Saturday, 26 November 2011

Interlagos Qualifying: Delivering when you need to

So, there you have it. Sebastian Vettel claims yet another pole position. That leaves his final total for the season at 15. And this is a record.

Yes, it will be argued that the previous record total, set by Nigel Mansell in 1992, was achieved in fewer races, but it cannot be denied that the mark is fitting for the astounding and consistent qualifying performances from Seb this year. Time after time his qualifying runs in 2011 have been like flicking a switch, delivering a lap time as fast as it is possible for his Red Bull to go, and sometimes even faster, when it really matters; no matter the pressure or opposition.

The fifteenth pole of the season for Sebastian Vettel,
which is a record.
Credit: Morio / CC
Today was a continuation. It had looked fairly nip and tuck between Seb and the McLarens, as well as with his team mate Mark Webber, initially. But come the final, vital, session Seb simply moved to another level. He set a first time well beyond all others, and then bettered it.

The first two rows on the grid for tomorrow's race are in Noah's Ark formation. Mark Webber will join his team mate on the front row, and the McLarens occupy the second row with Jenson Button ahead. It's worth reflecting as an aside though that for all of Lewis Hamilton's struggles this year it's only 6 times out of 17 that Button's qualified ahead of the two. Fernando Alonso lines up in his usual fifth place.

Tomorrow may be a different matter though. The McLarens have looked on the Red Bulls' pace in race trim, and Alonso usually is also closer in that situation. But it's also the case that rain, possibly with thunderstorms, is expected tomorrow, in which case all bets are off.

Nico Rosberg managed to sneak his Merc among the 'big three' teams by qualifying sixth. This was a worthy effort, and he looked quick all the way through the qualifying session and in the second session was a second clear of his team mate Michael Schumacher. Word is though that some of this may be down to running his settings more for today's dry running than for tomorrow's (possible) rain. Come then, Nico may look like a genius, or not. This all leaves one-time Interlagos specialist Felipe Massa lining up seventh.

Aside from Vettel's, there were also strong performances delivered today by guys who most needed it. Home favourites Bruno Senna and Rubens Barrichello look seriously short of options for a 2012 race drive (despite word that the Kimi Raikkonen to Williams deal is off), and both did their prospects a lot of good in today's qualifying - Senna will start ninth tomorrow and Barrichello twelfth. Adrian Sutil achieved something similar and will start eighth tomorrow. This also puts him ahead his team mate Paul Di Resta in the qualifying match up for the season, 10 to 9. In a business wherein memories are short a good weekend for these three will be very well-timed for their future prospects.

No such problems for Sebastian Vettel though. On pole yet again.

Qualifying results

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