x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Vettel is F1's new pole king

Sebastian Vettel used more of his qualifying magic on the session's last lap to grab his 15th pole on the season for today's Brazilian Grand Prix, breaking Nigel Mansell's record.

Once again, Sebastian Vettel used a little magic on his last lap to grab the pole position, his 15th on the year to break Nigel Mansell's record of 14 in a season.
Once again, Sebastian Vettel used a little magic on his last lap to grab the pole position, his 15th on the year to break Nigel Mansell's record of 14 in a season.

SAO PAULO // He mastered Melbourne and Monte Carlo, he conquered Spa and Singapore, he dominated in India and Abu Dhabi.

Saturday, under dense and dark clouds, Sebastian Vettel once again produced a scintillating final lap to confirm his omnipotence in qualifying and break the all-time record for pole-positions achieved in a single season.

The German secured his 15th pole from 19 races with an incredible lap that was 0.181 seconds faster than Mark Webber, his Red Bull Racing teammate. The result saw him beat Nigel Mansell's record, who achieved 14 poles from 16 races in 1992.

"It is difficult," Vettel, when asked to put his feelings into words, said. "I gave my everything and was very emotional when I crossed the line because it was all I had. I had to wait quite a long time to see if the time was good enough or not and my ears kept popping.

"My engineer told me [Jenson] Button was P2 [second place], then Mark P2 and then that I got pole. Obviously it took the master a couple of races less, but it is very special to me."

Vettel had led for the majority of the hour-long session and was "already happy" as he sat top of the time sheets with only minutes remaining. Yet he was not convinced and decided he needed one last lap to guarantee his 30th career pole.

With Webber posting a late lap shortly after Vettel's, the decision was vindicated.

"It's disappointing," said Webber, who finished 0.184s ahead of third-fastest Jenson Button of McLaren-Mercedes.

"I tried to help old Nigel out, but it didn't quite work. We both got the maximum out of the car. Seb did a good lap as usual and my lap was pretty good as well. Seb just had that extra 10th to grab pole."

It is not the first time this season the 24-year-old, two-time world champion has left it late to secure the front place on the grid. He did similar duty in Kuala Lumpur, in Japan and at Yas Marina Circuit two weeks ago.

His habit has even earned him disbelieving looks from his race team.

"We had a nice dinner on Wednesday and some of the mechanics were joking with me, asking 'Where's the bag that you keep these couple of 10ths in for Q3 that you bring out'?" Vettel said.

"There is no secret, but once we go into qualifying and you find the run and are excited and nervous, it's like a rush."

The Brazilian weather, unlike the predictability of Vettel pole performances, is erratic.

Rain is forecast to arrive Sunday, which has the ability to transform the famous Interlagos circuit.

For the past two years, the pole-sitter has finished the race in eighth position.

"There is always more chances if it's wet, but the risk is higher," Vettel said.

"It can be exciting for us, but it is quite a bit trickier - especially in this place. This has always been a miracle track and we have seen a lot of overtaking. This track has potential to be, in a positive way, a bit crazy."

Button is renowned for being suited to racing in the wet. His victory at a sodden Canadian Grand Prix earlier in the year was as awesome as it was unforgettable.

He calls it his best ever race.

"When it is wet, it is obviously a lot more tricky," Button said. "You can have a great performance and end up winning or you can have a great performance, but end up off the road."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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