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Webber storms to first pole of the season at Suzuka

Oct 12, 2013, 2:18 AM EDT

AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1 Getty Images

Mark Webber has secured his first pole position of the season in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix after putting in an impressive performance in the final session to finish ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Webber, who is racing for the final time at Suzuka this weekend ahead of his retirement at the end of the season, posted a fastest time of 1:30.915 to finish less than two-tenths ahead of Vettel who was hampered by a KERS problem during Q3.

Q1 got off to a quiet start as many of the drivers opted to wait before setting their first times. Esteban Gutierrez was the first driver to set a benchmark time, but Sauber soon had bigger concerns when a fire broke out on the Mexican’s car in the garage. Thankfully, Gutierrez jumped out of the car quickly and the fire was put out, allowing him to get back out a few minutes later. Fernando Alonso bounced back from a disappointing performance in practice to lead for a good part of the session before being beaten by Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton on the hard tire, with Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button completing the top six. Just as the teams prepared to go out on the option tire though, a brake fire on Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso brought out the red flag. As a result, the teams had to scramble their cars back out on track on the restart with time for just one flying lap. Vergne’s earlier time was not enough to get him through, and he was joined in the dropzone by Adrian Sutil who will drop five places on the grid due to a gearbox change. Max Chilton put in a fine lap to outqualify both Caterhams and teammate Jules Bianchi (the latter being for the first time) whilst Romain Grosjean finished fastest of all on the prime tire.

The majority of the teams went straight onto the option tire for Q2 as they looked to secure a place in the top ten shootout early on. However, Red Bull once again opted to leave their runs until later in the session, allowing Alonso to set the early pace along with Hamilton and Button. When Vettel did come out though, he went over half a second quicker than the Ferrari with Webber and Grosjean also moving ahead of Alonso with some impressive times. Another final flurry of times ensued once the checkered flag had fallen, with some good initial times from Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado failing to secure Williams a place in Q3. Esteban Gutierrez’s run of top ten results in qualifying came to an end as the Mexican driver finished fourteenth whilst Sergio Perez joined his compatriot in the drop zone after a late lap time from Felipe Massa edged the McLaren driver out.

Red Bull bucked the trend in Q3 by being the first to send their drivers out and set a time, but champion-elect Vettel ran into problems when he was told by his engineer that his KERS system was not working. This proved to be costly early on as the German driver could not match the pace of teammate Mark Webber, giving the Australian provisional pole after the first set of runs. However, with Vettel improving in the first sector of his final run and Mercedes also in the running, it was by no means a foregone conclusion. Ultimately though, Vettel could not improve with his final time and both Hamilton and Rosberg fell short, whilst Webber improved further to secure his first pole position since the 2012 Korean Grand Prix as well as outqualifying Vettel for the first time this season.

Romain Grosjean and Felipe Massa both outqualified their illustrious teammates to line up fourth and fifth respectively ahead of Rosberg, whilst Nico Hulkenberg’s good form continued as the Sauber finished seventh. Both Alonso and Raikkonen struggled late on to finish eighth and ninth and Jenson Button closed out the top ten for McLaren.

Webber will be delighted to have finally finished ahead of his teammate and taken his first pole position of the season in what has been a difficult swansong year for the Australian. However, the ‘team orders’ debate will undoubtedly arise should Vettel be in the position to win the world championship in Japan on Sunday.

  1. lewymp4 - Oct 12, 2013 at 3:00 AM

    Great to see Mark take pole position today, especially because this is last Visit to Suzuka as a F1 driver.

    Lack of coverage of qualifying by NBCSports due to interruptions, because of commercial considerations was truly horrible. I use to think that SPEED was bad, but this was far worse, especially Q1……hell that whole session was hardly seen.

    • apexassassin - Oct 12, 2013 at 11:39 AM

      “Lack of coverage of qualifying by NBCSports due to interruptions, because of commercial considerations was truly horrible. I use to think that SPEED was bad, but this was far worse, especially Q1……hell that whole session was hardly seen.”

      Well said. Def considering buying the online SKY HD package for next season. NBCS isn’t doing the sport justice with all the missed action for both the commercials and the replays showing what happened during the breaks… hardly any live action is shown. :(

      • lewymp4 - Oct 12, 2013 at 4:23 PM

        Good idea regarding Sky HD……..they at least show all pracitce sessions,and during qualifying and the race have few……few commercial interuptions. Sky’s pre-race programs are also pretty good……Yep apexassassin you’ve convinced me, next year Sky HD subscription for me.

      • apexassassin - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:25 PM

        eplsite.com for free low def coverage… use chrome/firefox and ad blocker and there you go… that’s the online HD sky feed I’m considering. ZERO ads during Q sessions and the race. ZERO.

        have to Hobbs and Matchett are big reason why I haven’t switched… with less air time they still provide great insight and better focus than the sky team. Diffy not so much and Varsha even less.

        hard to sell f1 to the american masses with this many 3 week breaks but the commercials ad insult to injury – not to mention being pre-empted for yachting or tennis or soccer or whatever. there’s no excuse considering how many broadcasters NBC owns.

  2. azmanakasah - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    ABV = Anybody But Vettel….

  3. worknman24hours - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    I’m glad that Webber got the pole but I expect Mark’s car to bog at the start —–like it always does—– and for Vettel to drive by Mark like he still has the parking brake on the car.

  4. lewymp4 - Oct 13, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    Thanks……apexassasin..!!!

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