Sebastian Vettel took his 9th pole of the season ahead of tomorrow’s season Finale at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paolo, Brazil. A saturated Interlagos Circuit was the scene for the final Qualifying session of the 2013 season, and it was one of much excitement.
The first session saw a light-ish smattering of rain. Most of the track remained slippery, with an eminent dry line through some of the corners. However this happy medium did not persist and the conditions deteriorated my the end. Charles Pic was told by his Caterham team that the weather would worsen as time continued and they were right. Everyone shared that feeling, but surprisingly Toro Rosso opted to hold Jean-Eric Vergne back for a few minutes.
The Frenchman was not impressed and languished in 18th place for a lot of Q1, but managed to squeeze into the second session as the track miraculously improved for the final couple of minutes. Another driver nearly in trouble was interim Lotus bloke Heikki Kovalainen who was on the bubble in 14th place, but he plucked an amazing 5th place lap time in the dying moments.
This left the usual fall guys in the Caterhams and Marussias and a South American duo who could not get it together to rue poor timing and grip. (Out – Maldonado  Gutierrez  van der Garde  Pic  Bianchi  Chilton )
Immediately it was obvious that Q2 was much more damp than the first session and lap times took a noticeable dip. Vettel set the fastest time with roughly 10 minutes to go and as the track worsened, it looked like he would not be beaten, but the droplets varied in their severity and again there was a flourish to the finish with times getting slightly better. Romain Grosjean continued his brilliant form recently by topping the sheets with two to go.
Both Force India and McLaren cars were in the drop zone and desperate to do better. Adrian Sutil had a scary slide in turn three, performing a four-wheel drift. Perez pushed even harder in his McLaren on his final run but running out of Turn 5 went over the kerbs and spun into the wall. Pretty much everyone had seen the checkered flag by that point anyway, so the yellow flags didn’t affect anyone on a lap, but it was a disappointing way for Sergio to end his Qualifying career with the team.
(Out – Kovalainen  di Resta  Bottas  Perez  Button  Sutil )
The weather got even worse for Q3 and the segment of Qualifying was delayed for 40 minutes while a gap in the weather was waited for. The hole in the clouds was not massive and still some moisture persisted, but the FIA deemed it safe enough for full speed, albeit on Full Wet tyres. Red Bull were so eager to get out and set a ‘banker’ lap that they sent both cars to the end of the pit lane with two minutes before the session began. Neither car overheated, but their tyres certainly did the opposite, and by the time they got out on the track, the on-board thermal imaging cameras showed that the rubber was stone cold.
Romain Grosjean was the first to abort his lap and dive into the pits for intermediate tyres, as the cut off point had been reached. He set an early benchmark, but the track only improved, and he could not. The Red Bulls traded fastest sectors and topped the timings, but Alonso split them, bumping Webber down to third. In his final F1 Qualifying session he was bumped down further to 4th, by a spirited Rosberg who slammed his Silver Arrow on the front row to line up alongside compatriot Vettel. As the Checkered flag was flown only Hamilton could spoil Vettel’s party, but a slide on his last lap left him a frustrated 5th.
(Top 10 – Vettel  Rosberg  Alonso  Webber  Hamilton  Grosjean  Ricciardo  Vergne  Massa  Hulkenberg )