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Qualifying - Vettel storms to India pole as Red Bull split strategies 26 Oct 2013

(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1, pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrate in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Qualifying, Saturday, 26 October 2013 Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel runs a little wide on the exit of Turn 12 Lewsi Hamilton enters Turn 1 in his Mercedes during qualifying Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Qualifying, Saturday, 26 October 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Qualifying, Saturday, 26 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sebastian Vettel set himself up for a third victory in India and a sixth consecutive 2013 success by clocking the fastest-ever lap around the Buddh International Circuit in India on Saturday afternoon.

The Red Bull driver, who can clinch a fourth world title by finishing fifth or higher in Sunday's race, clocked a lap of 1m 24.119s on the soft tyre - seven-tenths quicker than Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who qualified in second ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton.

Mark Webber was fourth fastest in the other Red Bull, but could prove to be Vettel’s biggest challenger in the race after opting for a different strategy to his team mate and qualifying on the much more durable medium-compound tyre.

Q1 saw some incredibly close times as McLaren’s Jenson Button surprised everyone by setting the pace with 1m 25.574s ahead of Webber, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Hamilton. The other shock came as Romain Grosjean failed to make it through for Lotus after a gamble staying on mediums failed and was compounded by a couple of scruffy moments on his best lap. The Frenchman - who starred at the last race in Japan - was 17th and the first faller, on 1m 26.577s, with Williams’ Pastor Maldonado on his tail with 1m 26.842. Jules Bianchi was right with them with a superb lap of 1m 26.970s for Marussia, outclassing the Caterhams of Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic on 1m 27.105s and 1m 27.487s, and team mate Max Chilton on 1m 28.138s.

As Vettel went fastest in Q2 with 1m 24.568s ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Webber, Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton and Rosberg, Ricciardo was eliminated from the super-close contest. Button’s 1m 25.458s was enough to keep McLaren in Q3, as the Toro Rosso’s best was 1m 25.519s. Jean-Eric Vergne also failed to make it with 1m 25.798s in the sister STR8, as they were separated by the Force Indias of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil on 1m 25.908s and 1m 25.740s. Valtteri Bottas’ Williams was 15th on 1m 26.134s as Esteban Gutierrez took the final place for Sauber on 1m 26.336s.

Vettel lost no time in upping the ante in Q3, his lap of 1m 24.119s on new soft tyres resisting all attacks. Webber’s 1m 25.215s on medium tyres was vulnerable, however, and first Rosberg snuck by with a great 1m 24.871s, then Hamilton followed his team mate across the line with 1m 24.941s. Webber responded, but his 1m 25.047s came up just short and left him fourth. It was, however, still a terrific time and proof of just how quick the Red Bull is.

Behind then, Massa blasted his Ferrari round in 1m 25.201s to take fifth ahead of his 2014 replacement Raikkonen, who managed 1m 25.248s in his still-understeering Lotus. A late improvement put Nico Hulkenberg a strong seventh for Sauber on 1m 25.334s ahead of Alonso on 1m 25.826s. The Spaniard was the first of the three other drivers in the top ten who, like Webber, opted to qualify on medium-compound tyres. The other two were McLaren’s Sergio Perez and Button who were ninth and tenth quickest, the Mexican’s 1m 26.153s a shade quicker than the Englishman’s 1m 26.487s.

Thus, unless anyone incurs post-qualifying penalties, the grid will line up: Vettel, Rosberg; Hamilton, Webber; Massa, Raikkonen; Hulkenberg, Alonso; Perez, Button; Ricciardo, Di Resta; Sutil, Vergne; Bottas, Gutierrez; Grosjean, Maldonado; Bianchi, van der Garde; Pic, Chilton.

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