Red Bull's Vettel takes pole for Indian GP
Updated: October 29, 2011, 07:49
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NEW DELHI(AP) Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel took another Formula One record after claiming pole position Saturday for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, amid speculation that the team will try to engineer a win for his teammate Mark Webber in Sunday's race.
Vettel, the first pole-sitter ever in India, moved equal with F1 great Juan Manuel Fangio on the career poles list at 28. By taking his 13th pole of the season, he also moved within one of the record set by Nigel Mansell in 1992.
His time of 1 minute, 24.178 seconds around the Buddh International Circuit was three tenths of a second faster than McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who qualified second but will start from fifth in the race after a rule infringement during Friday practice.
Webber qualified third, ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, McLaren's Jenson Button and Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who snapped his right front suspension on a curb on his last lap, skidding into a barrier. That accident brought out the yellow flags and created a disappointing finish to qualifying as most drivers did not complete their second flying lap.
Vettel has translated pole positions into wins more often than not this season, but with the drivers' and constructors' championships already safely secured, Sunday may become a temptation for Webber taste victory for the first time this season.
Team orders may be officially banned in Formula One after past instances of manufactured results between teammates, but it is notoriously hard to police as leading drivers can disguise ways to let teammates pass.
Webber, whose relationship with teammate Vettel can be characterized as more professional than friendly, was not enthused by the idea of the German moving aside for him, even if team principal Christian Horner had said that a one-two finish in the championship and a Webber win were the last boxes for the team to tick in completing a perfect season.
"There has been a lot of talk from the team but not from me,'' Webber said. "I don't want any positions from Seb for the rest of the year - nothing will change.''
One factor that may count against the chances of Vettel waving Webber through is that the German can equal Michael Schumacher's record of 13 wins in a season by winning the three remaining races.
Such statistical milestones are piling up for the young German, including the remarkable feat of equaling the pole record of Fangio, the sport's original iconic figure. This is Vettel's 78th race while Fangio raced in only 51.
"Its special to be part of a sport that has so much history because it allows you to compare yourself in many ways,'' Vettel said.
"I am not really jumping in the car and thinking 'one more and I am equaling, in this case, Fangio'. I am still motivated even without knowing too many numbers or statistics.''
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, Force India's Adrian Sutil and Toro Rosso pair Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari completed the top 10.
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher will start from 12th after struggling with his Mercedes vibrating throughout qualifying.
"It might be something to do with how we prepare the tires. We need to get on top of it,'' Schumacher said.
Hamilton said he was surprised he was able to split the Red Bulls on qualifying time, and remained upbeat about his chances for victory with good overtaking chances even though the penalty dropped him to fifth on the grid.
"We've still got good pace,'' Hamilton said. "I'm still optimistic.''
Sauber's Sergio Perez also received a three-grid place penalty for a similar rule infringement in practice, while Hispania's Narain Karthikeyan was handed a five-place penalty for blocking Schumacher in the first sector of qualifying. That will drop the Indian back to last on the grid - a disappointment for the local fans after he had done a creditable job by outqualifying the two Virgin cars.