Sunday, June 16, 2024

Vettel takes pole, Karthikeyan to start last


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Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel (C), McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton (R) and Red Bull driver Mark Webber pose after qualifying for the Indian F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida on Saturday. (PTI)

Greater Noida: Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, already assured of his second world championship, took his record 13th pole of the season while Force India’s Adrian Sutil finished a creditable eighth at the swanky new Buddh International Circuit (BIC) during the inaugural Indian Grand Prix qualifying here Saturday.

Hispania’s Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan, egged on by his home crowd, was 22nd fastest but was handed a five-place grid penalty for obstructing Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher in Q1. Karthikeyan will start from the last spot in Sunday’s race.

Red Bull have become the first team to achieve 16 pole positions in a single season and Vettel is now just one short of Englishman Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record.

The dust on track continued to be a major concern for the drivers.

“It is a new circuit so a new challenge. I like the track and it is a bit tricky,” said Vettel.

“It is a new circuit so a new challenge. There is still a lot of dust on the track so it will be interesting to see how it behaves tomorrow. I am really excited for the race tomorrow and would be proud if I end up winning it,” he said.

McLaren-Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, 2008 champion, was right behind Vettel’s tail after the first run in Q3 and finished second in 1m 24.474s while the German clocked 1m 24.437s. But the three-place grid penalty, incurred during Friday’s practice, came back to haunt Hamilton and the Englishman would be starting from the fifth place during Sunday’s race.

Mark Webber, who finished third with 1m 24.508s, benefitted from Hamilton’s misery as he will start from the second spot making a one-two start for Red Bull.

Fernando Alonso had to be content with fourth place on 1m 24.519s but courtesy Hamilton will start from the third in the grid. Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button was also pushed a place up to fourth despite finishing fifth.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who set the best time during Friday’s practice, qualified sixth despite crashing in the dying minutes of Q3. A broken right suspension in the Brazilian’s car led to his crash at turn eight. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg will start seventh.

Sutil, a popular with Indian fans, did well to get into Q3 but did not set time for saving tyres for the race Sunday. Torro Rosso duo Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari completed the top ten. The Italian team had both cars in the top 10 for only the second time this season.

Sutil’s team-mate Paul di Resta was 13th fastest but will start from a place higher on the grid following Lotus Renault Russian driver Vitaly Petrov’s penalty from the last race in South Korea.

Winning Indian GP would be a proud moment: Vettel

Vettel feels racing at the Buddh International Circuit is a “great challenge” and says he would be proud to win the inaugural Indian Grand Prix from pole position.

The German has also cautioned all the drivers saying an error on the dusty track could cost them dear.

“We have seen all weekend with the dust on the track so we have ended up with just one racing line clear of dirt and if you run a little out of that, the car will slip and you are going to lose a lot of time,” said Vettel in the post-qualifying press conference.

Some cars get lapped in every race and Vettel feels the faster ones will have to be very careful.

Vettel also predicted that the track will be very slippery at the start of the race but the grip levels will improve during the 60-lap race. (Agencies)


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