Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel will start tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix from third and fourth places on the grid as Lewis Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button took the front row spots. Sebastian’s sole drivers’ title rival, Fernando Alonso, will start from seventh place.
Webber, whose recent record at Brazil includes wins in 2009 and last year and second place in 2010, set the pace in the final top-10 shoot-out and, as the clock approached zero held provisional pole position.
That would have represented the Australian’s best start in Brazil having started from second in 2009 and 2011. He was denied, however, as both Hamilton and Button staged a late smash and grab raid to steal the front row spots.
“We got the most out of that, but it was disappointing not to get onto the front row,” he said. “I thought the lap would be enough, but we were a tenth off; it’s always tight here in qualifying.
“In the last race of the season it would have been good to get pole, but fair play to McLaren,” he added. “We don’t know what the weather will do tomorrow, and if all of the race laps will be on intermediate or wet tyres – we need to plan that some might be on slicks too. You never know what will happen here with the weather.”
Vettel, meanwhile, was still out on track but struggling to find the superior pace that had seen him top the Q2 time sheet. Indeed, after the chequered flag Sebastian admitted his Q3 laps had been less than perfect.
“Q2 was good for us, but I made a mistake on the first lap of Q3 in Turn 4,” he said. “I was happier with the second lap in Q3, but it wasn’t quick enough. I could have done a little bit more, so I’m keen to see the data when I get back and see where I could have improved. We’re in good shape and have been quick all weekend, so let’s see what we can do in the race – we will try to do our best.”
Team Principal Christian Horner added the drivers’ performance was a “strong result”, which give the team a chance for good points in tomorrow’s race.
“Both our cars on the second row of the grid is a strong result, particularly after the pre-qualifying rain,” he said. “We navigated ourselves through Q1 and Q2, with Seb going quickest in Q2, and then the McLarens found a bit of extra pace in Q3. However, Mark drove an excellent lap, extracted the maximum out of the car and lines up third, with Sebastian alongside him in fourth.
“Our focus now turns to the race and if you believe the forecast it’s going to be very wet, but our objective now is to maximise the points out from these grid positions.”
With the first two rows filled by McLaren and Red Bull Racing, fifth place went to Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, with Pastor Maldonado sixth. However, after qualifying the Williams driver was hit with a reprimand by the stewards for missing a call to the weigh bridge. As it was the Venezuelan’s third reprimand this season, he will take a 10-place grid penalty.
The penalty means that although he finished eighth in qualifying Alonso will start seventh tomorrow, just behind Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Kimi Raikkonen will start eighth, while row five will now be occupied by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Force India’s Paul Di Resta.