Vettel Jumps Out Front in Japan

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel qualified with a time of 1 minute 30.839 seconds. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Red Bull Racing claimed their first one-two start of the 2013 season, as reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel led the way to earn his fourth pole position of the season, and fourth consecutive pole at the Suzuka circuit in Japan.

Qualifying with a time of 1 minute 30.839 seconds, Vettel will aim for a clean victory as he did during the 2009 and 2010 seasons to further narrow the points gap between himself and championship leader Fernando Alonso, which now holds at 29 points. Vettel’s career Grand Prix pole total now sits at 34, which puts him in sole third place all-time behind Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.

“I’m very, very happy with today’s result, I think we had a very, very smooth qualifying session, nearly perfect, so we couldn’t really ask for more,” Vettel said. “The car felt fantastic from the start. We didn’t really have the best start to the weekend; yesterday morning I wasn’t very happy but then we seemed to get it better every time we go out, so very pleased with the result, very happy, the car feels fantastic around here and I was able to pick up a little bit overnight and it came together nicely and now obviously we hope for a very good race tomorrow.”

Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber completed the Red Bull sweep by qualifying second for tomorrow’s race, ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button who qualified with a time of 1 minute 31.290 seconds, which was good enough for third. Button however will have to start in 8th place on Sunday, as the McLaren driver was handed a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.

“My gearbox penalty means it’s disappointing to be starting so far back,” Button said, “though overtaking has never been easy around here - even with the introduction of DRS - and, that being the case, it’s quite a surprise that the DRS zone has been shortened for this year. But I love racing around here. And because everyone’s strategy could be up in the air tomorrow - because there’s been quite a lot of tire graining and blistering - things could still be a bit unpredictable. The championship is a long-shot for me, I know that, but I’d love to do well in front of the Japanese crowd; I’ll be going for the win.”

Hometown favorite Kamui Kobayashi qualified in an impressive fourth place for his Sauber team, and will be promoted to third on the grid because of Button’s gearbox penalty. Lotus’ Romain Grosjean qualified in fifth ahead of Sauber’s Sergio Perez in sixth, championship leader Fernando Alonso in seventh, and Kimi Raikkonen trailing behind in eighth place. All these drivers will also be promoted by one grid place for tomorrow race due to the penalty Button received.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton qualified in a disappointing ninth place, ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg who rounded out the top 10, but will also take a five-place grid penalty for changing a gearbox and give his place up to Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who announced this retirement from Formula One for the second time at the end of the season, qualified in 13th place but will be penalized 10 grid places for causing a collision with Torro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne during the last round in Singapore and will start in the 23rd spot.

“It was a shame that we couldn't do more today, after things hadn't looked too bad this morning, but we simply didn't get the performance together,” Schumacher said. “Although we should also say that, knowing the high-speed characteristics of this circuit, we didn't necessarily expect to look in great shape here. I saved a lot of tire sets and, in that respect, got the maximum out of the situation. Now we need to wait and see what happens tomorrow. I will be certainly aiming for the best possible result, starting from the back of the grid.”

Jean-Erin Vergne, who qualified in 16th place for tomorrow’s race, has also been demoted three grid places after he was found guilty of blocking Williams’ driver Bruno Senna in Q1. Senna was undergoing a flying lap during the closing stages of Q1, when he came upon Vergne who was travelling at a much slower pace, and seemed to get in the way of Senna who ended up failing to make it through to Q2. Vergne will now start tomorrow’s race in 19th place, while Senna has been promoted to 16th.

“It was a frustrating qualifying session as I was held up on my final timed lap at the end of Q1 and couldn’t post the time that I wanted,” Senna said. “However, it’s a long race tomorrow and although this track is difficult to overtake at, we’ve been in this position before and so we’ll give it our best shot to score some points in the race.”

The Japanese Grand Prix is set to start a 2 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.

Related Topics:

Formula One, Sebastian Vettel

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