taken ill.
At the front, the championship-leading teams were flying in formation, with Red Bull making history by picking up their first ever third successive front row lock-out. Hamilton was congratulated by McLaren, having managed to beat Button, as Massa slotted in behind Alonso despite registering the best opening sector time on his final run. Alonso will now be hoping that a typically flying start can allow him to mix up the McLarens on Sunday.
Pole position for Sebastian Vettel is a fifth of the season for the reigning double World Champion, also marking Red Bull’s seventh pole of 2012. Last year, Vettel utterly dominated in India by sealing pole, victory and fastest lap. History could well repeat itself tomorrow.
Sunday’s 2012 Indian Grand Prix starts at 3pm local time (GMT +5:30) and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report
|1.||S. Vettel||Red Bull||01:25.283||13|
|2.||M. Webber||Red Bull||01:25.327||17|
|10.||N. Rosberg||Mercedes||no time||23|
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