November 23rd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - The Brazilian weather continued to drench all involved in Formula One this weekend during today's qualifying session, but it could not douse the supreme form of Sebastian Vettel, who took his ninth pole position of the season in some style. Nico Rosberg qualified second for Mercedes ahead of an impressive Fernando Alonso for Ferrari in third.
Qualifying started with a wet track, but not much rain. Conditions were expected to worsen through Q1, which meant there was quite a queue of cars waiting at the end of the pitlane for the green light to signal the start of the session. All of the drivers were keen to get on track to get a quick lap in before the rain intensified.
And intensify it did. The track got slower and slower as the rain came down in Q1, to the point that even a fresh set of Pirelli's Intermediate tyres could not help Esteban Gutierrez to get through to the second part of qualifying, despite Nico Hulkenberg featuring at the top of the times in the other Sauber.
Heikki Kovalainen was one of those close to the drop-zone towards the end of Q1, but he managed to deliver a stunning lap in the wet conditions to go fifth fastest in Q1, securing his place in Q2. The track did dry out a little bit towards the end of Q1, which allowed Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso to just secure a place in the second session.
The drivers eliminated in Q1 were: Pastor Maldonado, Esteban Gutierrez, Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.
Q2 saw the rain intensify to the extent that the leading lap times were a full second slower than those of Q1. The second part of qualifying concluded with a crash for Sergio Perez, who ran wide onto the kerb on the exit of turn 5 on his final flying lap. Perez was aware that it was his last chance of making it through to Q3 and therefore did not lift off the throttle on the kerb, which proved to be a mistake.
Perez's McLaren swapped ends and careered across the track before colliding with the inside barrier, first with the front end and then with the rear suspension, which took a bit knock on the right-hand side of the car. Perez was fortunately unhurt and there was no need to stop the session as the chequered flag had already been shown.
The drivers eliminated in Q2 were: Heikki Kovalainen, Paul Di Resta, Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez, Jenson Button and Adrian Sutil.
The start of Q3 was delayed by a full 40 minutes due to the significant volume of water on the track after the heavy rain of Q2. Initially the delay was meant to be just 10 minutes, but further delays followed as the rain did not abate for some time.
Eventually, the track was in good enough condition to allow the drivers to take to the track for the top ten shoot-out. All of the top ten drivers went out on full wet tyres, as the track seemed too wet for intermediates. However, it soon became clear that the intermediate tyres would ultimately be quicker.
All of the drivers barring Romain Grosjean set a lap time on the full wet tyres before pitting for intermediates. Grosjean was on a quick lap on the full wets, but opted to bail out of it and pit for intermediates before everyone else did.
Grosjean was immediately faster than anyone else had gone, but his time was soon eclipsed by the Red Bull of Mark Webber. Seconds later, Sebastian Vettel crossed the line to take provisional pole position more than a second faster than his team-mate.
The other nine drivers on the track then fought over the remaining places on the grid, but none could match the pace of Vettel in the treacherous conditions. Nico Rosberg, who has had a very competitive weekend in Brazil, came closest, but was still two-thirds of a second off the pace.
Fernando Alonso recorded his equal-best qualifying position of the 2013 season, relishing the wet conditions which seemed to suit the Ferrari. Felipe Massa did not quite manage to find the same performance level as his team-mate, and qualified ninth for his last race for Ferrari before he moves to Williams for next season.
Mark Webber managed to improve on his initial intermediate tyre lap, but his time was only good enough for fourth place on the grid. The second row of the grid is nonetheless a strong place from which to be starting his last Grand Prix, and Webber will be hoping for a strong result in Sunday's race.
Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth, unable to match the pace of his Mercedes team-mate. Whether that is due to setup differences in anticipation of a possible dry race is not clear. Romain Grosjean qualified sixth, ahead of the Toro Rosso pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, who qualified seventh and eighth. Felipe Massa was ninth quickest and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten for Sauber.
Full results from qualifying:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:25.381||1:26.420||1:26.479||23|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:26.689||1:26.963||1:27.572||23|
|12||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:26.275||1:27.798||16|
|16||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:26.874||1:28.586||19|
|20||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:28.320||6|
|Q1 107% Time||1:31.315|