Formula One News » Vettel sits tight to take Singapore pole Posted on 21/09/2013
The German, who had already topped both FP2 and FP3 earlier in the weekend, banged in a seemingly effortless 1min 42.841secs effort to claim provisional top spot, before telling his Red Bull crew that he would probably only be able to improve by a tenth should he venture out again. Keen to save tyres for race day, the team decided to let him wait in the garage, with fingers crossed that none of the challengers could muster a better run.
Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber both looked like they could come close, matching Vettel through the first couple of sectors, but ultimately came up short, although Rosberg got to within 0.09secs of the world champion as he crossed the line.
Webber slotted into third spot, but was then demoted by Romain Grosjean, the Lotus driver overcoming a difficult start to the weekend to reprise his top three form from FP3 and ensure that a trio of different teams would be represented at the front of the field.
Behind Webber, Lewis Hamilton was a frustrated fifth, unable to move up the order with his final run or match Mercedes team-mate Rosberg’s pace when it mattered.
Ferrari was only fourth-best on this occasion, with Felipe Massa fully six-tenths off Hamilton, let alone the front of the grid. The Brazilian out-qualified team-mate, and title outsider, Fernando Alonso by a handful of hundredths as the Scuderia again struggled to match its rivals for pace, a good advertisement for his services as he looks for a drive in 2014.
Jenson Button was the only McLaren driver in the top ten and, instead of opting to save tyres, decided to give the session a go, eventually winding up eighth overall after out-performing Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo by just over a tenth.
The surprise of the top ten did all his work in Q2, Esteban Gutierrez sitting out the final session having progressed to the stage for the first time in his rookie career.
Then Mexican will line up one place ahead of Sauber team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, who was knocked out of the pole position shoot-out by Button’s last-gasp Q2 lap, but the biggest story aside from that was the joint failure of Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez to progress through to the end of qualifying.
Raikkonen revealed that he was battling a injured back after final practice, but opted to try and qualifying for one of the toughest races of the year regardless. Having squeezed through the opening session, he was unable to climb out of the â€˜drop zoneâ€™ in Q2, his final effort having only been good enough for eleventh, which became 13th in the final order.
Perezâ€™s exit came as the Mexican failed to convert a single late run into a top ten time, the McLaren man winding up a disappointing 14th, ahead only of Adrian Sutil and Valtteri Bottas. Jean-Eric Vergne was the other driver to make an exit after Q2, caught out in the late-session shuffle of positions having been the man to demote Raikkonen through the trapdoor.
Earlier still, both Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado fell at the first hurdle, as they joined Marussia and Caterham in the bottom six. Neither driver felt that they had got the best out of admittedly difficult cars, although di Resta was more optmistic about his long run pace. Maldonado, in 18th, will line up alongside the Scot as Williams failed to capitalise on its supposedly improved high downforce package.
Caterham remained ahead of Marussia after free practice, with Charles Pic posting a late lap to deny team-mate Giedo van der Garde the inside of row ten. The Dutchman was pressing on, however, clipping the wall with his right-rear wheel – not for the first time this weekend – on his final run.
A couple of tenths split the green machines as a result, with Marussia’s Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton a further half second adrift.