#F1 Qualifying Review: Vettel Eases To Pole

Brought to you by TheJudge13  contributor James Parker

2013-Singapore-GP-Saturday-S-VettelUnder the night sky in Singapore, Red Bull man Sebastian Vettel stormed to a confident pole position 1 tenth ahead of a storming Nico Rosberg, with the Lotus of Romain Grosjean rounding out the top 3. Having threatened all through the weekend that pole position was going to be an easy task, Vettel came through and delivered in a session that looked all too easy for the German.

Qualifying 1

Q1 took some time to get going. The track was evolving quickly and with a track temperature of 31 degrees there was certainly grip to be had. After promising to be more competitive in Singapore, both Mercedes cars looked quick on the early runs with Hamilton topping the timesheets with a 1.47.0. Alonso, after admitting that Ferrari need to find more speed this weekend went 2nd early on behind Hamilton – his lock up into turn 1 however proved the Ferrari was still a bit of a handful on the bumpy streets.

The main question of the session however was who could get through solely on the slower medium compound and who was going to throw the dice and take a chance. From the first runs the Red Bulls and the Lotus of Grosjean looked to be playing the card.

Nico Hulkenberg was the first man to bolt on a set of the super soft tyres, and the pace advantage was quickly evident as the German went top with a 1.45.3 and this triggered the likes of McLaren, Mercedes and the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen onto the faster softer compound too.

A driver who was struggling was Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa. Sitting in 18th and in the drop zone with 1 minute to go, he had 1 lap with heavy traffic to get the job done. As the chequered flag dropped the Brazilian went up to 13th and into Q2.

The gamble to stay on the medium compound tyres paid off for the bold Lotus team as well as the more comfortable Red Bulls, with Grosjean managing to squeeze through in 14th place.

It was yet another miserable qualifying session for Paul Di Resta and the Force India team. For the 5th time in 8 races the Scotsman was unable to break into Q2 and fell at the first hurdle. Joining him in the bottom 6 was Maldonado as well as the two Caterhams and Marussias. Caterham is once again looking to be faster than both Bianchi and Chilton.

Qualifying 2

From the early runs in Q2 it was clear that track evolution was continuing to play a big factor in the qualifying session. Both the Mercedes boys posted lap times of 1.43.8 and 1.43.9 respectively on a used set of super soft tyres. Hulkenberg was once again showing strong pace to go up to 4th, whilst Massa was still struggling to get to grips with his Ferrari and was over a second down in 6th place on a set of used super soft tyres.

The big shifts started happening right up at the sharp end however. Both Red Bulls decided to go out for their first runs deep into Q2 and immediately showed their hand. Vettel stormed straight up to the top of the timesheets with a 1.42.9 with his team-mate, Webber, going 2nd  a full 8 tenths down on the German!

The final 2 minutes became a frantic affair and there were a couple of high profile casualties out in Q2. Kimi Raikkonen had been struggling all day with a bad back before getting into the car for Qualifying. Whether or not this was a determining factor is another question, but the Finn was horrendously off the pace and finished the session down in 13th.

Hulkenberg, after showing such promising pace earlier on in Q2, unfortunately found himself down in 11th and therefore out, whilst his team-mate Gutierrez pulled out a storming lap to go 7th and progressing into Q3 for the first time this season.

McLaren’s strategy to only run both drivers once with 2 minutes to go in the session also backfired.  Button managed to scrape through into Q3 in 10th however Perez was not so lucky and could only manage 14th.

Qualifying 3

Q3 was very much a slow burner with a fast paced finish. Only 5 men decided to run early on in the session and it was here where Vettel set the timing screens alight. Becoming the first man out on track, he set an incredible lap time of 1.42.8 to go 6 tenths clear of Rosberg, Webber, Hamilton and Grosjean in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. Ferrari chose not to run and only attempt 1 flying lap, whilst Button opted to set sector times only on his first run.

The confidence of Vettel and his team really showed when it came down to making a decision of running a second time in Q3. Whilst the rest of the top 7 opted to run a second set of super soft compounds in the chase for pole position, Vettel and the team decided to stay in the garage and meaning Q3 was over for the German.

It was a bold move as the previous 2 sessions showed that the track was evolving and getting faster as the qualifying hour wore on. Massa was the first to cross the line and went 6th. Webber then went  2nd slotting in behind his teammate.

However Rosberg pulled out a phenomenal final sector to go 2nd only ninety one thousandths of a second behind pole man Vettel. Grosjean then  displaced Webber to go 3rd while Hamilton could only manage 5th.

At Ferrari a poor qualifying session by Alonso was compounded by the fact he could only manage 7th… behind Massa! It will require a herculean effort from him tomorrow to get close or even beat Vettel. At the moment it does not look good for Alonso, has he lost the championship already?

But all eyes were on Red Bull. The bold move to not go out for a second time by Vettel looked to have almost backfired when Rosberg crossed the line, but the Mercedes man could just not get close enough. With the long run pace looking so strong it is surely Vettel’s race to lose tomorrow.

Paul Hembery © PirelliPirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said:From the start of the weekend it was clear this race was going to revolve around tyre strategy, but the decisions about that strategy affect qualifying as well. So really it all starts from here, with the race strategy already at work as we saw from Q1. Historically, it’s always been important to qualify well up the grid in Singapore, because it’s not the easiest place to overtake, and with the time gap between the two compounds the supersoft was the way to go during qualifying. However, these tyres need to be considered for the race as well.

The fact that qualifying, like the race, is run at night means that there is a different pattern of track and temperature evolution than we see at other venues. While it’s not a particularly hard track in terms of wear, thermal degradation can be quite high and the fact that there are no long straights and the highest number of corners of any circuit of the year, does challenge the tyres. The heavy braking that is another characteristic of this track also increases the heat going through the tyres.

Tomorrow we would expect between two to three stops, but a lot will depend on outside factors such as temperature and safety cars. Because of all the opportunities for strategy, this race looks to be wide open.

The Pirelli mystery strategy predictor

Singapore is one of the hardest races to predict a strategy for, because of the statistically high chance of safety cars. Theoretically, the quickest strategy is a three-stopper but in reality, because of the traffic and likely race conditions, most teams will adopt a two-stopper. So one likely strategy is: start on the supersoft, then change to medium on lap 16 and supersoft again on lap 39. An alternative is exactly the same strategy, but using the medium instead of the supersoft during the final stint.

Starting Grid

Pos. Driver Team Time Laps
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 01:42.8 11
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 01:42.9 17
3 Romain Grosjean Lotus 01:43.1 21
4 Mark Webber Red Bull 01:43.2 12
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 01:43.3 17
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 01:43.9 19
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 01:43.9 15
8 Jenson Button McLaren 01:43.3 16
9 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 01:44.4 16
10 Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber no time 14
11 Nico Hülkenberg Sauber 01:44.6 9
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 01:44.6 14
13 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 01:44.7 15
14 Sergio Perez McLaren 01:44.8 6
15 Adrian Sutil Force India 01:45.2 14
16 Valtteri Bottas Williams 01:45.4 13
17 Paul di Resta Force India 01:46.1 8
18 Pastor Maldonado Williams 01:46.6 10
19 Charles Pic Caterham 01:48.1 6
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 01:48.3 6
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia 01:48.8 6
22 Max Chilton Marussia 01:48.9 6

15 responses to “#F1 Qualifying Review: Vettel Eases To Pole

  1. Vettel will walk it tomorrow. There’s not even a contest. Unless he gets a mechanical issue but this is Red Bull we’re talking about.

    • Apparently Red Bull is worried about his gearbox. Remember they were already marginal in Monza… Maybe they will swop his box before the race… 5places down is better than no place at all…

      • I am surprised there has not been more coverage of this issue! unless Monza was a mere sensor issue, I would change the box, take the penalty, and let the wunderkid perform his magic… it is a smart and conservative way to protect the WCC and WDC points. in addition, shouls Seb, pull off a win, it would go along way to quieting the haters.

        • It was Mark’s gearbox, which went wonky at Monza. They told Vettel to short-shift only as a precaution.

          • funny that… Mark sounds like a car breaker! Interesting when Sky did the analysis on Vettel and Webber’s qualifying. Vettel just has so much more confidence in the car. Absolutely committed through the corners and early on the throttle.

    • I thought both Red Bulls were suffering from worn gearboxes, but nothing seems to have been mentioned about that. Maybe there is a chance of some interest in the race, instead of the usual outcome.
      On a different note… a lot has been done to improve the chances of overtaking in races now, with KERS and DRS zones being added. Why then do we have so many race tracks designed by one man, who designs dull circuits with few chances of overtaking? Apart from Monaco, which I would ditch from the calendar, most of the best races come at the older circuits, in my opinion.

      • I remember most people complaining about Spa and Monza being dull. But that may have just been because the winner was the wrong guy.

        • Well, neutrals will never like to see only one guy winning. It’s only after a few years down the line that people will really give Vettel and Red Bull credit for the being the massively dominant force they are *now*. I was among the Schumacher-Ferrari haters back in 2000-2004, but after 2010, my view on them changed and I came to respect his achievements with Ferrari.

          Regarding Spa and Monza, Red Bull were historically always struggling here but for 2013 they did their homework and were incredibly strong. It was always a matter of time before Newey cracks it in low-downforce tracks. And Vettel obviously knows how to get the very best of his car.

          There has been ample comparison between Webber and Vettel and why Webber just doesn’t match Vettel’s machine-like consistency, but maybe Webber has to take more out of his car than Vettel has to to be just about on the same pace, which might just explain why he’s the one getting KERS issues or some other shit. I don’t recall hearing Vettel ever used KERS at all in races (it’s not like he even needs it, given he knows to apply the throttle to get more downforces through corners, etc etc).

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