USGP: Vettel takes pole over Hamilton
It's Vettel's sixth pole of the year and critical for his title hopes because his closest opponent, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, could do no better than 9th on Saturday.
Romain Grosjean was 4th, Kimi Raikkonen was fifth and Michael Schumacher sixth. With the penalty for Grosjean, Raikkonen will move up to fourth, Schumacher to fifth, Felipe Massa to sixth, Nico Hulkenberg to seventh and Fernando Alonso to eighth.
Vettel has been in dominant form at the new Circuit of the Americas, topping the time sheets in all three free practice sessions and he continued to set the pace in qualifying. After comfortably progressing through the opening segments Seb then lit up the timing screens in Q3 to dislodge Lewis Hamilton from provisional pole position after the McLaren driver had done the same to Webber with his own run.
Afterwards, Vettel admitted that his 36th career pole position leaves him confident of a good race tomorrow.
“It’s good to start from pole and be on the clean side of the grid,” he said. “It was important to feel the car from the first session onwards, in order to get more out of it as the weekend developed – we can be happy with the result and look forward to tomorrow.
Vettel’s sole remaining title rival, Fernando Alonso, qualified in ninth position but Vettel insisted he would be focusing on his own race and not the starting position of a competitor.
“In terms of the championship, we need to focus on ourselves and try to get the best result that we can,” he said. “If you’re thinking about where the others are, then you don’t get the optimum from yourself, and that’s what we need to focus on. Our job is done today, but so far no one has scored any points.”
Car 1 Sebastian Vettel, Position: Pole, (3rd Practice – P1, 1:36.490)
Car 2 Mark Webber, Position: 3rd, (3rd Practice – P7, 1:37.298)
Christian Horner: “A very strong qualifying for the team and it’s great to get the first pole at the Circuit of The Americas in Texas. Sebastian has been quickest in every session of the weekend so far and converted it into an excellent pole position, backed up by a solid third pace from Mark on what will hopefully be the cleaner side of the grid. So, a strong start to the weekend but it’s now important that we convert these positions into a strong result.”
Cyril Dumont (Renault): “So far it’s been a fantastic weekend. We have been quickest in all the sessions, including the qualifying sessions with Sebastian, so the pace is there. It’s also very good that Mark is third, I think for tomorrow it’s better to be first and third, than first and second, especially for the start. We will probably have some surprises at the first corner and on the first lap, hopefully it will be okay for us and we will be able to get into the top two positions.”
Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 1:35.766): "I came here this weekend to push almost beyond the limit – and that approach seemed to work in qualifying. I gave it everything. I did two consecutive quick-laps – and, on my second lap, having put in a 'banker', I didn't really have anything to lose, so I went almost over the limit, really on the edge, but the car still seemed to handle it well. On the final corner, I gained a little time on the entry but lost it on the exit. I got every corner perfect, I reckon, except for that last one. Looking ahead to tomorrow, Turn One is very wide and there'll be lots of opportunities for drivers to make or lose positions. My side of the grid will be a bit dirty, because it's off-line, so I hope the authorities will cleaning the circuit on that side of the track so that the drivers on the inside will have a chance to at least keep their positions at the start."
Jenson Button (12th, 1:37.616): "It was such a pity to be put out of the running so early into the qualifying session. We had a throttle pedal problem – the engineers don't yet know exactly what caused it – but I suffered a loss of drive out on the circuit. Fortunately, I got one decently quick lap in during Q2, which was good enough for P12, otherwise I'd have been starting much farther back. This circuit is such a fun place to drive around, but it's not going to be too easy to overtake. Going into Turn One at the start is also going to be tricky, particularly as I'll be starting so far back. Still, I really hope we can put on a great show for all the American fans – it's great to see so many people embracing the sport."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "Today we saw an extremely exciting qualifying session, in which Lewis and Seb [Vettel] traded fastest laps in the later stages of Q3, both men at the absolute peak of their form. In the end, Lewis just failed to score what would have been his 26th pole position in Formula 1, but it was mighty close. Jenson suffered a throttle pedal problem in Q2, which prevented him from being able to cut a really fast lap. That was disappointing for us and frustrating for him, obviously, but he's a brilliantly canny racer and he'll surely make good progress in tomorrow's race from his P12 starting slot. As for Lewis's race prospects, well, you may be well sure that he'll be tremendously determined to go one better tomorrow than he did today. In a nutshell, he'll be aiming to win. He did a good long run yesterday, so, although we never under-estimate our opposition, there's no reason why he shouldn't do just that. McLaren has won a total of 11 grands prix on US soil, and it would be awesome if we could make that a dozen tomorrow."
Felipe Massa (7th, 1:36.937): "This qualifying was pretty much a lottery: the lucky number is always the last one! With this type of tire on this asphalt one struggles to get the tires up to temperature and one has to lap continuously before being able to set a good time. IN Q2, we managed it, but in Q3 things did not go as well: it's never easy to do the perfect lap with so little grip. It will definitely not be an easy race for us, given the grid positions of our main rivals, but we must stay focused because all the same, tomorrow will be hard for everyone. We will have to do our utmost and then we will see how it goes. Starting from the dirty side of the track is definitely not helpful: it's the first time we're not happy about gaining a grid position!"
Fernando Alonso (9th, 1:37.300): "We never managed to put together the best lap, which on these tires and with these track conditions is always the last one you do. We knew it would be a complicated weekend but clearly today we were too slow and we will start from too far back. Having said that, the accounts are always done at the end of the race: also in Abu Dhabi we were slower than our main rivals and then we got back three points in the classification. Our aim remains unchanged and it's still possible: on Sunday all sorts of things can happen. Reliability, strategy – it will be important to work out when is the best time to pit because here, the cold tires can be slower by several seconds – and team work will be as usual important. The updates? We tried to find the best possible combination between all the parts we had available, as it's not always the case that the latest part is the best choice, especially when you are at a brand new track. We will push to the limit, as we have done since the start of the year at every race weekend."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "A disappointing qualifying that puts us in a very difficult position in terms of the championship, given that our main rival will start from pole position. The main problem was linked to tire performance, but let's make it clear, the responsibility rests with us, because the tires are the same for everyone and therefore it's down to us to try and get them to work as well as possible. We must analyze very carefully the way qualifying went, to understand what didn't work but above all, we must concentrate on preparing for the race. We have said it often, the sums are done on Sunday afternoon: clearly the outlook is not positive but we are well aware that the situation can be different in the race. There are no reference points for a new track therefore the unknown factors are greater than usual: we have a duty to tackle every aspect to perfection."
Pat Fry: "A very difficult qualifying, there's no doubt about it. The tire-asphalt combination created conditions that were very difficult to interpret and we probably struggled more than others. We even tried to make the most of FP3 to prepare as well as possible for qualifying and now we must look at the data carefully to try and understand what didn't work out as it should have done. Clearly we can expect a very complicated Sunday, but there's no point crying over spilt milk. We must just try and do our utmost to give our drivers the chance to run as good a race as possible. From what we can see over these past two days, tire degradation seems rather low, therefore it's more than likely we can expect just one stop, so that's probably one less variable in terms of the strategy."
Michael Schumacher (6th, 1:36.794): "Qualifying was better than we expected, especially as we have struggled over the weekend and have worked hard to make progress and achieve such a solid job today. Qualifying in sixth place is a good and important position for us as a team. I had a good lap in Q3 and everything felt right with the car so we were able to maximize the potential. It will make a big difference here whether you start from the clean or dirty side of the grid, so gaining an extra place due to Grosjean's penalty was a nice surprise. The car looks reasonably consistent for the race and I would like to achieve the maximum result possible tomorrow. "
Nico Rosberg (17th, 1:38.501): "I ran our old exhaust system in qualifying today as part of our evaluation program for next year. We had already used it yesterday and made the decision to continue for the rest of the weekend to help with the learning process. The car felt good this morning in the cool temperatures but the difference to Michael's car surprised me this afternoon. So I hope that the race pace is better tomorrow and the switch will be worth it. I will definitely push to score points."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "Today has been about getting the tires into the right working zone, and the unusual number of laps that everyone ran in qualifying reflects that. With Michael, it worked very well today. He was able to get his tires working exactly how he wanted, and it was a great effort from Michael and the team to post the sixth fastest time. The extra place gained from Grosjean's penalty means we're on the right side of the grid so an excellent job all round. Nico ran the standard exhaust this afternoon as part of our program to ensure that we go into the winter fully understanding our exhaust system. Consequently he found it difficult to get the tires working and that led to the result we got. Whilst it's disappointing to qualify in 17th, and we know that Nico could have done far better in a different car, we will get the full picture of the changes made in the race tomorrow and then have all of the data that we wanted to collect."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A good performance from Michael today who posted the sixth fastest time and will start from fifth place on the grid. Unfortunately Nico did not have the set-up in today's qualifying with which he could achieve a similar or better result. But let's see whether he will be better up over the race distance."
Romain Grosjean (4th, 1:36.587): "I will start P9, but this is racing. The guys did an awesome job to change the gearbox between FP3 and Qualifying – which was a really tight turnaround – but we're still in the top ten even with the penalty so that's a good result. Apart from the gearbox problem, it's all gone very well today. We've understood a difficult and evolving circuit and found a good set-up. I'm happy to be where I am and at least I will be on the good side of the track for the start tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen (5th, 1:36.708): "I was actually expecting a more difficult qualifying session today, but the car was the best it's felt all weekend so it turned out to be quite good. The set-up is still not exactly how I want it but it's much closer. The warmer conditions make the car work much better and that certainly makes a difference. Starting on the dirty side of the grid maybe isn't the best; we'll have to hope that the circuit picks up a little more grip for the race tomorrow."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "There's no reason we can't be up there challenging for a podium spot again. We're certainly happy with today. It was a good qualifying performance from both drivers and we've shown that the car has improved pace in qualifying trim with the updated exhaust configuration which is a big positive. Unfortunately for Romain, we had a gearbox issue with his car this morning which means he'll take a five place grid penalty but we know the car has good race pace; with a clean start from both drivers there's no reason we can't be up there challenging for a podium spot again. It's been a bit of a struggle for everyone I think. We've seen a very green surface, low track temperatures and tires which are really far too hard for what's required. The circuit has started to clean up significantly which is allowing the car and tires to behave in a much more normal fashion and it now seems to be relatively easy to run very long stints on either compound. As per the last few weekends, it's highly likely that we're looking at another one stop race. The decision will be whether to stop early and make the jump or whether to spend the most time possible running the option tire, so that's what we'll be analyzing tonight. I think so, yes. Our race pace on Friday looked promising and – as a rule – the car has been kind on tires so there's no reason to believe we shouldn't be aiming for another strong result."
Nico Hulkenberg (8th, 1:37.141): "I'm happy to get another top ten result and it's been a good effort by the whole team, especially given where we were yesterday evening. My lap in Q3 was not too bad, but I was a little compromised by a Williams in the last couple of corners, so maybe there was a little bit more to come. Generally I'm quite happy and confident we can race strongly because our long-run pace looked competitive yesterday. There are lots of unknowns about tomorrow because there is no data from the past to help us, but we're in good shape and I'm really enjoying driving at this new track."
Paul di Resta (13th, 1:37.665): "It has been a difficult weekend so far and I'm still struggling to get the tires working. I have quite a smooth driving style so maybe that's why I haven't been able to switch them on as well as Nico, who has a more aggressive approach. The good news is that P13 is on the cleaner side of the grid so that should help me maximize the start. It's a long race but I'm not really sure what to expect tomorrow. The car is not quite where I want it to be so I just need to make the best of it and hope we can use the strategy to help us move forward."
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal: "The Circuit of the Americas is a spectacular venue for motor racing and it was great to see so many fans here to watch today's qualifying session. It's not been the easiest of weekends for us in terms of setting up the car and getting the tires to work, but the changes overnight certainly improved the situation and we looked more competitive in final practice. By the time of the qualifying session, Nico was feeling a lot more confident and managed to make Q3 once again. With a grid penalty for Grosjean, we expect Nico to start from seventh. Paul has been struggling more with the tires, but he's certainly in the mix for the race and will continue to fight. The priority tomorrow is to pick up points and strengthen our position in the championship."
Sergio Perez (15th, 1:38.206): "We have lost a lot of performance compared to this morning's practice session and at the moment we don't really know why. The track temperature increased a lot, but for me the tire warm up still wasn't any better. My car tended to oversteer quite a lot in qualifying. Perhaps we did not follow the way the track conditions developed in the right direction. I want to thank all the people in the grandstands and especially all the Mexicans, who sacrificed time and money to travel to Austin and bought tickets. In my country you always go with your entire family and I know this is not easy to do because it is an expensive trip. I wish I could have done better today, but I will do my very best to give all these people a good race tomorrow. For sure I will fight for points however difficult this might be."
Kamui Kobayashi (16th, 1:38.437): "Without doubt the result is disappointing for us because after free practice we were expecting a better qualifying. I found the warm up of the tires easier this afternoon, but still I could not find the peak performance for the tires. I just don't know yet why this was. Tomorrow in the race it should be less of a problem to get the tires to work, but obviously our grid positions will make it difficult to put in a good result."
Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal: "This qualifying result is a big disappointment for the whole team. We don't really understand what happened, because we couldn't match our lap times from free practice three. It's up to the engineers now to turn this round in the race."
Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering: "After free practice three we expected a lot more. We didn't make any major changes to the set-up of the cars, and we approached qualifying with quite a lot of confidence. However, both drivers reported a lack of grip. We gave them a higher number of laps to cope with the warm-up issues we had during the weekend, but it didn't produce the result we expected. We just didn't find the same level of grip and balance as we did in the morning. We will have to analyze the data very carefully to understand what went wrong. Certainly the race will be another story, but our grid positions are a clear disadvantage."
Jean-Eric Vergne (14th, 1:37.879): "I think the team has worked well so far this weekend to produce a car that seems a bit more competitive than in the past few races. It doesn't mean much that I beat my team-mate today, because he had some difficulties in the first session. Maybe I could have got a bit more out of the car this afternoon, perhaps found a couple of tenths. After going over the curbs and damaging the suspension this morning, I obviously lost some track time and without that, I might have had a better understanding of the tires. However, as I said before, the car feels good, there are plenty of overtaking opportunities here so my plan tomorrow is to go hunting for some more points."
Daniel Ricciardo (18th, 1:39.114): "That was a difficult and frustrating session for me. We knew it would take a long time for the tires to come in, especially as the asphalt is still so slippery. We never really got them to work properly as I got stuck in traffic in the early part and then came the yellow flags when I was about to try for my last two laps. It meant I never got a clean run. This is one of my worst qualifying performances of the season, the first time I haven't made it to Q2 for seven races, so I just want to put it behind me now and aim to have a better Sunday, which should be entirely within our capabilities."
Laurent Mekies, Chief Engineer: "Overall, this was an unusual qualifying session as after yesterday, everyone knew they would have to do a lot of laps to get the best out of the tires. Q1 was very tight and in Daniel's case he was unfortunate to be trying for his best lap just as the yellow flags came out, so he did not make the cut into Q2. Jev did a good job this afternoon to outpace both Saubers and Rosberg. All the teams spent a lot of time working out how to get the best out of the Medium Pirellis in qualifying trim and maybe a bit less time thinking about the race, which could make for an interesting afternoon tomorrow. Our starting position certainly does not rule us out of fighting for points. Although it is the most likely scenario, a one stop strategy is not inevitable, because no one has that much long run data from Friday and we have never raced here before."
Pastor Maldonado (10th, 1:37.842): "The performance wasn't there yesterday so today was much better for us. Unfortunately in Q3 the grip wasn't there, as it was difficult to get the tires working correctly. It's important we are in the top ten for tomorrow though. We have a good car so we are looking to get more points tomorrow in what looks set to be a good race. All around the track are Venezuelan flags and there is a lot of support here for me as it's so close to my home, so hopefully that will help give me an extra boost tomorrow!"
Bruno Senna (11th, 1:37.604): "Unfortunately I made a small mistake on my best lap in Q2, running a bit wide on Turn 19 and then having dirty tires which cost me about half a second and a place in Q3 for sure. It's frustrating but we are able to score good points from where we are. We have a good car and we looked competitive in our race simulation in practice yesterday, so I'm really looking forward to the race. It's a track we are all attacking and it's important to keep pushing."
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: "Both cars responded well to the overnight set-up changes with the general balance in FP3 being pretty good this morning. Qualifying was somewhat unusual, with most cars doing longer runs in an attempt to get the tires into their optimal window. Both Bruno and Pastor easily made it through Q1 and Bruno was unlucky not to progress, along with Pastor, into the final Q3 session. Pastor felt that the balance was not as good in Q3 as he had felt it in earlier sessions and struggled to put a clean lap together finishing in tenth. We are looking forward to tomorrow and will push hard to get both drivers home in the points."
Vitaly Petrov (21st, 1:40.809): "Quali obviously didn't go how we wanted it to. I had traffic issues on every lap and wasn't able to put a clean lap together, but even without that we've struggled with the tires here all weekend and that showed today. It was bad timing for us that the HRT stopped on track just when Heikki and I were on our quickest laps and having been stuck behind them, but you can't plan for that so we need to put today behind us and hopefully we'll be better tomorrow."
Heikki Kovalainen (22nd, 1:41.166): "We underperformed today, it's really that simple. We went with a plan that didn't work and unfortunately both Vitaly and I weren't able to get enough heat into the tires to get the best out of them, or manage the traffic well enough to get a clean lap in. Tomorrow's another day so now we need to regroup and have a better performance in the race than we did today."
Pedro de la Rosa (23rd, 1:42.011): "It was not easy and still not perfect but I knew that it would be a lot better than yesterday and this morning on my out lap. I could already feel the tires switching on. We struggled with bringing them up to temperature all weekend and finally in qualifying we managed. Both because the temperature of the asphalt picked up and we improved the balance of the car, but grip level is still pretty low. It felt good and hopefully it will be like this tomorrow for the race but at this track we are still far from our direct competitors. In any case, we will do our best tomorrow and fight until the end."
Narain Karthikeyan (24th, 1:42.740): "Driving was quite challenging in the morning because it was difficult to bring the tires up to temperature. But things improved a lot in the afternoon with a much warmer track. The tires and the car performed much better and we managed to put in a few good laps. I think we could still have improved on the last laps but the car suddenly stopped. We had a problem with the fuel pick up that we are now looking into it but we don't expect it to be a problem for tomorrow's race."
Toni Cuquerella, Technical Director: "From the first sessions, all teams have had trouble warming tires up but in our case it is particularly difficult due to low aerodynamic support. In the morning with the cold track we struggled to put in good lap times and the difference to the fastest time was too big. Fortunately, conditions changed for the afternoon and track temperature rose notably which, together with some set up adjustments, allowed us to get the tires within the working temperature range. In our case, tire wear is marginal therefore we expect to go for a one pit stop strategy for the race. We will have to be particularly careful when we start getting blue flags in order to avoid disturbing but also not loosing too much temperature on the way."
Timo Glock (19th, 1:40.056): "Another good day today. I think we concentrated on the right things, although it was a challenge through FP3 to get to that point as it is hard to put a good single lap together here. In qualifying I thought I had a strong lap and the tires were really coming in, but towards the end I had a bit of wheel lift and the rear felt a bit strange. I think we could have gone quicker because the tires were improving so much lap by lap, but because of the yellow flags there was no chance for more improvement. However, we are almost 0.8s ahead of the Caterhams and we have to be very pleased with that. This is great development from the team and although it seems like we remind everyone every race just now, we've managed all that without the advantage of KERS and that is a significant point. I'm very excited for the race and I hope we can continue the good work."
Charles Pic (20th, 1:40.664): "It was a good qualifying session and the most important thing is that we got both our cars ahead of both Caterhams. Looking at the detail though, I missed some important track time this morning because of the incident with Perez and we were not able to get a good feel for the car by the end of FP3. There was more to come for qualifying for sure and then towards the end of Q1 we hit some traffic. Overall, despite not having fully optimized our package, I am pleased with where we ended up. It is a fantastic result for the team and to keep moving forward like this with each new race is very positive. Now we will focus on the race and take time tonight to consider the best way to play things to bring us a good result. My thanks to the whole team for such a great job."
John Booth, Team Principal: "Today is an important day for the whole team as it represents the culmination of the aggressive development program we have undertaken since the mid-season. We have demonstrated that we are now faster than the Caterhams after both cars achieved the objective of outqualifying them. The day got off to a less than positive start for Charles. As a consequence of the incident with Perez in FP3, he missed a significant amount of track time and had to use a compromised car for the last 30 minutes of the session, which for sure hurt his qualifying performance due to the lack of running on what has proved to be a track where mileage is essential. Nevertheless, he did a fantastic job in qualifying and I'm sure the race tomorrow will provide him with the opportunity to demonstrate even more of his maturing talent. Timo has had a fantastic day from the off. He and his engineers had a very productive morning in ensuring that the car was making optimal use of its tires and also giving him good position on track. Into qualifying we knew it would be tricky to judge the run length required, which is why we opted to fuel the cars for the session and use the pit crew to change tires in order to achieve the optimal second run length. This worked out perfectly and today's performance has been a real credit to the whole race team, who have worked together both to solve the problems with Charles' damaged car and also to play out qualifying to maximum effect. We are looking forward to the race tomorrow now. Tires will be the hot topic and we must ensure we maintain this momentum and execute our strategy perfectly to enjoy another fantastic fight with the cars around us."
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