F1 2013: Brazilian Grand Prix Qualifying Recap

Sebastian Vettel (1:26.479) won pole for the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, after driving rain delayed Q3 by multiple ten minute delays. He was entirely unbeatable, setting a pole time six tenths faster than second fastest Nico Rosberg. Though all drivers began Q3 on full wet tires, all dropped back into the garage for intermediates as the track conditions improved. Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber qualified to start Sunday’s race on the second row, with Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean behind. Despite the changing conditions, only Sergio Perez crashed in the three qualifying sessions at Interlagos.

Q1 saw mostly early times set the pace as the intermittent rain increased partway through the session. Though it looked as though Toro Rosso made the wrong call on holding Jean-Eric Vergne momentarily, the track improved late in the session, and he moved on to Q2. Kovalainen had also looked set to be dropped, but he moved up to fifth fastest with a solid lap from his Lotus. He would fare less well in Q2, managing only to qualify eleventh fastest as the rain increased. Perez ended that session with a heavy crash into the wall, pushing his McLaren onto the kerb while hustling in an attempt to move on to Q3. Neither he nor teammate Jenson Button would do so, qualifying their McLarens fourteenth and fifteenth. Between the driving rain and debris from Perez’s crash, race control delayed the start of Q3 by a total of 40 minutes.

Qualifying Results for the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix

DRIVER TEAM TIME LAPS
1.  Sebastian Vettel  Red Bull  1:26.479  23
2.  Nico Rosberg  Mercedes  1:27.102  22
3.  Fernando Alonso  Ferrari  1:27.539  21
4.  Mark Webber  Red Bull  1:27.572  23
5.  Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes  1:27.677  23
6.  Romain Grosjean  Lotus  1:27.737  22
7.  Daniel Ricciardo  Toro Rosso  1:28.052  24
8.  Jean-Eric Vergne  Toro Rosso  1:28.081  25
9.  Felipe Massa  Ferrari  1:28.109  20
10.  Nico Hulkenberg  Sauber  1:29.582  21
Knocked Out in Q2
11.  Heikki Kovalainen  Lotus  1:27.456  21
12.  Paul di Resta  Force India  1:27.798  16
13.  Valtteri Bottas  Williams  1:27.954  15
14.  Sergio Perez  McLaren  1:28.269  15
15.  Jenson Button  McLaren  1:28.308  19
16.  Adrian Sutil  Force India  1:28.586  12
Knocked Out in Q1
17.  Pastor Maldonado  Williams  1:27.367  12
18.  Esteban Gutierrez  Sauber  1:27.445  14
19.  Charles Pic  Caterham  1:27.843  6
20.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham  1:28.320  6
21.  Jules Bianchi  Marussia  1:28.366  11
22.  Max Chilton  Marussia  1:28.950  11

Rosberg (1:24.781 in FP1 and 1:27.306 in FP2) looked solidly quicker than the rest in the rain-dampened Friday running at Interlagos, as Mercedes teammate Hamilton followed him up in the morning and sat fifth quickest at the end of the running Friday afternoon. Vettel, Button, and Alonso joined them in the first ninety minute practice, while Vettel, Webber, and Kovalainen separated the teammates in the afternoon. Despite the oftentimes heavy rain, there were no major incidents.

Pirelli had brought a sample of the 2014 slicks, but no one was able to provide feedback in the treacherous conditions. Vettel did manage to go out for a short time on standard 2013 hard tires in a lull between the raindrops in the morning but set no fast times on them. Webber (1:27.891) led Grosjean, Kovalainen, Bottas, and Hulkenberg in the final, still wet, practice on Saturday morning. Though the rain was at time hard enough to stop running altogether, Webber and the other drivers were on intermediates for their final fast runs. Rosberg, Button, and the Ferraris set no times.

Q1:
Though the rain had stopped before Q1, it started up again twenty minutes before the twenty minutes of Q1 began. The sky continued to slowly spit droplets down, with all drivers in their cars and lining up at the end of pit lane to get the twenty minutes of Q1 started. Hamilton was first in line, with Pic just behind him and others jamming themselves into the line out onto the track. Within the first two minutes, all cars had joined the track on intermediate tires.

The track had a dry line forming in places, with the conditions still damp in others. Hamilton set the first time (1:25.342) was enough to keep the top position through much of the first times, with the rain falling a bit more heavily. Alonso took a moment to pass Webber on the start of both their hot laps. Hamilton was fastest after each driver set a first time, with Vettel, Hulkenberg, di Resta, and Button the top five. Rosberg’s first time was outside the 107%, but he soon knocked Hulkenberg out of third fastest.

McLaren inquired of Perez if it was yet time to switch to the slicks, but Perez noted that it was too early. Six minutes into the session, Webber, Pic, Gutierrez, van der Garde, Bianchi, and Chilton were in the knockout zone. Though it appeared that times would not improve with rain falling more heavily in the paddock, Hamilton improved his time on the first sector. Webber hauled himself up to ninth, barely slower than Alonso in eighth. That improvement dropped Vergne to the knockout zone as drivers returned to the garages in the slowing conditions. Vergne inquired of Toro Rosso why they waited to go out, learning that he would have another go.

At halfway, Hamilton still led Vettel, with Rosberg, Hulkenberg, di Resta, Button, Grosjean, Alonso, Webber, and Perez the top ten. Vergne, Pic, Gutierrez, van der Garde, Bianchi, and Chilton were then in the knockout zone, with Maldonado on the bubble.

Only Gutierrez remained on the track with eight minutes to go, while Bianchi joined him with fresh tires. Both were nowhere near safe in the relegation zone. Chilton soon joined them. Gutierrez had a near moment, sliding across the kerbing as he pushed to get out of the knockout zone. Vergne joined the fray with just under six minutes remaining.

Ricciardo, in fifteenth, went out with five to go, presumably covering the possibility of an improving track. Maldonado did so as well, as did Kovalainen. Seven drivers lapped with four to go, no one then placed better than fourteenth. Neither Caterham driver had done so. Their times did not seem set to improve, though Kovalainen’s first sector was as competitive as drivers placed further up the order. As times seemed set to slightly improve, Sutil also left the snug comforts of the garage.

Kovalainen leapt to fifth fastest with a fastest of all final sector. As the final seconds ticked away from Q1, Vergne moved up to fifteenth and safety. Maldonado could not better his time, nor could Gutierrez, and would remain knocked out in Q3. In the end, Hamilton’s earlier time (1:25.342) held as fastest. Vettel, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Kovalainen, di Resta, Button, Grosjean, Alonso, and Webber rounded out the top ten, covered by just over 1.3s.

Q2:
The conditions remained generally similar as Rosberg headed the queue to begin the fifteen minutes of Q2. Everyone had left the garage by just over a minute into the session. Rosberg and Hamilton traded fastest sectors through their first laps, with Rosberg leading his teammate. After the first times, Vettel (1:26.515) led Rosberg, Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Vergne, Bottas, and Kovalainen. Webber managed only fifteenth. Sutil, di Resta, Button, Perez, and Hulkenberg joined the Australian in the knockout zone with ten minutes remaining. Soon, Kovalainen moved up to sixth fastest, with Webber third fastest on his second fast lap. Though Button posted his own best lap of the session, he managed only twelfth. Hamilton moved up to third, less than a tenth slower than his teammate.

Further down the order, Bottas, Button, di Resta, Sutil, Hulkenberg, and Perez were set to be knocked out with eight minutes remaining. Kovalainen had a moment through T6, but kept his Lotus on the track and out of the grass and continued on. He pitted with the wave of drivers returning for fresh tires before the final runs.

Pit lane was as busy as a race as teams hustled to put fresh inters on for final runs. Vettel slightly improved his time in provisional pole, though Massa had a fastest of all first sector on his new tires. He moved from ninth to sixth, six tenths slower than Vettel’s time. Hulkenberg moved from sixteenth to ninth, dropping Ricciardo. Grosjean went from sixth to fastest of all, just after Alonso jumped up to second fastest. That dropped Alonso to third, with Ricciardo, di Resta, Bottas, Perez, Button, and Sutil in the knockout zone with two minutes remaining.

Ricciardo moved up to eighth, dropping Kovalainen. McLaren looked impossibly slow, with both drivers still in the relegation zone as the rain seemed to have increased in intensity. The top four pitted in the final seconds, as did Massa in seventh and Ricciardo. Button could not improve, nor could Kovalainen, just as Perez crashed at T5. He barely put his right rear tire onto the kerb, which spun his McLaren into the grass and wall, ripping off the front wing and damaging the rear suspension. Perez was unhurt. In the end, Grosjean (1:26.161) led Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, Hamilton, Webber, Massa, Ricciardo, Vergne, and Hulkenberg off to fight for pole in Q3.

Q3:
The light rain from Q2 increased dramatically. Subsequently, race direction delayed the start of Q3 by ten minutes. Ten minutes later, they announced another ten minute delay, then did so again. Overall, Q3 was delayed by 40 minutes due to the standing water on the track. Webber and Vettel led the queue, sitting at the red light at the end of pit lane for a full minute before the light went green for the ten minutes of Q3. Ricciardo sat behind them, with the other drivers waiting in their garages. All drivers began their out lap within the first minute, and all were shod with full wet tires.

The Red Bull teammates nearly matched their first sectors, but Grosjean set the fastest first sector of all the drivers. Vettel (1:28.830) beat Webber on their first laps, with Webber noting that he had very little rear grip. Grosjean, who set quick sectors, did not complete his lap but pitted for intermediates. Rosberg, Hamilton, Webber, Alsono, Vergne, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, and Massa completed the top nine behind Vettel after their first runs, all popping back in for inters around the halfway point of the session. Most teams stacked their drivers, leaving the second man wait for the different compound.

Grosjean’s final sector on his second out lap was the fastest of all the final sectors to that point in Q3. He would improve Vettel’s provisional time by more than a second, with teams telling drivers that rain threatened. All other drivers rejoined before the final two minutes began. Webber was the next to go fastest, holding provisional pole for a few seconds before Vettel (1:26.479) took it, beating his teammate by more than a second.

No one else looked set to make up the time to Vettel, though Rosberg did split the Bulls, still a second off Vettel. Hamilton slotted into fourth, while Alonso pushed his Ferrari to second fastest, and managed to start his final lap before the checkered flag. Teammate Massa started his final lap seventh fastest.

Grosjean remained sixth on his final lap, with Rosberg jumping back up to second fastest. Vettel looked set to improve his provisional pole, while teammate Webber remained fourth with his final lap, just slower than Alonso. Massa, the only man left on the track, could do no better than ninth. Vettel was unbeatable, just over six tenths faster than Rosberg, with an impossibly quick middle sector.

{originally published at Formula1Blog}

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