Sebastian Vettel claimed his thirteenth pole position of the 2011 Formula 1 season at Delhi on Saturday.
It was also Red Bull’s sixteenth pole of the year – a record for a team in a single season.
The double-world champion claimed the accolade as others hit traffic on their fast laps – or in the case of Felipe Massa, the barrier.
Vettel set two fast laps in the final qualifying stint – both of which would have been good enough for the top spot; however it was his final run (at 1:24.178) that became the benchmark.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was 2nd quickest as the chequered flag emerged, but a three-place penalty for a Friday transgression dropped the Briton down 5th, behind Mark Webber (Red Bull), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and McLaren teammate Jenson Button.
Indeed, it would prove to be a nervy run for Button. Suffering from poor grip throughout the session, the former champion used all three sets of his soft tyre, opting for only a single run in Q3.
Button’s quick lap – some seven-tenths shy of Vettel – was initially called into question, as he sped through a yellow flag area while Massa was busy going off. As the incident was still unfolding, Button avoided a penalty.
For Massa, the Brazilian pounded the kerbs at turn nine, breaking the suspension of the Ferrari, sending him careering into the barriers. His first timed run was enough to garner 6th on the grid.
Nico Rosberg completed only one run, assuming 7th on the grid, while Force India’s Adrian Sutil and both Toro Rosso’s did not complete fast runs, in order to save tyres for the Grand Prix.
Michael Schumacher heads the sixth row in his Mercedes after Renault’s Vitaly Petrov’s Korean Grand Prix penalty was applied. The Russian had initially qualified 11th with a best of 1:26.319, but drops five places on the grid.
The alteration leaves Schumacher 11th, with Paul di Resta (Force India) alongside, while Pastor Maldonado continues to show rather impressive form in the Williams, taking 13th ahead of the other Renault of Bruno Senna.
Rubens Barrichello (15th, Williams) lost out to his rookie teammate once again – his best was a startling seven-tenths shy of Maldonado. Sergio Perez initially qualified 17th in his Sauber, but a three-place grid penalty from Friday practice incident knocked the Mexican down to 20th.
Perez’ teammate Kamui Kobayashi took that 17th place instead. Like Perez, the Japanese pilot spent the weekend struggling to find any grip in the Sauber C30 chassis; however Kobayashi’s qualifying turned from bad to worse when his Q1 run was blocked by Massa.
Both Lotus’ were also promoted due to the Perez penalty, with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli assuming 18th and 19th respectively.
Jerome d’Ambrosio (21st) was next up in the Virgin, but only because both HRT’s suffered penalties themselves – a dampener for the Spanish / German squad who had out-qualified both Virgin’s for the first time.
Following the session, Daniel Ricciardo fell to 22nd for changing a gearbox, while Narain Karthikeyan dropped to 23rd for impeding Schumacher. Timo Glock props up the grid due a gearbox failure after two laps.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m24.178s 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m24.508s + 0.330 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m24.519s + 0.341 4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.950s + 0.772 5. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.474s + 0.296 ** 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m25.122s + 0.944 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.451s + 1.273 8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 9. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 10. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari Q2 cut-off time: 1m26.319s Gap ** 11. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.337s + 1.680 12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m26.503s + 1.846 13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m26.537s + 1.880 14. Bruno Senna Renault 1m26.651s + 1.994 15. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m27.247s + 2.590 16. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m26.319s + 1.662 * Q1 cut-off time: 1m27.479s Gap * 17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.876s + 1.687 18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m28.565s + 2.376 19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m28.752s + 2.563 20. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.562s + 2.905 ** 21. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m30.216s + 4.027 22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m30.238s + 4.049 23. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m30.866s + 4.677 24. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m34.046s + 7.857 107% time: 1m32.222s * Gap to quickest in Q1 ** Gap to quickest in Q2