Vettel takes pole, Alonso down in 8th
Sebastian Vettel has taken another pole position and further increases his chances to become a triple world champion as Fernando Alonso will start only from 8th place. Lewis Hamilton qualified in second place as Mark Webber qualified the second Red Bull in third place.
The qualifying action is kicked off by the HRT cars, along with Timo Glock. The first frontrunner to come out on track is Kimi Raikkonen a minute later, and on his turn soon followed by Romain Grosjean.
8 minutes into the session, more cars are coming on track, but thus far Grosjean is fastest, ahead of Raikkonen, Glock, De La Rosa, Pic and Karthikeyan.
Most cars are immediately on the medium, option tyres, but Ferrari and Red Bull appear confident enough to get through on the primes. The tyre warmup problems mean that the best times are only possible after completing a few laps on the same sets of tyres on order to get them into the right operating window. This is great news for the spectators, as this also means a lot of action from the top teams, even in Q1.
6 minutes from the end, Vettel improves Grosjean's time. Webber does the same 2 minutes later, making Red Bull the only cars to beat Grosjean on the harder tyres. In the meantime, Maldonado has posted 4th on primes, Massa 5th on prime as well and Hulkenberg 6th on options.
3 minutes from the end of Q1, Narain Karthikeyan pulls off the track with a technical issue, triggering a yellow flag 50 seconds later when effectively stopping at turn 2.
Hamilton got passed the yellow flag area in time and managed to post 1st, only to be beaten by Vettel once again just 15 seconds later.
As Q1 came to an end, the battle to get through was again between the two Toro Rossos, with this time Jean-Eric Vergne posting the better time and moving through to Q2. This means Ricciardo is 18th, ahead of Glock, Pic, Petrov, Kovalainen, De La Rosa and Karthikeyan.
Raikkonen is again one of the first men on track in Q2, soon followed by Maldonado. The latter however quickly returned to the pits while Raikkonen posted a 1:37.672 on medium tyres.
Halfway into the session, Raikkonen's time still stands on top while Fernando Alonso has trouble completing a lap without being hampered by traffic. When Hamilton posted the fastest time one minute later, Alonso is badly blocked by Schumacher in turn 14.
With 3 minutes left on the clock, Vettel posted another fastest time, followed by Webber who moved up to second. Hamilton is third, Massa fourth and Alonso 5th.
Jenson Button on the other hand is 11th and back in the pits with a technical problem. He completed his last lap slowly and the team quickly found they could not resolve the problem in time to give Jenson another attempt in Q2.
With 0:00 left on the clock, Raikkonen is the only man still on track, but he eventually decides to return to the pits as he is 10th. Behind him, and eliminated are Senna, Button, Di Resta, Vergne, Pérez, Kobayashi and Rosberg.
In Q3, Schumacher and both Ferraris are out early, with Schumacher the first on track, ahead of Alonso and Massa. When they start their first timed laps, Hamilton leaves the pits as well, followed by Maldonado and the others.
5 minutes later, the tyres are getting warmed up, and Webber is the first to set a laptime below 1:37. Hamilton soon tops that, and Vettel goes even further with a 1:25.877. Both Ferraris are back in 8th and 9th and are obviously struggling to get their tyres up to temperature. Massa eventually found some performance on his final flying lap to secure 7th place on the grid, but while Vettel will start from pole after another improvement of his lap, Alonso is down in 8th place (after applying the 5-place grid penalty for Romain Grosjean).
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:36.558||1:35.796||1:35.657||20|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.215||1:36.298||1:36.174||20|
|4||10||Romain Grosjean (*)||Lotus-Renault||1:37.486||1:36.906||1:36.587||28|
|6||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG||1:37.927||1:37.102||1:36.794||22|
|8||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.756||1:37.066||1:37.141||20|
|13||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.104||1:37.665||-||15|
|17||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG||1:38.862||1:38.501||-||16|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:42.011||-||-||12|
(*) Romain Grosjean drops 5 places on the grid due to a gearbox change on Saturday morning