November 16th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel snatched pole position away from his Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber, right at the end of an action-packed qualifying session for the United States Grand Prix. Behind the all-Red Bull front row, Romain Grosjean qualified third for Lotus ahead of an impressive Nico Hulkenberg in fourth place for Sauber.
In Q1 it was immediately apparent that the track was quite a bit slower than it had been in this morning's FP3 session. Nico Hulkenberg reported that he felt a strong tail wind in the first sector, which would have made it quite difficult to keep the car on track at speed.
Almost all of the drivers went out on the hard tyres initially, before switching to the medium compound tyres in the closing minutes of the session. Red Bull's Vettel and Webber chose to skip the first runs and went out on the hard tyres with 8 minutes remaining in Q1.
The pace-setter in Q1 was, unusually, Valtteri Bottas for Williams. Bottas's lap was put in perspective by the fact that Pastor Maldonado in the other Williams did not proceed to Q2, and qualified 18th, 1.5 seconds off the pace of his team-mate.
Adrian Sutil was 17th fastest when he started his final flying lap in Q1. When he braked for turn 1, Sutil went straight on, but did not lock his tyres, suggesting that something had gone wrong under braking. He managed to rejoin the track, but was driving very slowly and pulled off just after turn 10. Exactly what went wrong with his Force India is not yet clear.
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa struggled for Ferrari in Q1, only managing to set the 15th and 16th fastest times and just narrowly escaping what could have been quite an embarrassing early elimination from qualifying.
The drivers eliminated in Q1 were Sutil, Maldonado, Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi, Charles Pic and Max Chilton.
Q2 saw all of the drivers use the medium tyres, as maximum performance became more important at the front of the field than it was in Q1.
There were a few surprises in Q2. Felipe Massa was eliminated and only managed to qualifying 15th, while Fernando Alonso was third fastest in Q2 and made it through to the final part of qualifying easily.
Perhaps the greatest surprise of Q2 was the elimination of Nico Rosberg, who qualified 14th. Rosberg had been expected to qualify on the second row of the grid or perhaps better than that, but he and Lewis Hamilton struggled to find the pace that was required to qualify as high as that.
In his first qualifying session for Lotus, Heikki Kovalainen made it through to Q3, by setting the 10th fastest time in Q2. The other Finn in Formula One this weekend, Valtteri Bottas, continued his impressive qualifying session by setting the fourth fastest Q2 time.
The drivers eliminated in Q2 were: Daniel Ricciardo, Paul Di Resta, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Q3 was always going to be dominated by Red Bull. In their first runs, Webber and Vettel were respectively fastest and second fastest. In their second runs, the order stayed the same on their first flying laps, but then Vettel did another lap right at the end of the session and snatched pole away from his team-mate by just a tenth of a second.
Romain Grosjean continued the impressive run of form he has shown in recent races by qualifying best of the rest in third position. There were suggestions after Friday practice that Heikki Kovalainen might be outpacing Grosjean this weekend, but Grosjean showed conclusively in qualifying that he has an advantage over his new team-mate. Kovalainen qualified eighth, two thirds of a second slower than Grosjean. It was nontheless a very impressive performance from Kovalainen in his first qualifying session for the Lotus team.
Nico Hulkenberg showed why he is so highly rated in Formula One by qualfiying fourth. Hulkenberg will be chasing his first podium finish in Formula One in tomorrow's United States Grand Prix. In the other Sauber, Esteban Gutierrez qualified tenth fastest.
Lewis Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes. He will be disappointed to be behind a Lotus and a Sauber but pleased to be in front of the leading Ferrari. Mercedes are battling with Ferrari for second place in the Constructor's Championship, and with each Mercedes ahead of the corresponding Ferrari, it looks like Mercedes could strengthen their position in the Constructor's Championship in tormorrow's race.
Fernando Alonso qualified sixth, finding pace in his Ferrari that did not seem available in the first part of qualifying. Considering that race pace has been the strength of Ferrari all season, sixth on the grid is a strong qualifying result for Alonso and he will be aiming for the podium from there.
Sergio Perez was the sole McLaren in the top ten, and he qualified seventh fastest while Jenson Button failed to make it into Q3. The irony of this result will not be lost on Perez, who has just been dropped by McLaren for 2014 in favour of rookie Kevin Magnussen, while Button has been retained for next season.
Kovalainen in eighth was followed by Valtteri Bottas in ninth and Esteban Gutierrez in tenth.
Full results from qualifying:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:38.516||1:37.065||1:36.338||12|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:38.161||1:37.312||1:36.441||14|
|12||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.894||1:38.139||18|
|17||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.250||10|
|19||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:40.491||10|
|Q1 107% Time||1:44.668|