2012 United States Grand Prix Qualifying: Vettel Does A Clean Sweep

Fastest in FP1, FP2, FP3 and all sessions of qualifying, that’s the rare feat that Sebastian Vettel managed in inaugural 2012 United States Grand Prix. Given the pace that he and Red Bull Racing have shown this weekend, will he add a race win and a fastest lap of the race to his pursuits in America? Or will some other driver be able to challenge him to either?

Valid questions I know, but given the pace shown already and the outcome of the qualifying session, Vettel could well have a clean sweep in America. (Read: Formula1 Returns To America)

Here’s how 2012 United States GP Qualifying unfolded for me:


  • Vettel’s 36th career pole and 6th of the 2012 Formula1 season! After seeing his pace in Q1 and Q2, I expected him to breeze past everyone to pole position. However, it was Hamilton who made it tough for him. Eventually, Hamilton lost to Vettel by only a tenth of a second. It was an exciting battle to watch between the two!
  • Hamilton drove extremely well to split the two Red Bulls, however, he starts P2 and from the dirty side of the grid. How many positions do you expect him to lose at the start? Though I would have preferred to ask, will he beat Vettel to the 1st corner?
Sebastian Vettel At The Circuit Of The Americas (Courtesy: Red Bull Racing)
  • The BIG surprise of this session was Alonso’s P9. Not only was he comprehensively beaten by his title rival, but even by Massa (P7) by a margin of 4 tenths. He needs to finish 4th or higher to keep his championship hopes alive!
  • Schumacher struggled to get his W03 to grips with the circuit in the practice sessions and early part of the qualifying. Good that the old German managed to qualify P6! (Read: Does Formula1 Need Michael Schumacher?)
  • Both Lotus’ managed P4 (Grosjean) and P5 (Raikkonen). Though Grosjean will pick up a five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox. (Read: Why The Silly Gearbox Penalties)
  • Hulkenberg (P8) and Maldonado (P10) were the only mid-field drivers to enter Q3 and Hulkenberg’s qualifying exploits were noteworthy as he out-qualified every other mid-field driver and team-mate Paul Di Resta.


  • Button was the victim of yet another mechanical issue faced by Mclaren after he reported that his throttle pedal was stuck. He was unable to complete his session and hence ended up P12.
  • Button’s relegation to the mid-field means that Alonso will have one driver less to beat tomorrow!
  • P6 to P14 was separated by 8 tenths – yet another close session!
  • While Maldonado drove well to enter Q3, Senna failed to perform yet again when it matters. A certain replacement to make for WilliamsF1 for the 2013 Formula1 Season? Will it be Bottas or Karthikeyan? (Read: Narain Karthikeyan To Drive For WilliamsF1 In 2013)
  • And Rosberg finished an embarrassing P17, while Schumacher was able to qualify for Q3. Car issues with the Mercedes team again?
  • The Sauber drivers could only manage P15 (Perez) and P16 (Kobayashi).


  • Great session! We saw both HRTs narrowly make it through the 107% time set. Karthikeyan suffered from an engine issue and hence his session ended prematurely. He was however 7 tenths off his team-mate. Did missing FP1 hamper his preparations yet again?
  • While Ricciardo was the ‘fall guy’ in this session, the highlight surely was both Marussia cars outqualifying the Caterhams. The difference between the fastest cars was nearly 8 tenths!
  • And it got better for Marussia as they were only a second off the Toro Rosso of Ricciardo. With KERS expected for the cars next year, I hope they are able to enter in the competitive mid-field! (Read: Marussia To Build F1 Cars The Traditional Way; Marussia’s Tie Up With Mclaren Coming Through?)

Pirelli are expecting a one-stopper strategy in the race tomorrow. Now I hope we don’t end up showcasing a procession to the newly tuned in American Formula1 fan!

However, considering that the Pirellis are taking longer to generate optimum heat, I am expecting the first few laps to be really adventurous. Especially with the drivers starting from the even number grid positions!

Here’s your chance to tune in to ‘Formula1 Returns To America’. And while Karthikeyan’s 2013 plans are unconfirmed, he will represent ‘Team India’ in the Race of Champions next month! Read ‘Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok to drive in the Race of Champions’.

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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