Vettel show off to flying start

Sebastian Vettel orchestrated yet another sublime drive during Saturday’s spell-binding qualifying session to set himself up for his fourth drivers’ championship title and his third successive win at the Indian Grand Prix.

Vettel drove an unblemished lap at the Buddh International Circuit, covering the 5.125-km track in a time of 1:24.119 on his first run in Q3 to claim the pole position with the fastest ever lap recorded at the circuit.

Nico Rosberg was second, 0.752 seconds behind the 26-year-old, and Lewis Hamilton completed a Mercedes two-three in a time of 1:24.941.

Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber completed the second grid in fourth to sandwich the Mercedes cars and probably push for another Red Bull one-two on Sunday.

Fernando Alonso, who was second at the end of the second qualifying session, could not keep pace and fell way behind the order during the course of the ten-minute Q3 session to finish eighth.

Currently second on the drivers’ championship table with 207 points, Alonso is ninety points behind Vettel and is practically out of the race for the title, although he can mathematically extend Vettel’s wait.

If Vettel does finish fifth on Sunday, regardless of where Alonso finishes, the German will take home the crown as long as the Spaniard does not score 16 points more than him. The odds of that happening became stiffer with Vettel coming out on top during the qualifying, employing an interesting tyre strategy.

Even when his team-mate stuck by driving on mediums (tyres), Vettel, who made it three poles out of three at the BIC, chose to drive Q3 with the soft tyres to scorch the field. It was a surprising move given that those are the tyres with which he will begin the race on Sunday.
Soft tyres give drivers remarkable grip over a single lap but the mediums maintain their grip for a while before beginning to deteriorate. If Vettel can stay within striking distance of drivers who are using mediums and pull into the pits to swap for the mediums after creating a big enough gap, he will cruise towards his sixth successive win this season.

“It was a great run. The car is performing the way we want it to but anything can happen on the race day. We can never be too sure. As far as the tyre strategy is concerned...

yeah I guess it was a bit of a gamble but sometimes you just go with it and see where it goes. At the end of the day, it does not matter what tyre you are on so long as you can come out on top,” Vettel said later. “I am trying not to think about the championship right now. And I don’t do anything different before the race that wins me the title. I just do what I am supposed to do and that is winning races.”

Felipe Massa, Alonso’s team-mate, finished fifth, much to the delight of a frustrated Tifosi. Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen showed great touch and grabbed the sixth spot. His Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean could not even make it to Q2.

Sauber will be pleased with their showing after Nico Hulkenberg’s fluctuating fortunes during qualifying eventually ended with the German bagging the seventh spot on the grid. McLaren’s Sergio Perez and Jenson Button complete the Q3 line-up with ninth and tenth positions respectively.

Twelve other drivers are also battling it out and each have their own reason for the fight. Vettel too has one -- to ensure that he wraps up the season as quicky as possible.
Around 5 pm on Sunday he will know if he has done enough to find his name alongside the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher -- four F1 titles in a row.

Force India fade

Force India’s season could continue to slip further after their drivers -- Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil -- finished twelfth and thirteenth respectively.

“We can be satisfied with the job we’ve done today. My lap in Q2 was very good, although I made a small mistake in the second to last corner, so I was maybe a couple of tenths away from the perfect lap,” said Di Resta at the team’s hospitality building. “It definitely feels like we’ve made some progress recently and my confidence is growing with the way the car is working at the moment.”

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