Saturday, October 12, 2013

Webber Wows with Pole Run in Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

A race many Formula 1 drivers look forward to, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka International Racing Course is a fast track with challenging, hard-braking corners. For years, the grand prix in Japan concluded the Formula 1 season with some memorable incidents including two Senna/Prost battles with the championship on the line. For 2013, the Japanese Grand Prix is the 15th race on a 19-race calendar. As for the drivers' title battle this season, reigning champion Sebastian Vettel's 77-point lead has effectively ended a chance at a firm late season battle.

Qualifying for the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel was favoured to take pole for a fourth-straight occasion. Two Friday practices on the 5.807-kilometer race track consisted of Vettel and Mercedes AMG drive Lewis Hamilton posting top times. While predictions were right about Red Bull Racing on the front row, it was Australia's Mark Webber that captured the top spot on the grid. In Q3, Webber logged the only speed under 1 minute, 31 seconds for the pole position. At 1 minute, 30.915 seconds, the time marginally edged-out teammate Vettel by 0.026 seconds.

With Webber's success with his Red Bull-Renault, the other team car wheeled by drivers' championship contender Sebastian Vettel received attention for its inability to mount a pole time following three-straight times triumphing in qualifying. Reports that Vettel's Red Bull-Renault was experiencing issues with its KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) is believed to have been an obstacle for grabbing pole at Japan. Sebastian Vettel has a mathematical chance of locking up the title at Suzuka if the Red Bull Racing driver would gain 23 points on Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. A win by Sebastian Vettel and a finish lower than ninth by Alonso would seal the 2013 Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship in favour of the Red Bull-Renault driver.

The second row of the Japanese Grand Prix will feature Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes AMG car and the Lotus-Renault of Romain Grosjean. On the third row, Felipe Massa is wrapping up his current career with the Ferrari Formula 1 by drastically out-qualifying his teammate Fernando Alonso. Alonso's Ferrari will start eighth at Suzuka on a fourth row that also finds Nico Hukenberg posting another Q3 worthy effort with Sauber-Ferrari. Climbing seven positions in the last Formula 1 round in South Korea, Kimi Raikkonen's presence in ninth place doesn't seem as troubling as it does for some potential race winners. Raikkonen's win in Australia was the only victory so far in 2013.

Mark Webber has been a soul of some misery on track as of late. Running well at the Singapore Grand Prix, a late retirement cost him glory. In addition to failing to finish the race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, Webber accumulated a 10 grid spot penalty following a kind gesture from Fernando Alonso deemed unsafe by race stewards. In South Korea, Mark Webber placed the third fastest time of the Q3 session with his Red Bull-Renault but would have to start 13th as he served his penalty. Progressing quickly to the front through the first-half of the race, Webber's plans of a strong finish at the Korean Grand Prix was crushed when a Force India-Mercedes collided into his race car. Initially appearing as a minor hit to the sidepod of the Red Bull-Renault, a fire quickly sparked ending the Australian driver's day. Moving to the Porsche prototype sports car program for 2014, 37 year-old Mark Webber's remaining Formula 1 career is practically five races away from completion. Pole at the Japanese Grand Prix is well-earned for the driver who has driven for Red Bull Racing for 7 of his 12 Formula 1 seasons.

A 53-lap event, the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka is set for 3 PM local time (2 AM eastern time).

2013 Formula 1
Japanese Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault
2 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
3 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
4 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
5 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari
6 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
7 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber Ferrari
8 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
9 7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault
10 5 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
11 6 Sergio Perez McLaren Mercedes-Benz
12 14 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes-Benz
13 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
14 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari
15 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1 Renault
16 19 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
17 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
18 23 Max Chilton Marussia Cosworth
19 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham Renault
20 20 Charles Pic Caterham Renault
21 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia Cosworth
22 15 Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes-Benz

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