Sebastian Vettel swept to an imperious pole position in qualifying for Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix, giving himself the best possible chance of claiming a hat-trick of wins on Indian soil and keeping him comfortably on course to clinch his fourth-straight world title.
Vettel set a blistering time of 1:24.119 which was nearly a second quicker than the two Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton who completed the top three, and as has now become common practice for the reigning world champion, aborted his final run in qualifying having done enough to take pole on his initial outing.
But the pace of the two Silver Arrows cars was flattered by Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber, who qualified fourth, running the harder medium tyres in the final part of qualifying.
With drivers required to start the race on the same compound on which they set their fastest lap in the final session of qualifying, Webber could gain a strategic edge in the race as his harder tyres could allow him to run longer in the first stint and help him leapfrog the Mercedes.
“The car worked, basically, very, very well, since yesterday morning,” Vettel said after qualifying.
“We didn’t have to change a lot and through qualifying I think it just got better when the track ramped up.”
“The car was amazing. It’s a great circuit. I really like the flow of the track especially around the middle sector with all the high speed corners. But for sure it’s not a secret if your car behaves the way you want to through there, then for sure you’re going to enjoy that a lot.”
Behind the top four, Felipe Massa was the fastest Ferrari in fifth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg and the second Ferrari of Fernando Alonso who will also start the race on medium compound tyres.
The two McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten.
Vettel’s pole in India continues his dominant run of form around the Buddh International Circuit. The German has won both the races India has hosted so far and has led every single lap around the 5.1 kilometer track located on the outskirts of India’s capital New Delhi.
Vettel has also topped every session here going all the way back to third practice ahead of the inaugural race in 2011 and this weekend the Indian track, one of Vettel’s most rewarding circuits, looks more than likely to set the stage for the German to become the first driver in the history of the sport to clinch his first four titles in succession.
Vettel arrives in India with a 90-point-lead in the standings over Alonso and with just three races to run following tomorrow’s race, needs to leave the subcontinent with a 75-point margin.
What this means is that all Vettel needs to clinch his fourth-straight title is a fifth placed-finish in the race, while if Alonso finishes lower than second, Vettel can afford to score no points at all.
But as usual, the soon-to-be quadruple world champion played down all the fuss surrounding the title: “I’m trying not to think about it. Obviously it’s difficult when every second person in the paddock asks you the same question.”
“But I think we’ve done pretty well in the past focusing on every single step and I don’t see a reason to change things for tomorrow or the next couple of races.”
“Yeah, we’re in a good position. We worked hard to be there, and tomorrow is a long race. As I touched on with strategy, I think it will be tricky to always do the right thing but there’s a lot of laps. I think we have a quick package so we should be in good shape tomorrow.”
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.