2013 BRAZIL GP: RAIN CONTINUED TO FALL, VETTEL CONTINUED TO HARVEST POLES

As the rain continued to fall over Sao Paulo, qualifying for the final race of the 2013 season took place in wet conditions, with the teams all using the full wets and intermediates. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel set pole position for the ninth time this season, on the intermediate tyre. Only four drivers have claimed pole position this year, Vettel, his team mate Mark Webber and the Mercedes line-up of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, but throughout the last four years, the polesitter at Interlagos has failed to win the race.

So far this weekend, there has been no significant running on any of the slick tyres, meaning that if hard and medium tyres are used tomorrow, the teams will have no data to go on. As a result, strategies are going to be wide open, with the teams having to react to changing circumstances as they evolve rather than prior information.

The first wet qualifying session since the Belgian Grand Prix in August got underway with spitting rain and ambient temperatures of 19 degrees centigrade. Most cars headed out early in Q1 to set a banker lap, with all the drivers using intermediate tyres. The rain intensified during the session, with an early time from Mercedes Lewis Hamilton topping the Q1 time sheets.

Conditions at the start of Q2 remained similar, which meant that most drivers again went out early, all on intermediates. Vettel’s first run gave him the fastest time, which was then beaten by Lotus driver Romain Grosjean. With the rainy conditions intensifying throughout the session, it was hard for the drivers to improve.

The final top 10 shoot-out was delayed to enable the worst of the standing water to clear. Once the action resumed, Vettel was the first driver to set a time on the full wets, with Grosjean the first driver to put on the intermediates. With the track drying, the lap times got quicker towards the end of the session. Vettel set his best time on the intermediate tyres in the closing moments.

Sebastian Vettel: "It was a surprise to get that time today. I was happy after Q3, it took a long time for us to get out as there was a lot of rain at the end of Q2. There was too much water on track, which is a shame for the people in the grandstands, but if there’s too much risk of aquaplaning, it’s better to wait. We then got out and I was surprised by how much the water had cleared. I went straight onto intermediates and was able to get a very good lap in straight away. I tried to beat that and got close, but it wasn’t enough. I was very happy to hear I got pole, I even mixed up Spanish and Portuguese on the radio! Hopefully we get a good chance tomorrow. We only had little practice in these conditions, but we still got the car where we wanted it, so I’m very happy."

Nico Rosberg: "That was a very demanding qualifying session today with really tricky conditions and a long break before the final session. I´m really pleased to have achieved second place on the grid and a big thank you to the team for their work. We did everything right today. My target was to give Sebastian a hard time so I was surprised that the gap was so big in these conditions. I lost time in the last sector compared to him which was down to a lack of KERS power when you do two consecutive quick laps. Being on the front row gives us a great opportunity in the race but the most important thing is to stay in front of the Ferraris."

Fernando Alonso: "I went off at Turn 4, I was very late and missed the corner, it was very slippery. I exited eight tenths behind. My pace was not enough for pole position but it was enough for second place. The lap was not completely clear today. Mixed conditions would be the best thing probably. With the weather forecast we have and we saw today how quick it goes from extreme to nearly dry so tomorrow will be fun. We know that in wet conditions we improve our performance a little bit. We were waiting for some wet races this year. I am happy to be so high up on the grid finally because we normally start between seventh and 10th in the last few grands prix, which is not ideal."
 P.    DRIVER               TEAM                  TIME       GAP  
 1. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull              1:26.479
 2. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes AMG          1:27.102   + 0.623
 3. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:27.539   + 1.060
 4. Mark Webber           Red Bull              1:27.572   + 1.093
 5. Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes AMG          1:27.677   + 1.198
 6. Romain Grosjean       Lotus                 1:27.737   + 1.258
 7. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso            1:28.052   + 1.573
 8. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso            1:28.081   + 1.602
 9. Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:28.109   + 1.630
10. Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber                1:29.582   + 3.103
  Q2 fastest time: Romain Grosejan 1:26.161                  Gap  
11. Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus                 1:27.456   + 1.295
12. Paul di Resta         Force India           1:27.798   + 1.637
13. Valtteri Bottas       Williams              1:27.954   + 1.793
14. Sergio Perez          McLaren               1:28.269   + 2.108
15. Jenson Button         McLaren               1:28.308   + 2.147
16. Adrian Sutil          Force India           1:28.586   + 2.425
  Q1 fastest time: Lewis Hamilton 1:25.342                   Gap  
17. Pastor Maldonado      Williams              1:27.367   + 2.025
18. Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber                1:27.445   + 2.103
19. Charles Pic           Caterham              1:27.843   + 2.501
20. Giedo van der Garde   Caterham              1:28.320   + 2.978
21. Jules Bianchi         Marussia              1:28.366   + 3.024
22. Max Chilton           Marussia              1:28.950   + 3.608
107% Time: 1:31.315