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Qualifying analysis - Austin set for a Red Bull showdown 16 Nov 2013

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying, Austin, USA, Texas, Saturday, 16 November 2013

For a short while it looked like Red Bull’s Mark Webber might follow up his P1 start in Abu Dhabi with pole position in the United States. But on his final run Sebastian Vettel did what he does best and put together an exquisite lap to snatch it away from his Australian team mate. The big question now is whether anyone will be able to challenge Red Bull in Sunday’s race and, if they can’t, can Webber defeat Vettel and win the penultimate Grand Prix of his 12-season Formula One career? We take a team-by-team look at the prospects of all the teams and drivers after Saturday’s action in Austin…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 36.338s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 36.441s, P2

Webber knew that he needed to improve to keep ahead of Vettel after taking pole provisionally after the first runs in Q3, but admitted that he didn’t quite get Turns 19 and 20 right as his RB9 got a “little bit unloaded”. As he so often does, Vettel put it all together to take his 14th pole of the season. With Pirelli predicting a one-stop race, Webber’s best chance of beating his team mate in Sunday’s race will be getting ahead of him at the start.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 37.155s, P3
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 37.715 s, P8

Grosjean did well to get through Q1 using only the hard tyres, and thus had decent options for his Q2 and Q3 strategy. In the latter he really got the lap together to move up to third, while Kovalainen did a sterling stand-in job for the absent Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn said he didn’t quite get as much out of the car as he felt he had in the previous day’s weather conditions, but is hopeful of a strong race given what Raikkonen has achieved from similar grid positions this year. Lotus have certainly not ruled themselves out of the fight with Mercedes ad Ferrari for second overall in the constructors’ championship and Grosjean will be as concerned with staying ahead of them as he is of challenging the Red Bulls. Certainly, the former is likely to be easier than the latter.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 37.296s, P4
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 38.034s, P10, will start P20 after penalty

Hulkenberg said he struggled in Q1 and Q2 with the change of wind direction and how best to warm up his tyres as a result, but Sauber made some changes to the C32 and he really put it all together in Q3 to claim another excellent starting slot. Gutierrez also got through and was delighted to make the top 10 in front of so many of his compatriots who had made the trip across the border from Mexico. Unfortunately, the stewards later gave Gutierrez a 10-place grid penalty for impeding Maldonado in Q1.

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 37.345s, P5
Nico Rosberg, 1m 38.364s, P14, will start P12

Hamilton has been a great deal happier with his car’s consistency all weekend thanks to using a new chassis, but having been very quick in FP3 he and the team were disappointed when the change of wind direction for qualifying promoted problems warming up their tyres. He at least managed fifth place, but Rosberg was in a world of hurt down in 14th place after he just couldn’t get temperature into his rubber. Whilst Hamilton will be looking at the podium, Rosberg will be aiming to score points.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 37.376s, P6
Felipe Massa, 1m 38.592s, P15, will start P13

Alonso said he was quite pleased with his sixth fastest qualifying effort, given Ferrari’s handling problems this weekend. But he also complained of a headache and back pains, which he said were a legacy of the impact he sustained trying to push ahead of Vergne and Massa in Abu Dhabi. Massa said he was completely mystified why he was struggling so much to generate grip on a track that he really likes. It looks like it’ll be another tough race day for fans of the Scuderia.

McLaren
Sergio Perez, 1m 37.452s, P7
Jenson Button, 1m 38.217s, P13, will start P15 after penalty

McLaren had one reasonably happy driver and one who was downbeat. Perez made Q3 after a mechanical problem was discovered overnight and rectified, and then qualified seventh. Button, however, was perplexed after his practice speed faded. He was unable to make Q3 despite the speed he’d shown on Friday and Saturday morning, and said he simply didn’t know why his car seemed to have changed its behaviour.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 37.836s, P9
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 39.351s, P18, will start P17

The Williams drivers had decidedly mixed fortunes. Bottas banged in the fastest time right at the end of Q1 and was fourth in Q2 in the revised FW35, but come Q3 he wasn’t quite able to get it all together. Nevertheless, ninth fastest time, only seven-tenths off third-placed Grosjean, was a dramatic upturn for the Grove team. Maldonado, meanwhile, was unhappy with his car’s handling, got held up by Gutierrez and Chilton, and failed to get through Q1.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 38.131s, P11, will start P10
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 38.696s, P16, will start P14

Ricciardo was pretty happy with what he achieved, though disappointed to miss out so narrowly on Q3 to Kovalainen, but Vergne was again mystified by his car’s behaviour. Overnight changes improved it for FP3, it felt awful on the hard tyres in Q1, much better on the mediums, then very difficult to drive again on mediums in Q2.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 38.139s, P12, will start P11
Adrian Sutil, 1m 39.250s, P17, will start P16

Di Resta was relatively happy with his performance and philosophical about missing out on Q3 by a tenth of a second, and said that plans to make a second run in Q2 were abandoned when his out lap was compromised when he came upon Hamilton warming up his tyres. Sutil hit traffic on his first effort in Q1, then had a brake disc failure in Turn 1 while trying to go for another try.

Caterham
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 40.491s, P19, will start P18
Charles Pic, 1m 40.596s, P21, will start P22 after gearbox penalty

Van der Garde was very pleased with the way things went, especially as he’d missed FP1 and was new to the track, and said that overnight changes had helped his CT03. Pic, however, was unhappy that a change of wind direction had brought back Friday’s understeer on some parts of the track, and oversteer elsewhere. He has a five-place grid penalty, too, after his gearbox was changed overnight.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 40.528s, P20, will start P19
Max Chilton, 1m 41.401s, P22, will start P21

Marussia got their effort back on track after yesterday’s disasters, and Bianchi was very pleased with his car as he outqualified Pic and almost beat Van der Garde. Chilton, however, remained unhappy with his car’s balance, and struggled. He will have to take a drive-through penalty within the first five laps, after impeding Sutil and Maldonado in Q1.

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