• Indian Grand Prix - Qualifying

Vettel cruises to Indian pole

Fraser Masefield
October 29, 2011

Sebastian Vettel will start the inaugural Indian Grand Prix from pole position after the newly crowned world champion easily set the fastest time of qualifying from Lewis Hamilton and team-mate Mark Webber.

Vettel's pole is his 13th of the season and means he has tied Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost for the most pole positions in a season. He needs one more to equal Nigel Mansell's feat of 14 poles in 1992. It is also Red Bull's 16th pole of the season, a new team record.

Despite posting the second quickest lap time, Hamilton will start from fifth on the grid after his three place grid demotion, meaning Mark Webber starts on the front row from Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa who spectacularly crashed out in the final minute.

With the majority of drivers wishing to conserve the softer prime Pirelli compounds and test the levels of circuit grip, cars flooded out onto the circuit on the harder option tyre at the start of Q1. But it soon became apparent that the circuit was making it tough for drivers to get the harder tyres up to optimum temperature and many drivers struggled for grip. Hamilton and Massa were among many to run wide, throwing plumes of dust onto the circuit.

Audibly complaining of a lack of rear grip over the car to pits radio, both Button and Schumacher took the measure to switch to soft rubber to avoid the calamity of being the big scalps in Q1 and both made it through on their final laps. Kamui Kobayashi was not so fortunate, the Sauber driver failing to make it through to Q2.

With the softer compound the order of the day to make it through to Q3, the pole protagonists cruised through without any trouble but the session did throw up some surprises. Both Toro Rosso drivers excelled to progress to the final shootout but Michael Schumacher missed out on his final run on a fresh set of soft rubber. Paul di Resta also missed the cut, along with both Renaults, Vitaly Petrov starting from 16th after his five place grid penalty for running into Schumacher in Korea.

The final session produced the expected battle for pole and once again delivered the expected result, Vettel producing an imperious 1:24.178 to head Hamilton and Webber. Alonso will be satisfied with third on the grid following Hamilton's demotion but Massa will not be so happy after smashing his front suspension on the kerbing on turn 8 with only seconds of the session remaining, his Ferrari careering across the track before crashing into the barriers.

And HRT will be delighted to have beaten both Virgins, home favourite Narain Karthikeyan only.22 seconds behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who will start from the back of the grid after dropping five places for a late gearbox change.