October 26th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel will start the Indian Grand Prix from pole position for the third time in as many years, after heading the lap times in today's qualifying session. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were second and third fastest for Mercedes, followed by the second Red Bull of Mark Webber.
The major surprise of qualifying came in Q1, when Romain Grosjean was 17th fastest, and therefore did not proceed to the next part of qualifying. The Lotus driver has had a very strong run in the last few races, and was expected to feature in Q3 today. He will have an uphill battle to reach the points in tomorrow's race.
Grosjean was joined by Pastor Maldonado, Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde, Charles Pic and Max Chilton in being eliminated at the end of Q1. Impressively, Bianchi outqualified both Caterhams, setting himself up for a competitive race tomorrow.
Q2 delivered few surprises. Daniel Ricciardo, Paul Di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Jean-Eric Vergne, Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez were 11th to 16th fastest and did not proceed to Q3. Perhaps the only surprise there was Gutierrez's lack of pace. He was well off the pace of Nico Hulkenberg in the other Sauber, but replays showed Gutierrez launching over a kerb on a timed lap during Q2, which would have cost him a significant amount of time.
In Q3, there was a split of tyre strategies. The soft tyre has been so fragile this weekend that it is likely to wear out completely within 10 laps at most of the start of the race. Consequently, four drivers - Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Jenson Button - opted to set their Q3 lap times on the medium tyres, in the knowledge that they will be able to run significantly longer than the rest of the top ten in their first stint in the race.
The difference in lap time between the medium and soft tyres has been between eight tenths and a second per lap. With that in mind, Mark Webber's fourth place on the grid is quite an impressive achievement. He was faster than Massa, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg, all of whom were on the soft tyres. Although it's hard to bet against Sebastian Vettel this season, Mark Webber is in a very strong position to challenge for victory tomorrow.
Vettel will start on pole, with Nico Rosberg joining him on the front row of the grid. Row two will be occupied by Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber, Felipe Massa starts fifth for Ferrari alongside Kimi Raikkonen in the leading Lotus. Seventh will be Nico Hulkenberg, who is joined on the fourth row of the grid by Fernando Alonso. The McLarens of Seriog Perez and Jenson Button complete the top ten.
The Indian Grand Prix will take place at 15:00 local time in New Delhi on Sunday.