Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor John Myburgh
Vettel took his 45th career pole at a very wet Brazilian GP qualifying. Making no mistake in the treacherous conditions, Vettel stuck his car on pole followed by Rosberg in second and Alonso in third, the latter equaling his season best qualifying result. Afterwards the Spaniard said he thought second was possible but he lost some time through turn four, “I lost seven or eight tenths in Turn Four and I think second could have been possible, but I’m not sad with third. We have an opportunity starting so far up the front.“
After wet practice sessions throughout the weekend and a damp start to the qualifying session it was going to be a gamble for all the teams and a number of questions were to be answered.
Could Mark Webber put it on pole at the last race of his Formula1 career or would Vettel take his 45th pole? Will the speed of the Mercedes in Rosberg’s hand be there when it really mattered and what about his teammate Lewis Hamilton? How will Massa fair in his last qualifying session as part of the Ferrari team and will he be able to out-qualify Alonso again?
We were about to find out.
Q1 started on a damp track with most of the cars queuing up in the pitlane to get a banker lap in with only the Red Bull drivers sat in the garage waiting for the other cars to dry the track. Almost 30min had passed since the last rain fell so what would the session bring us?
Hamilton led the cars and put the first time on the board, crossing the line in 1m25.342. Red Bull must have seen the rain coming again as they sent their cars out shortly after as rain started to fall heavier. Vettel managed to cross the line in 1m25.361 on his first flying lap putting him in second with Rosberg in third on 1m25.556. Webber was caught out though and was in a lowly 17th place and struggling on a now very damp track. He managed to get himself up to 9th as the rain started to get even heaver!
With ten minutes to go Vergne, Pic, Gutierrez, Van Dee Garde, Bianchi and Chilton was in the drop zone. Teams were left scratching their head trying to figure out what to do. Send out their drivers on new Intermediates and push or wait and see what the weather does.
With 7 minutes to go Guttierrez were one of the only cars on track trying to get himself out of the drop-zone. He was joined by the Marussias of Bianchi and Chilton, the team trying to get ahead of the Caterhams of Pic and Van Der Garde. Vergne also joined them on track with a new set of Intermediates to see if he could get out of the drop-zone.
While the top thirteen felt they were safe Kovalainen in 14th, Ricciardo in 15th and Maldonado in 16th felt it necessary to improve their times as well and joined the other four cars on track.
As Q1 finished Vergne managed to drag himself into 15th with Ricciardo dropping down to 16th and not able ti improve. Maldonado was pushed into 17th and out of Q1. He joined Gutierrez, Pic, Van Der Garde, Bianchi and Chilton.
Q2 started in the same way as Q1 with cars queueing up in the pit lane however the smart teams stayed in their pitboxes to keep their tyres as warm as possible. Vettel was the only one who waited to emerge from the pits, a gamble by the World Champion?
Rosberg was the first to cross the line for a timed lap in Q2 and managed 1m26.626 followed by Hamilton in 1m27.044. With the two Mercedes leading the way 3rd position kept on changing until Vettel put in a 1m25.515 to take the lead.
Webber managed to put a half decent lap together to move himself into 3rd before Hamilton pushed him down to fourth.
All was not well at McLaren though. Button, having saved Intermediate tyres in practice was struggling to get out of the drop-zone and so was his teammate Perez. They were joined by Bottas, Di Resta, Sutil and Hulkenberg.
Five minutes to go and Kovalainen bolted on a new set of Intermediate tyres followed by his teammate Grosjean.
Vettel though was still flying and improved his time to 1m26.449. If anyone was hoping the track would get better and dry out it was in vain. Rain kept on falling intermittently allowing very few of the drivers to take it easy. Sitting in the pits could mean missing a potential sweet-spot on the track so the fans were treated to 16 cars pounding out laps, trying to keep on improving.
It paid off for Grosjean as he came round and completed his lap in 1m26.161 and take the lead in Q2. His teammate was not so lucky and was sitting in the drop-zone and in eleventh all while the rain kept on getting heavier.
As the checkered flag dropped Button crossed the line without improving his time and he stayed in 15th beaten by Perez, again! However it was not all celebrations for the little Mexican as he lost the car going through turn 5. A little present for the team that decided to drop him for the 2014 season.
This was the fourth time McLaren failed to make it through Q2 this season. They joined Kovalainen, Di Resta, Bottas and Sutil in the bottom six.
Is this the last time that we will see Di Resta trying to qualify in Formula 1, even though he has out-qualified and sits higher in the drivers standings?
With marshals clearing away the car of Sergio Perez and the rain falling heavier and the start of Q3 was delayed by 47 minutes.
As the session was about to restart Webber, followed by Vettel, made their way down the pit-lane on full wet tyres. They were joined by the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo and as the light went green Hulkenberg left the pits, the latter making the top ten of qualifying again. Rosberg, Hamilton and Alsonso were the next to join the track, all trying to get a banker lap in, just in case the weather turns again.
Webber went top in 1m29.181 and was beaten by Vettel in a time of 1m28.830. Five minutes to go and the order was Vettel, Rosberg, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso Vergne, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Massa.
With three minutes to go teams switched to the intermediate tyres with the drivers believing the track was dry enough. Grosjean was the first to set a time on the intermediates and went top with a time of 1m27.773 however Webber quickly went faster and crossed the line in a time of 1m27.623 and was subsequently beaten by Vettel in 1m26.479.
Next up was the Mercedes pair of Rosberg and Hamilton, with the former going 2nd in a time of 1m27.555. Hamilton could only manage 4th in 1m27.677. Alonso crossed the line in 1m27.539 to take 2nd. As the flag dropped Massa could only manage 7th and was followed by Grosjean in 6th.
Making it an all German front-row, Rosberg held onto 2nd in 1m27.102 with Alonso taking 3rd in 1m27.539.
Webber could only manage 4th and was followed by a despondent Hamilton in 5th. Grosjean finished in 6th, with Ricciardo 7th, out-qualifying his teammate Vergne in 8th. Massa could only manage 9th while Hulkenberg managed 10th.
What will the race bring? Tomorrow is supposed to be drier however with the weather as unpredictable as it is in Sao Paulo it may just be a very wet race and with it, will Vettel win his 8th consecutive race of the season or will the fast starting Alonso get the run on him going into turn one and manage to keep the Red Bull at bay?
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “A wet qualifying session meant that the drivers and teams were dealing with a lot of uncertainties, but they at least had relevant information from the wet running yesterday.
The key to a strong performance were ensuring that the tyres were operating within the correct temperature window, and timing of the fast laps. Being on the right tyre at the right time was essential to do well, and with this track having the capability to dry quite rapidly, the circuit had the potential to get quicker towards the end of each session. At the same time, the teams had to constantly guard against the risk of conditions getting worse.
The teams have gained some information about the crossover point from full wets to intermediates, but they have no information about the crossover from inters to slicks – which might be important in the race tomorrow, where variable conditions are again likely. Even if there is no rain at all, with so little dry running up to now, the teams will be operating with limited data.
The wear and degradation for both the intermediate and the full wet tyres are not set to be an issue tomorrow should they be used for the race. Strategy will obviously depend on the weather and for the moment that is wide open: the teams that are able to read the changing circumstances of the race most effectively are going to be the ones that come out on top.”
The Pirelli mystery strategy predictor
Strategy is going to be very hard to predict and it depends entirely on the weather. Complicating the issue further is the fact that the drivers are all allowed to start on whichever compound they choose (if it is dry) – and they all have a full unused allocation of slicks. If the race remains dry for the entire 71 laps – which seems unlikely – two to three pit stops are theoretically the quickest strategy, but without any data to go on, it’s hard to predict the timing of the stops.
Tomorrow’s grid position
|1||S Vettel||Red Bull|
|4||M Webber||Red Bull|
|7||D Ricciardo||Toro Rosso|
|8||J Vergne||Toro Rosso|
|12||P Di Resta||Force India|
|16||A Sutil||Force India|
|20||G van der Garde||Caterham|