By Rajarshi Gupta at BIC
Vettel stormed to his 35th career pole at the Buddh International Circuit, closely followed by teammate Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren.
Visibly upbeat after qualifying on Saturday, Vettel sounded out a warning for his rivals, saying the Indian track suits the character of the team and he would go with all guns blazing come Sunday. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner had on Friday remarked how impressive the Indian track has been with all its slow and fast corners. His ace driver echoed similar views.
“Last year was special to me (having won the inaugural Indian GP in 2011). It was great to be the first winner in India. I like the circuit here - it suits our character.
“It’s a bit slow to start with and then there’s a nice and smooth flow to the track which allows you to overtake with ease. Hopefully we wouldn’t have to overtake at all,” Vettel said.
Chasing his fourth successive victory this year, Vettel was cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances on Sunday: “It’s a good result for us today (1st and 2nd) but the real race is going to happen tomorrow and it’s going to be a long race. We got to focus on what we can do tomorrow and not worry too much about the other teams - that’s out of our control.
Hamilton, who has had 20 career wins so far, has a chance to add to an impressive tally. But the McLaren driver was aware of the challengers that lay ahead for him as the drivers braced up for one final assault on the Indian track.
“It’s a challenging track and it takes a lot to pull a corner. You need to put a lot of load on the tyres,” Hamilton said.
Languishing at fourth with 153 points, Hamilton is a far shot away from Vettel, who with 215 points only has competition from Fernando Alonso’s 209. However, the McLaren driver is still eager to make a fight of it.
“Third (in qualifying) is a great position to start from. Hopefully, I would have a better race on Sunday than the last one and try and get some good points,” Hamilton said as Vettel and Webber looked on.
This has been one of the most competitive years in Formula One for a while, especially after Vettel’s dominating run in 2011. The young German is aware the other drivers, despite their grid positions after qualifying, could pose a challenge and he was grateful to have finished on pole yet again.
“There have been different types of races this year - some boring and some rather spectacular so I am happy to be in the position that I am in.”
The track surface was slippery and it would take drivers a lot of strategic planning to come out ahead on Sunday, especially with tyre wear and updates likely to play a factor. But championship leaders Red Bull were clear about their plans on the eve of what would be a very demanding race.
“We have started this weekend better than last year. There has been a lot of track improvement here and it gets quicker after tyre changes. This has been a good session for us,” Vettel said.
Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa trailed in qualifying but the top three know they would be followed by some very experienced drivers on a tricky track.