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Qualifying analysis - Vettel stands on brink of title glory 17 Nov 2012

Wanted Poster for Championship contenders Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, 16 November 2012 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Timo Glock (GER) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, Texas, 17 November 2012

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull continued to set the pace throughout Saturday in Austin, using a new front wing which only arrived the previous night, but in Q3 Lewis Hamilton and McLaren regained the form they shown on Friday to run them very close, as Ferrari slumped to only seventh and ninth in the pre-penalty grid line-up. If Vettel wins and Alonso is fifth or worse, the title fight is over…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 35.657s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 36.174s, P3

Vettel had it all wrapped up throughout qualifying and said he was very happy with the way that things went as his domination continued into Q3. Webber couldn’t match him, but was a useful third and will start on the clean side of the grid. The Australian was reprimanded afterwards for missing a weight check, but didn’t get a penalty. A good race tomorrow could see Red Bull wrap up both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 35.766s, P2
Jenson Button, 1m 37.616s, P12

Hamilton’s form in qualifying was brilliant, and he really took the fight to Vettel and could even have had a shot at pole had the German not found a tenth right at the end. The Englishman is determined to sign off his McLaren career with another win, but starting on the dirty side of the grid could prove disadvantageous. Button seemed to be in good shape until he reported a loss of power in Q2. A throttle problem was subsequently diagnosed.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 36.587s, P4, will start P9
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 36.708s, P5, will start P4

Lotus continued their Abu Dhabi form, with Grosjean this time striking back to out-qualify Raikkonen narrowly. The Frenchman rewarded a great job by his crew in changing the gearbox between FP3 and qualifying, but of course gets a five grid place penalty which drops him from fourth to ninth for the start of the race. Raikkonen said he expected a more difficult session than he experienced, and no doubt recalls that he started fourth in Abu Dhabi too… Like the Ferraris, the Lotuses tend to race better than they qualify, so watch out for them from the start.

Mercedes
Michael Schumacher, 1m 36.794s, P6, will start P5
Nico Rosberg, 1m 38.501s, P17

Schumacher said he was pleasantly surprised by Mercedes’ form in qualifying. He escaped a penalty after allegedly impeding Alonso in Q2 and then moved from sixth to fifth, on the clean side of the grid, after Grosjean’s penalty. Rosberg stayed with the old exhaust that he’d tried yesterday in readiness for the 2013 campaign, and said he was surprised just how difference there was between it and Schumacher’s car with the Coanda-effect system as he lined up 17th on the grid.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 36.937s, P7, will start P6
Fernando Alonso, 1m 37.300, P9, will start P8

Alonso said he wasn’t surprised to struggle so much to generate tyre temperature and that, for a reason he can’t pinpoint, he firmly believes he will outscore Vettel again tomorrow. Massa had him tucked up all afternoon, which is unusual given that the Brazilian’s style is usually the one that doesn’t generate so much heat in the rubber. At least that means team orders are likely to guarantee that Alonso makes up at least one position in the race…

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 37.141s, P8, will start P7
Paul di Resta, 1m 37.665s, P13

Hulkenberg said he was pretty happy with the way things worked out with another top 10 qualifying position, and that without being compromised a little by a Williams in the last two corners he might have been a tad quicker. Di Resta put his struggle to generate tyre temperature down to a smoother style than his team mate’s.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 37.842s, P10
Bruno Senna, 1m 37.604s, P11

Maldonado was happy to see a big improvement from Williams overnight and was very quick at times, but said that the FW34 didn’t feel quite as good in Q3 as it had in Q2. Senna made a small but costly mistake in Turn 19 in Q2, and forfeited his chance of a run in Q3 as a result. But Williams, like Force India, look set for a decent shot at points tomorrow afternoon.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 37.879s, P14
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 39.114s, P18

After hitting a kerb and damaging the steering in FP3 left him out on the track, Vergne hit back with his best qualifying run of late to take 14th as Ricciardo languished in 18th. The Frenchman is ready to hunt for points, but the Australian said he had trouble switching on the tyres and was also compromised by traffic.

Sauber
Sergio Perez, 1m 38.206s, P15
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 38.437s, P16

Both drivers were mystified why a rise in track temperature after FP3 rendered their cars more of a handful than they had been. Perez was also involved in a silly shunt with Pic in the morning, and was deemed lucky by many that the stewards regarded it as a racing accident.

Marussia
Timo Glock, 1m 40.056s, P19
Charles Pic, 1m 40.664s, P20

Marussia really got their act together here to blow away Caterham with both cars. That might have been expected with Glock after his speed in FP3, but in Pic’s case it came after a huge amount of effort that was required to fix his car after attack by Perez in FP3. The floor was damaged and the aerodynamics compromised, but the Frenchman was only just over half a second off his team mate’s time.

Caterham
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 40.809s, P21
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 41.166s, P22

There were glum looks at Caterham as Marussia shouldered ahead. Kovalainen said it all when he admitted that they went in a direction that didn’t work. Neither he nor Petrov could generate tyre temperature, and the Russian also complained of traffic.

HRT
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 42.011s, P23
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 42.740s, P24

Both drivers struggled to get the tyres heated up, and Karthikeyan’s unhappy weekend continued as he stopped partway through Q1 with a fuel problem.

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