How Vettel won the battle not to start last in US GP

Sebastian Vettel won an unusual battle in Formula 1 qualifying in Austin by beating fellow grid penalty takers Fernando Alonso and George Russell to 18th spot on the grid.

How Vettel won the battle not to start last in US GP

All three drivers took new power units over the weekend and received automatic back of the grid penalties. However the order in which they would line up on Sunday’s United States Grand Prix grid was determined by how they fared in qualifying.

Usually drivers who have such penalties spend the weekend focusing on work for the race, make a token effort in Q1, and then don’t go out in Q2.

That was initially the plan for Russell and Vettel, whose penalties were public knowledge on Friday morning.

However, when Alonso joined them with a change for Saturday it meant two grid places were up for grabs, so all three went into qualifying with the intention of beating the others, in order to take 18th rather than 19th or 20th spots.

The extra challenge was that they didn’t want to go so fast that they “accidentally” made it into Q3, and had to commit to starting from the back on the unfavoured soft tyres.

In the end Vettel won the contest by taking 12th in Q2, while Alonso, who also found time to give Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon a tow, earned 14th. Russell lost his last lap to a track limits penalty that left him 15th.

They will start with Vettel in 18th, Alonso in 19th and Russell in 20th, adding an extra element to the race as they try to make their way up the order together.

“I think when it was just Sebastian we were probably not going to go out in Q2,” Russell said when asked about his qualifying strategy by Autosport/Motorsport.com. “But then when it was Fernando as well, we decided to give it a go.

“It was a strange feeling waking up this morning knowing if I would have been on pole here, I’d still be starting last.

“Sebastian was looking pretty strong to be honest. Sector one was really good, I just lost it slightly. It’s my first track limits [lap deletion] of the weekend. Not the end of the world, and it will be nice to sort of be looking forward tomorrow, rather than looking backward as we usually do on a Sunday.”

Alonso admitted that it wasn’t easy to judge the pace and avoid Q3.

“We had to see if we could overtake George and Vettel somehow,” said the Spaniard when about his Q2 plan by Motorsport.com. “But without putting too much into it for sure, because you don’t want to set a too quick lap and then accidentally go to Q3, and then you start with the old tyres. So let’s see if tomorrow we can still score points.”

Vettel insisted that he hadn’t had to try too hard to outpace his two rivals.

“I think they didn't have a proper set of tyres,” he said. “And we only wanted to make sure that we were ahead of them. And the last lap I wasn't pushing, so we were just managing to not get into Q3. Which is rare! But obviously the exercise was to beat those two.”

Vettel believes that his extra focus on race running could pay dividends.

“Let's hope that the extra laps yesterday help us to know what to expect tomorrow. I mean we will have our pace, we know how fast we are and what will be but we don't know how fast the others will be, so I think it will be a tough race with hot conditions, and tough on tyres, so we'll see what happens.

“Not the easiest track [for passing], I mean there are no easy tracks but it's possible to overtake. And if the tyres tomorrow will be the limiting factor I think people will slide and usually that gives you some opportunities.”

Read Also:

shares
comments

Related video

Leclerc surprised Ferrari outpaced McLaren in Austin F1 qualifying
Previous article

Leclerc surprised Ferrari outpaced McLaren in Austin F1 qualifying

Next article

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert
Load comments
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

An ill-tempered Saudi Grand Prix made Formula 1 more soap opera than sporting spectacle at times, but there were some strong performances up and down the field on the world championship's first visit to Jeddah

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series Prime

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a race packed full of incident as Formula 1 2021's title contenders repeatedly clashed on track. Lewis Hamilton won out over Max Verstappen to level the scores heading into next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale, as Jeddah turned F1 into a drama series

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance Prime

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance

Dropped by Red Bull last season, Alexander Albon has fought back into a Formula 1 seat with Williams. ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains what Albon has done to earn the place soon to be vacated by the highly rated George Russell

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2021
The factors that could negate Red Bull's practice gap to Mercedes Prime

The factors that could negate Red Bull's practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton...

Formula 1
Dec 4, 2021
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Prime

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Prime

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Prime

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Motorsport.com's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer Tim Wright explains.

Formula 1
Dec 1, 2021
How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021