Mark Webber vows that he will go for victory in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday after qualifying in pole position, and will not pull over for world title-seeking teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Webber was incensed in March when Vettel ignored Red Bull Racing team orders and passed him to win in Malaysia, and said there would be no favours in the 53-lap race at Suzuka.
Vettel is positioned to win the championship for the fourth time in a row, with four races to spare – if he finishes first and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso fails to finish in the top eight.
“He’ll do his race tomorrow and I’ll do my race,” said Webber, 37, after claiming his first pole position of the season. “Seb’s had a phenomenal year. It’s not like it’s the last race of the championship.
“Sebastian has a big points lead because of the work he’s put in. He can’t qualify on pole every race. Let’s see how it’s looking at the end of the race. In general, we’ll be there for ourselves tomorrow.
“We’ll do what we can to get to Turn 1 first and see what we do from there.”
Vettel, who has won three of the past four races at Suzuka, said he was happy to fight with Webber without team orders.
“I think Mark and I will try to get the most out of the race for ourselves, and we’ll see with the rest,” he said. “First, I have to pass Mark. It’s a long race and tyres can be a decisive force. I would love to start one position ahead, but starting from second is nothing that causes frustration.”
Vettel, who had taken the pole at the previous three races, had his hopes hamstrung by problems as his Kinetic Energy Recovery System (Kers) that failed completely in morning practice and caused more issues during qualifying.
Vettel told his team that if they are not confident they have found the solution to the problem, then he would rather race without it.
“We have to find the issue and solve it,” the German said. “That’s Plan A. If that doesn’t work, we have to race without Kers.”
The device gives drivers up to seven seconds of speed boost over a racing lap thanks to energy produced by the car’s braking process, and is estimated to be worth around three-tenths of a second per lap
It is also important at the race start for getting good acceleration off the line.
Vettel played down the impact the Kers issue had on his qualifying time and said that he was not sure if he could have matched Webber’s pole-setting lap of one minute, 30.915 seconds, anyway.
“Congratulations to Mark, I think he did a very good lap,” Vettel said. “We did have an issue in qualifying, but I’m not a big fan of ‘without this, with this, if this’. It’s always unknown ... What makes more of a difference is that you don’t have the car that you are used to – especially when braking.”
Of racing without it, he added: “This is not the worst track not to have Kers on. You don’t have that six seconds of extra power, but there are other tracks where you pay more dearly when Kers is not working.”
Webber, who only has five more races remaining in F1 before he leaves the sport to compete in endurance racing with Porsche next season, said he was thrilled with achieving his first pole at Suzuka in his last race there in an F1 car.
“It is a nice farewell to have pole at my last attempt at Suzuka, a phenomenal track,” the Australian said. “I will never forget the first sector today – it is what we strive for, what our profession is for, so it was a real highlight today.”
Lewis Hamilton was best of the rest in qualifying as he took third, and said his aim today was simply to stay in the same position, believing he has no chance of matching the Red Bulls on pure pace in his Mercedes-GP car.
“The race is about beating Ferraris and also the Lotuses,” the 2008 world champion said. “They [Lotus] have scored a lot of points – in the last race they got 33 points. So we want to beat both those teams.
“Red Bull? We are not in their league at the moment.
“The aim is to win as always, so when you start the race, the mind is set on winning, but if those Red Bulls get into the first corner 1-2, then they will be gone.”
The Lotus of Romain Grosjean starts fourth, ahead of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
Nico Hulkenberg impressed again as he took seventh place in his Sauber ahead of Alonso, with Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus and Jenson Button, the 2011 winner of the race, completing the top 10 in his McLaren-Mercedes.
ALONSO CHANGES FOCUS TO BEATING MERCEDES, NOT RED BULL
Fernando Alonso said his focus for the Japanese Grand Prix will simply be on beating the Mercedes-GP cars rather than keeping the Formula One world championship battle alive.
Alonso has effectively thrown in the towel on his hopes of catching Sebastian Vettel.
The Spaniard goes into the race at Suzuka facing a 77-point mountain to climb.
Vettel will claim his fourth consecutive drivers’ title if he wins his fifth successive race and Alonso finishes ninth or lower. The Spaniard qualified eighth on the grid.
“If Sebastian doesn’t win the championship here, he will win it in India or Abu Dhabi, because the combination of results he will need will become less and less strange,” Alonso said. “It’s not the most important point of the weekend, trying to race to finish in the first eight to keep the championship alive.”
Alonso is trying to help Ferrari finish second in the constructors’ table. Ferrari lead Mercedes by one point.
“We will race to score as many points as possible, to finish ahead of Mercedes, which is a very important goal for us,” he said.
“If we can keep the championship going to India, that will be OK, but it doesn’t change anything for us because all we want to do is score as many points as possible.”
PIC RUNS RED LIGHT AND GETS DRIVE-THROUGH PENALTY
Charles Pic will have to take a drive-through penalty within the first five laps of the Japanese Grand Prix after being penalised by race stewards for driving through a red light in the pit lane. The Caterham driver, who had already received a 10-place grid penalty after picking up his third reprimand of the season in Korea last weekend, was given the new punishment after he was judged to have left the pits after the circuit had been closed to traffic during qualifying. The Frenchman, right, who starts 20th, must drive through the pits within the first five laps at reduced speed or face being disqualified.
DE VILLOTA’S FAMILY BLAME ‘NEUROLOGICAL INJURIES’ FOR DEATH
Maria de Villota’s family said her death on Friday was a direct consequence of the testing accident she was involved in last year.
A statement issued by the family read: “Maria left us while she was sleeping, approximately at 6am [on Friday], as a consequence of the neurological injuries she suffered in July of 2012, according to what the forensic doctor has told us.
“Maria is gone, but she has left us a very clear message of joy and hope, which is helping the family move on in these moments.”
The body of former Marussia test driver, who was just 33, was discovered at the Hotel Sevilla Congresos in Seville early on Friday.
Dr Joaquin Lucena Romero, head of forensic services at the Institute for Legal Medicine, said De Villota’s death “was due to natural causes”.
Britain’s Health and Safety Executive have made clear, however, they are still investigating potential links between the incident at Duxford Aerodrome 15 months ago and her death. On that occasion, with De Villota conducting straight-line aerodynamic testing for Marussia, the Spaniard was involved in a freak accident when she ran into a stationary service vehicle.
De Villota lost her right eye, and almost her life, but following a month’s recuperation in hospital she eventually made a remarkable recovery. A HSE spokeswoman has stated the organisation “would expect to be kept informed of any new evidence”.
The De Villota family, who have confirmed Maria will be buried in Madrid “in the most strict intimacy”, have made no mention of whether there is a legal case to answer on safety grounds at the aerodrome.
Marussia were at least cleared last year with regard to any potential fault relating to their car.
The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association said they will hold a minute’s silence ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
A statement released by the GPDA read: “All F1 drivers of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association are very saddened to hear of the tragic death of our former member Maria de Villota.
“She has been an active member and contributed to driver safety in a very enthusiastic and most professional manner.
“Her positive attitude, maturity and extreme commitment will never be forgotten and are something we have learned from. Maria will be missed and always remembered by all of us.
“The F1 drivers will have one minute silence just before the drivers’ parade tomorrow, and the podium will be dedicated to Maria.
“In this incredibly difficult time the F1 drivers would like to extend to her family and friends their most sincere condolences.”