Well, as far as Sebastian Vettel poles go that was definitely among the most exciting. Two sectors in to a do-or-lose-out-to-Mark-Webber lap in the very dying moments of Q3, Vettel looked like was, again, going to be beaten by the departing Aussie. But banish any thoughts of Vettel hitting the cruise button in these last two races. He ragged the RB9 in the final sector and, remarkably, found three-tenths to push Webber back to second and lock out the front row for tomorrow’s US Grand Prix. This is, don’t forget, one of only two races Vettel has yet to win. He’s clearly intent on sorting that untidiness tomorrow.
Behind the Red Bulls it was a story of Finns and grumpy drivers. Not grumpy Finnish drivers — Kimi’s recuperating from that successful back operation — his place in the top ten occupied by fellow Finns. But Heikki Kovalainen is a remarkable eighth in Kimi’s Lotus, and behind him an even more remarkable Valtteri Bottas, who not only hauled the Williams into Q2, but all the way to the top ten. He’s only done that once before this year, in Canada in the rain. Finally it seems we are seeing the form Frank Williams has always promised was there.
His teammate for one more race Pastor Maldonado meanwhile stuck with the formbook and could not elevate his Williams out of Q1. His sulky post-race interviews won’t win him any friends with Williams either.
Matching Maldonado for grumps was Jenson Button who was at least able to get his McLaren beyond Q1. Sadly he wasn’t able to get it in to Q3, unlike his teammate Sergio Perez who starts tomorrow’s race seventh. McLaren of course sacked Perez last week and, and with the whole thing rather blowing up in their faces right now, admitted today that they are trying to ‘place’ Checo back with Sauber (with whom they don’t have a engineering support deal) or with Force India (with whom they do).
Honestly, did they ever expect Perez not to pull out all the stops this weekend and prove them wrong? They probably need to pay more attention to Button’s state of mind. On the Sky post-race footage he could barely bring himself to speak with Natalie Pinkham. Just as we suggested on Thursday, the implied logic of the Magnussen-for-Perez switch was never going to make JB a happy boy.
Further forward it’s Grosjean and Hulkenberg on row two. These guys are, or certainly should be, the future of F1. McLaren should have signed Hulkenberg last year, the thought that F1 might now lose him because McLaren elbows Perez back in to Sauber barely bares thinking about.
On row three is Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, which will make tomorrow’s race interesting, as Mercedes and Ferrari battle it out for second place in the constructors cup and the extra $10 milion that comes with it. Their teammates won’t be able to do much to help (or for that matter stop Lotus closing in on them), starting in 14th (Rosberg) and 15th (Massa). Right at the back of the top ten is Esteban Gutierrez, who’s late-season form cannot be making it any easier for Sauber to decide who drives its cars next year. And it’s no easier at Force India who looked uninspired today, Paul di Resta in 12th and Adrian Sutil joining the Caterhams and the Marussias (and Maldonado) in the Q1 group.
Vettel and Red Bull surely just have to complete the distance tomorrow to make it 12 for the season, eight on the trot. Behind them however there are a lot of drivers who all of a sudden have a lot to prove. It should be a good one…