Sebastian Vettel stands on the verge of a fourth consecutive drivers’ world title after continuing his dominance by taking pole position for the Indian Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver, who is all-but certain to clinch the championship on Sunday, is now looking to complete a clean sweep of the weekend, having also been quickest in all three of the practice sessions. That advantage was born out on Saturday, where Vettel was a massive 0.752 seconds quicker than Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who will start in second.
Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber will begin from fourth, a place behind the second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, after electing to try and gain an advantage in the race by using the slower but more durable medium compound tires. The same strategy was used by the only man who can still theoretically deny Vettel the championship on Sunday, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard qualified in eighth, three spots behind teammate Felipe Massa, with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen and the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg in sixth and seventh, respectively.
Vettel has a 90 point advantage over Alonso with four races of the season remaining and it is highly improbable that the title will not be sewn up this weekend. The German, though, claims to be just focusing on taking another win, his sixth straight in the championship and third consecutive in New Delhi.
“We have been getting a lot of questions about the championship this weekend, but we’ll keep doing what we’ve done in the past, just focusing on every single step -- we won’t change that for tomorrow, or the next couple of races,” he said, according the official Formula One website. “We’ve worked hard to get here and tomorrow will be a long race. With the strategy, I think it’s always tricky do the right thing, but we have a good package so we should be in good shape.”
Vettel’s dominance prompted Webber to be inventive to try and get an advantage over his teammate. And the retiring Australian was happy with the outcome.
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“We thought it was worth trying something a little bit different with the strategy today, so that’s why we ran the primes in Q3,” he explained. “We thought we would probably be a bit further back than the second row to be honest, so it turned out to be a good session for us.”
Both Mercedes’ drivers conceded after Friday that they were essentially fighting for third place. While he made it up onto the front row in qualifying, Rosberg accepts that the race will be a difficult proposition.
“I just wanted to qualify 'best of the rest' today so I'm really happy with second place and starting on the front row,” he said. “The race will be tough against Mark tomorrow, though, as he has the quicker car and is on a different strategy, but we'll give it our all.”
One man who didn’t get his strategy right was Lotus’ Romain Grosjean. After looking in good shape to continue the form that saw him take third last time out in Japan, the decision to go on the medium tires in Q1 backfired and he failed to progress, leaving him to start form 17th on the grid.
The McLarens of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button rounded out the top 10 for Sunday’s race, which could be the last one at the circuit after it was left off of the 2014 calendar.
Where to watch: The Formula One Indian Grand Prix will get underway at 5.30 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.