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Qualifying analysis - will it be deja vu for Vettel? 23 Mar 2013

Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren MP4-28 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber C32 rear detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 22 March 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.,
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013

After Force India’s Adrian Sutil set the fastest time in Q1, which was run in super-hot conditions, Nico Rosberg went fastest for Mercedes in Q2 before rain fell with six minutes to go. Q3 was run in rain all the way through, and everyone was obliged to run Pirelli’s intermediates. It was Sebastian Vettel who timed everything to perfection, but will it be the same story as Melbourne come the race? We take a look at the Saturday form at Sepang…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 49.674s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 52.244s, P5

The rain spared Vettel the need to venture out in Q2 to defend a slightly vulnerable ninth place, which meant he saved some tyres. But he was happy to change to a fresh set of intermediates towards the end of Q3, and that proved crucial in earning him his 38th career pole. There’s still some uncertainty over his Red Bull RB9’s race pace, but he’s starting in the best place. Team mate Webber was fastest for a fleeting second before Hamilton went faster, but fell to fifth as Vettel and the Ferraris swept ahead in the closing minutes. He was frustrated to mistime his final run.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 50.587s, P2
Fernando Alonso, 1m 50.727s, P3

Changing late on in Q3 to new intermediates was also the key to Ferrari’s best qualifying form for a long time. For the fourth time in succession Massa pipped Alonso, but both drivers are happy and believe that they have a very strong chance whether the race is wet or dry.

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 51.699s, P4
Nico Rosberg, 1m 52.519s, P6

Hamilton said that the balance of his car wasn’t great when the track was dry but was happy with his Q3 laps, especially as he was running older intermediates than the three drivers who eventually beat him. He’s hoping for a dry race. Rosberg looked good again in Q1 and Q2, but his tyres were worn in Q3 and he admitted that he didn’t get a decent lap together. Later, Raikkonen was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding him.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 52.970s, P7
Romain Grosjean, 1m 37.636, P11

Raikkonen struggled badly in FP3, but was happier with his car in qualifying until the balance went awry in the wet in Q3. He was also unhappy to be given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Rosberg in Turn 14. Grosjean should have made Q3, but ran off the road trying to go faster in Q2, just after setting the fastest first sector time.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 53.175s, P8
Sergio Perez, 1m 54.136s, P10

McLaren were quietly pleased with the way the MP4-28 performed on a smooth track that enabled them to run the ride height they couldn’t in Australia. Yesterday Button said he wanted a wet race; today he was mystified as to why the car worked less well on the intermediates. Both drivers felt they had taken a step forward, however.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 53.439s, P9
Paul di Resta, 1m 44.509s, P15

Sutil was the sensation of Q1, perhaps as others were taking it (relatively) gently on their rubber. He said he was really happy with his pace on the mediums, but was much less happy with the intermediates when the rain came, as the VJM06 was oversteering badly. Di Resta was unlucky in Q2. He was purple in the first two sectors but then, for unexplained reasons, aborted the lap. Later there was no time to get in a good one, as it had started raining. He ran wide in one corner, and later had a multiple spin in the slippery conditions.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 38.125s, P12
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 39.221s, P14

Hulkenberg went out in Q2 on used mediums, and because the team’s radar was broken they didn’t spot the weather approaching. Had they done so they would have used new mediums and given their drivers a better shot at Q3. The German also said his car lacked balance. Gutierrez experienced similar problems.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 38.822s, P13
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 38.157s, P17

Ricciardo was delighted with 13th in Q2, but said he might have hoped for even more after being within a tenth of the top 10 in Q1. Vergne was frustrated to lose four to five-tenths of a second behind another car towards the end of his final Q1 lap, but at least saved a set of dry-weather tyres for the race.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, No Q2 time, P16
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 38.207s, P18

Williams had a disappointing time, having looked more competitive at stages during the weekend.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 38.434s, P19
Max Chilton, 1m 39.672s, P21

Once again Bianchi starred, with an excellent lap in Q1 that put the Marussia in respectable territory. Chilton at times got close to the Frenchman, but wasn’t able to stage the same improvement when it mattered.

Caterham
Charles Pic, 1m 39.314s, P20
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 39.932s, P22

Pic was very happy with FP3 and thought that Caterham had made a lot of progress with the CT03, but was unable to dial out persistent understeer in Q1. Van der Garde, by contrast, found his car oversteering badly on the mediums in Q1.

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