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Qualifying analysis - Vettel on top, but unpredictability beckons 23 Nov 2013

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013 Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, 22 November 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06 with rearwards facing instrument attached to the camera mounting.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, 22 November 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013 The crashed car of Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren MP4-28 is returned to the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013 Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 23 November 2013

The wet weather returned for a second day in Brazil meaning that heading into Sunday’s race - when the weather forecast is unsettled - there has been no dry running at all at Interlagos. Ironically, the man who ended up claiming pole position on Saturday was the only driver to have sampled Pirelli’s dry tyres this weekend: Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who completed a few tentative laps on slick rubber in Friday’s damp first session. We take a team-by-team look at the prospects of all the teams and drivers after a soggy day in Sao Paulo…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 26.479s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 27.572s, P4

There were no problems for Vettel, who said he’d been surprised on his first run in Q3 by just how quickly all the water had drained. Like everyone else bar Grosjean, the German set a banker lap on wet tyres before quickly switching to intermediates. From there he easily dominated the session with a superb lap that won him pole position and set him up to equal Alberto Ascari’s record of nine wins in a row. Webber, by contrast, never really got a good lap together, and his chances of winning his final Grand Prix look remote by having to start fourth. However, with Sunday’s weather looking unsettled, neither Vettel nor Webber can count on finishing where they start.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 27.102s, P2
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 27.677s, P5

Rosberg was happy with his lap, which put him in a position to challenge Red Bull in the race, but admitted that he was very surprised by the size of the gap to Vettel. He put that down to a lack of KERS after going for two consecutive fast laps. Hamilton had said the previous day that he had “no hope” if it stayed wet, but now reckons that Mercedes have made some progress with his car. But he still feels he has much to learn about getting the best from things such as the engine mapping in wet conditions. Mercedes nevertheless believe they are well placed to maintain their second position overall in the constructors’ championship over Ferrari.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 27.539s, P3
Felipe Massa, 1m 28.109s, P9

Alonso admitted to mixed feelings despite taking his equal best grid position of the year. On the one hand, being third was a fillip for Ferrari, especially if it stays wet, but he felt he lost too much time struggling for traction and that without that he could have been ahead of Rosberg. In his last race for Ferrari, Massa struggled for grip and traction on his way to a disappointed ninth. The Brazilian will be desperate to perform well in front of his home fans, and having won twice at Interlagos in the past, he’ll hope to move forwards in the race.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 27.737s, P6
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 27.456s, P11

Grosjean was on fire in Q2 when he set the pace three-tenths ahead of Vettel, and the plan to make an early switch from wets to intermediates seemed sound in Q3. But Lotus admitted that they should have waited before sending him back out as conditions improved further after he’d taken the best from his tyres. The Frenchman is still hopeful of being able to exploit Lotus’s race pace, whatever the conditions. Kovalainen admitted that he just didn’t have the pace to make Q3, plain and simple. However, having never driven the E21 in the wet before this weekend, he can be excused slightly.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 28.052s, P7
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 28.081s, P8

Ricciardo is very happy to be starting his final race with Toro Rosso from seventh, while Vergne was extremely relieved to recover from a shaky start - getting through to Q2 at the last gasp - to then more or less match his team mate in Q3. Seventh and eighth represents Toro Rosso’s best qualifying performance of the year and what’s more, both drivers believe they can have strong races if it remains wet on Sunday.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 29.582s, P10
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 27.445s, P18

Having qualified on pole for Williams in a wet session at Interlagos in 2010, Hulkenberg said he struggled in the wet on Saturday - which seems to be a corollary of Sauber’s improved dry road performance - and that it was tough on the super-slippery track. Gutierrez spoiled his best lap in Q1 when the track was at its best, and couldn’t recover as conditions soured. He’ll have a tougher job than his team mate to make the points on Sunday.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 27.798s, P12
Adrian Sutil, 1m 28.586s, P16

Di Resta was reasonably happy with the set-up which Force India had decided on early in the weekend, but Sutil said he struggled for grip and suffered too much oversteer. The Scot fancies his chances if the weather is dry, but that is a big ‘if’. Sutil, meanwhile, is hoping to be helped out by an unpredictable race.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 27.954s, P13
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 27.367s, P17

Williams had their cars out at the right time and on the right tyres in Q1; Bottas got the best from his, Maldonado didn’t, missing Q2 by a tenth. Despite their different fortunes, both drivers remain confident of scoring points on race day.

McLaren
Sergio Perez, 1m 28.269s, P14
Jenson Button, 1m 28.308s, P15

Button rued not running in FP3, to save tyres, as it gave him insufficient data on what the intermediates needed to give their best. He felt that the tyre pressures were too low in Q2, and that running a low-downforce set-up also hurt his chances, though it could help him if the weather is dry for the race. Perez was pushing hard to try and get into Q3 when he crashed near the end of Q2, but the damage was minimal and he remains eager for a strong final race with McLaren.

Caterham
Charles Pic, 1m 27.843s, P19
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 28.320s, P20

Pic was very happy, after solving the balance issue he’s had on his car for the past three races and also managing to save a set of intermediates for the race. Van der Garde also saved a set, but admitted to a mistake on his best lap as he struggled with his CT03’s balance. Caterham’s aim for race day is simple: finish high enough to snatch P10 in the constructors’ championship from rivals Marussia.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 28.366s, P21
Max Chilton, 1m 28.950s, P22

Once again the Marussias were close to the Caterhams, though Bianchi was adamant that he could have been closer to Pic but for a big mistake on the one lap in Q1 in which he had the chance to set a decent time. Chilton likewise had a big moment in the final sector as he struggled with his MR02’s balance. Both drivers know their job is to race the Caterhams on Sunday.

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