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GP Week : Issue 196
The final practice session of the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend – and the 2013 season – took place in the wet, with only one timed lap set in the first 35 minutes. At the end of the hour, Mark Webber topped the timesheets for Red Bull. Thanks to the heavy rain expected later on in Q1, all 22 cars left the pits in the first minutes of the session, with few drivers brave enough to risk a run on mediums. Lewis Hamilton was the first man to cross the line with a 1m25.342s lap that will prove hard to beat in the worsening conditions. Before five minutes had elapsed, all 22 drivers had times on the board, with Hamilton closely followed by Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg. While teams were pushing their drivers to switch to slicks, the feedback from those out on track was that the rain was still too heavy for the gamble to pay off. By the ten minute mark, even the pit walls were beginning to acknowledge that the rain was increasing, with sector two the worst-affected part of the track. With five minutes remaining, track action increased as those at risk of dropping out braved the rain for last-ditch attempts at a place in Q2. The greatest improvement came from Heikki Kovalainen, who was quickest in the final sector and jumped up to P5. Out with the four usual suspects were Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez. The rain had reduced to a drizzle in time for Q2, creating the perfect conditions for Red Bull to dominate. Again, all 16 runners had left the pits on inters in the first two minutes, leading to heavy traffic on the short Interlagos circuit. Rosberg set the pace with a 1m26.626s, followed by Hamilton who was four-tenths slower. But Vettel topped the timesheets as expected with his first effort, a 1m26.515s lap. Mistakes from Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg saw the pair at the back of the pack after their first runs. Webber’s second effort was good enough to split the Mercedes, but Hamilton responded with a P3-worthy time. Hulkenberg continued to struggle, and was at risk of dropping out alongside the McLaren and Force India pairings, plus Valtteri Bottas. Despite worsening conditions in the closing minutes, Romain Grosjean blew away the competition with a 1m26.161s lap, a remarkable achievement given that the Frenchman was not fastest in any of the three sectors. As Grosjean dominated, temporary teammate Heikki Kovalainen was knocked into the dropout zone by an improving Hulkenberg. After the chequered flag fell, Sergio Perez hit the wall in a desperate attempt to make Q3, spinning after running over the slippery painted lines. Nevertheless, the Mexican managed to out-qualify his teammate. Increasing rain led to the start of Q3 being delayed by ten minutes, before a second ten minute delay was added after the Safety Car had completed exploratory runs of the track. A third ten minute delay was added, and then a fourth. After 45 minutes of delays, Q3 finally got under way. All ten runners left the pits on full wets, and the rooster tails on display as they skittered their way around the circuit were impressive to see. Webber was the first to cross the line in 1m29.215s, complaining of low grip, while Vettel bettered his teammate’s effort with a 1m28.82s lap. Rosberg split the pair, while Grosjean aborted his first lap, instead choosing to pit for inters while Hamilton popped up in P3. Grosjean’s move triggered a swap to inters from Webber and Vettel, who were followed by the rest of the pack. It turned out to be a ballsy move from Grosjean, who set a new Q3 benchmark of 1m27.773s with enough time remaining for two further attempts. Webber then went marginally faster, followed by Vettel who crossed the line in 1m26.479s. Timing proved to be everything in the closing two minutes, with the Mercedes pair caught out by new rain at the end of the lap, improving on their first Q3 efforts but still far behind Vettel. Fernando Alonso was a surprise P3, while pole belonged to Vettel. On the following pages, Abhishek Takle takes a closer look at the incidents that shaped the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, from Jean-Eric Vergne’s bad day to Jenson Button’s good one and beyond... QUALIFYING 1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m26.479s 2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1m27.102s 3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1m27.539s 4. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1m27.572s 5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m27.677s 6. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1m27.737s 7. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1m28.052s 8. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1m28.081s 9. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1m28.109s 10. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1m29.582s 11. Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus) 1m27.456s 12. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1m27.798s 13. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1m27.954s 14. Jenson Button (McLaren) 1m28.308s 15. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 1m28.586s 16. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1m27.367s 17. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1m27.445s 18. Charles Pic (Caterham) 1m27.843s 19. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 1m28.269s * 20. Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) 1m28.320s 21. Jules Bianchi (Marussia) 1m28.366s 22. Max Chilton (Marussia) 1m28.950s * Sergio Perez was issued with a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. Having qualified in P14, he will line up in P19. THE gRID 26 GPWEEK.com // 26 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> BRAZIL