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Qualifying highlights - India 2013 - Vettel leads the Mercedes pair as strategy calls dictate position

Published by Christine

Vettel's on pole once again
Credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

It was a smoggy day at the Buddh International Circuit, and with pole position all but a foregone conclusion, it was all about who would be second best. Tyre strategy was at the fore with the difference between the medium and softs providing vast gaps in the lap times. Lotus made a bad call at the start of the session, and have their drivers split up and down the field.

Sauber also ended up with two very different grid slots, whilst McLaren and Force India kept their drivers on the same strategy and together in terms of position. If you missed any of the qualifying session, or want a quick reminder of how it all went down, then here's lap by lap coverage of Saturday's action in India.

As it happened: India 2013 - Qualifying

Event Highlights

  • Sebastian Vettel secures pole position ahead of the Mercedes duo.
  • Mark Webber opts for the harder tyres and starts fourth.
  • Both McLarens get into the top ten, as Alonso finishes eighth behind Hülkenberg.
  • Romain Grosjean drops out in Q1 after a bad strategy call puts him on the wrong tyres.
  • 09:00

    Hello, good day to you, welcome to the Factbyte Factbox for qualifying ahead of the Indian Grand Prix.

  • 09:01

    So far, as you might expect, this has been Vettel's weekend. He's led all three practice sessions, despite a brief KERS loss on Friday.

  • 09:03

    Romain Grosjean has put in a good performance so far in practice, with Kimi Räikkönen lagging behind. The Finn blames the new-style tyres brought by Pirelli, that they are hindering his performance particularly in qualifying.

  • 09:05

    Medium and softTalking of which, Pirelli have brought the medium and soft tyres to the Buddh International Circuit - the white and yellow sidewalls respectively. In previous years, they've been all about the hards and softs but have opted to close the gap a little for 2013.

  • 09:06

    TweetTweet from @JRobertsF1: Sauber confirm that a mechanic has suffered a hairline fracture in his toe after Hülkenberg ran over his foot coming into the pits in FP3. The Sauber mechanic will be back in action later this afternoon. #actionman

  • 09:09

    Pollution stopped play this morning, as third and final practice was delayed due to poor visibility. The medical helicopter couldn't take off, so the session was delayed and then shortened to just 40 minutes. Vettel still led the way, of course.

  • 09:13
    2013 Pole Positions
    1S Vettel6
    2L Hamilton5
    3N Rosberg3
    4M Webber1
  • 09:16

    Nico Hülkenberg was fourth fastest in final practice. The Sauber driver has had a good run of results recently, and will be hoping for his fifth points finish in a row tomorrow.

  • 09:17

    A dash of pre-session spring cleaning @McLarenF1.

  • 09:20

    TweetTweet from @alanbaldwinf1: Least surprising piece of news: Risk of rain for qualifying is 0 percent, according to the timing screens.

  • 09:24

    TweetTweet from @clubforce: Less than 8 minutes left before qual! We're in position, make sure you've got your breakfast/popcorn/favourite tv snack... and let's go!

  • 09:27



    Wind speed0.7mps
  • 09:30

    Green flagQualifying session 1 begins.

  • 09:30

    Quiet start to the session, as drivers take their time to head out on to that dusty track.

  • 09:30

    It's Esteban Gutiérrez who heads out first, the Sauber driver on a high from his first points in F1 at the last race in Japan.

  • 09:32

    Nico Rosberg gets his qualifying campaign going, heading out on track just as Gutiérrez crosses the line to start his flying lap.

  • 09:34

    As more drivers filter out on track, it's medium tyres all round. Max Chilton is so far the only one to have the soft compound on.

  • 09:35

    StopwatchEsteban's first lap time is a 1:27.529. For reference, pole position in 2013 was Sebastian Vettel with a 1:25.283.

  • 09:36

    The other three backmarkers, Van der Garde, Bianchi and Pic, also bolt on the softs as they start their session.

  • 09:37

    Rosberg had a slow first lap, a 1:45, but he improves massively second time round to jump up to P1 with a 1:26.622. Teammate Hamilton sits behind him in second.

  • 09:38

    As the early times pour in, Gutiérrez returns to the pit lane after his first stint. The two Red Bull drivers, plus Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean have yet to make an appearance.

  • 09:39

    Kimi Räikkönen crosses the line for second, two tenths of Rosberg's flyer. Nico Hülkenberg rounds the final corner and takes third.

  • 09:40

    Replays show Valtteri Bottas missing the apex at the final corner, running completely off track. He's sitting in 18th, behind his teammate in 17th.

  • 09:40

    Romain Grosjean leaves the garage, as the two Red Bulls remain firmly in the pit lane.

  • 09:41

    As Fernando Alonso stays tucked up in the garage, Felipe Massa posts the sixth fastest time.

  • 09:42

    Gutiérrez is back out on track with the softer compound on, yellow sidewalls spinning as he starts another flying lap.

  • 09:43

    Alonso finally emerges from the garage, and the Ferrari driver has gone immediately on the soft tyres.

  • 09:44

    Red Bull have split the difference - Vettel going out on the harder compound, Webber putting on the softs straight away.

  • 09:45

    Gutiérrez pops up to P1 but Fernando Alonso immediately beat his time with a 1:25.934.

  • 09:46

    On the harder compound, Vettel manages to match Alonso's time, slipping into second with just a 0.009 seconds of difference.

  • 09:47

    Webber slots in to third place, as the final few minutes of the session begin.

  • 09:47

    The drop zone currently features the expected four, as well as Jean-Éric Vergne in the Toro Rosso, and Pastor Maldonado in the Williams.

  • 09:47

    Paul di Resta also needs to find some pace, currently 16th and very much in the danger zone.

  • 09:48

    Team radioTeam radio to Mark Webber: "We can run again, we're a little bit on the edge so we'll do one more lap."

  • 09:48

    Now there are twenty cars out on track, as just Alonso in second and Gutiérrez in fifth sit back in the garage.

  • 09:49

    Di Resta took my advice and got some speed on, he's improved to second fastest, behind a speedy Kimi Räikkönen - 1:25.819.

  • 09:49

    Nico Rosberg splits Kimi and Paul, slotting into second place just as Sebastian Vettel has a bit of a wobble off track but continues onwards.

  • 09:50

    Chequered flagQualifying session 1 ends.

  • 09:50

    The track is getting quicker and quicker as Daniel Ricciardo looks set for P1, but drops a few tenths in the final sector and settles for second.

  • 09:51

    Williams scrabble to keep their drivers in the qualifying fight, via @WilliamsF1Team.

  • 09:52

    Romain Grosjean is out of qualifying! There was a lot of jostling for position as the drivers crossed the line, but the Lotus driver had the medium compounds on - the wrong tyre at the wrong time.

  • 09:52

    The only other driver on mediums was Vettel, and he was eleventh.

  • 09:53
    Qualifying Position
    17R GrosjeanLotus
    18P MaldonadoWilliams
    19J BianchiMarussia
    20G van der GardeCaterham
    21C PicCaterham
    22M ChiltonMarussia
  • 09:54

    The fastest three in that session were Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo.

  • 09:54

    It was an incredibly close session, with the top 16 within one second of each other.

  • 09:56

    TweetTweet from @OfficialSF1Team: Like in the past few quailes the field is incredibly tight and everything has to come together perfectly to set a good lap. #pushpush

  • 09:57

    Green flagQualifying session 2 begins.

  • 09:58

    Another slow start to the session and it's Kimi Räikkönen that breaks cover. He's got the weight of the Lotus hopes on his shoulders now!

  • 10:00

    Fernando Alonso is out early in this session, as the drivers start to pile out to get Q2 properly underway.

  • 10:00

    A David Coulthard stat for you: Jenson Button in P1 during the first session was the first time McLaren have been fastest in a session all season.

  • 10:01

    Kimi's first time of the second session, a 1:26.279.

  • 10:02

    Alonso drops the benchmark to a 1:25.546 as Massa crosses the line for second, just a tenth behind.

  • 10:03

    As you might expect, the two Red Bull drivers are still in the garage, leaving it late, eyeing the perfect opportunity to put their laps in.

  • 10:04

    As Alonso comes into the pits, Nico Rosberg pops up to P1, with a 1:25.337. Hamilton slots in to second place behind him.

  • 10:05

    Webber heads out of the garage, softer compounds still on that Red Bull. Presumably Vettel will have to switch to the softs... although with him, you never know!

  • 10:06

    Vettel rolls down the pit lane, and it is the softer compound on the Red Bull. He heads out for his first out lap of the session.

  • 10:07

    Webber rounds the final corner and crosses the line to start a flying lap.

  • 10:07

    The rest of the field are back in the pit lane, just the two Red Bulls and Kimi Räikkönen out on track.

  • 10:08

    Webber has a slight off but continues for the fastest time so far - 1:25.097.

  • 10:09

    Vettel knocks half a second off his teammates time to slip into P1.

  • 10:10

    The drop zone currently features Vergne, Sutil, Räikkönen, Ricciardo, Hülkenberg and Gutiérrez. Kimi immediately improves to third, dropping Bottas down.

  • 10:10

    A minute and a half on the clock, and all 16 cars are out on track.

  • 10:11

    Vettel spoils it by coming back into the pit lane, happy with his time. Alonso pops up to P2, splitting the Red Bulls for now.

  • 10:12

    Chequered flagQualifying session 2 ends.

  • 10:12

    Hülkenberg improves to sixth place, as Sutil can only manage 11th. He's definitely out of the session.

  • 10:14
    Qualifying Position
    11D RicciardoToro Rosso
    12P Di RestaForce India
    13A SutilForce India
    14JE VergneToro Rosso
    15V BottasWilliams
    16E GutiérrezSauber
  • 10:14

    The fastest three in that session were Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

  • 10:14
    Qualifying Battle
    Toro RossoQualified Ahead
    D Ricciardo12
    JE Vergne4
  • 10:18

    QuoteInterview with Romain Grosjean: "I think we missed the cut off time, everyone went quicker than what we thought. It wasn't the best thing to do today... Today for some reason, mediums were not quick enough. It's a te... te... a decision we, uh, took together, we were confident we could do enough with them but we got it wrong."

  • 10:19

    Daniel Ricciardo waltzes down the pit lane, he just missed out on the top ten, but is still smiling.

  • 10:19

    Green flagQualifying session 3 begins.

  • 10:20

    Webber and Alonso are out early this time, both drivers with the medium tyres on.

  • 10:22

    Vettel also heads out, but he has the softer compounds. Both Mercedes drivers are out on the softs, whilst Button has opted for the mediums.

  • 10:23

    It's a 1:25.826 for Fernando Alonso, as Webber crosses the line 12 seconds slower. Some work to do there, I think!

  • 10:25

    Vettel posts provisional pole with a 1:24.119. What am I talking about provisional?

  • 10:25

    Webber does manage to improve second time round, he pops into second with a 1:25.2.

  • 10:25

    There are only the three times on the board, Vettel, Webber and Alonso.

  • 10:26

    Nico Rosberg leaves the garage with the soft tyres on, as Vettel returns to the pit lane.

  • 10:28

    Kimi crosses the line for third, not managing to get ahead of Webber, despite being on the softer compound to the Red Bull's mediums.

  • 10:29

    Vettel has left the garage again, another set of soft tyres on the car - is he just running them in or planning to go even faster?

  • 10:29

    All ten cars are out on track now, as Massa, Rosberg, Hamilton and Hülkenberg have yet to set a time.

  • 10:30

    Both Rosberg and Hamilton improve to P2 and P3, dropping Webber down.

  • 10:30

    Chequered flagQualifying session 3 ends.

  • 10:31

    Webber sets a slightly faster time but has no improvement in terms of position. It's still fourth for him. Alonso remains in eighth place.

  • 10:31

    Nico Hülkenberg is seventh, so if Alonso doesn't get a mega start, he'll spend yet another race staring at the rear wing of a Sauber!

  • 10:32

    StopwatchPole position for Sebastian Vettel with a time of 1:24.119.

  • 10:33
    Qualifying Position
    1S VettelRed Bull
    2N RosbergMercedes
    3L HamiltonMercedes
    4M WebberRed Bull
    5F MassaFerrari
    6K RäikkönenLotus
    7N HülkenbergSauber
    8F AlonsoFerrari
    9S PérezMcLaren
    10J ButtonMcLaren
  • 10:34

    Vettel stops the car, and a team member hands him the cooling blower over the fence - a bit of concern about brake temperatures. Way to celebrate pole position with a bit of care of the car.

  • 10:35
    Gap Analysis
  • 10:37

    QuoteInterview with Jenson Button: "It probably is the right strategy call but it hurts. The option running was really good, quickest in Q1 and Q2 on the old tyre, I think I was second or something. It hurts being on the prime tyre, heart says you want to go out and see what you can do."

  • 10:44

    Vettel on pole position, then, with Nico Rosberg lining up alongside him on the grid. We've seen the Mercedes try to nip past Red Bull at the first corner, but that very much depends on their respective starts.

  • 10:44

    Meanwhile, Webber, Alonso and the two McLarens are going for a different strategy by starting on the medium tyres.

  • 10:45

    Further back, Romain Grosjean has a lot of work to do to recover from 17th on the grid after a dodgy tyre call in the first session. Esteban Gutiérrez will also need to make strides if he wants some more points.

  • 10:46

    The Force India pair showed a bit more pace than they have of late, but still have one Sauber ahead of them - the two teams are battling for championship position and it could go down to the wire!

  • 10:46

    So, I will be back tomorrow to cover all the racing action from the Buddh International Circuit. I hope you'll join me for all the fun and games of the Indian Grand Prix!

All content in the series India 2013