Sebastian Vettel hung on to take his fifth pole of the 2013 Formula 1 season in Singapore Grand Prix qualifying.
The Red Bull driver opted to do just one Q3 run as his initial 1m42.841s lap put him 0.6 seconds clear of his rivals. He had also outpaced the pack by nearly a second in Q2.
It emerged just before qualifying that Kimi Raikkonen was struggling with back pain and that Lotus had been sufficiently concerned to get reserve driver Davide Valsecchi prepared.
The Finn only managed to qualify 13th, lapping 0.7s slower than team-mate Grosjean in Q2. It remains unclear whether his race participation is in jeopardy.
“This morning was very bad,” Raikkonen admitted.
“It was good that we drove in qualifying in the end but not the most nice.”
Raikkonen felt the pain in practice had cost him crucial qualifying set-up time.
“This morning I couldn’t really try, so we probably didn’t get done what we wanted with the car,” he said, “but at least we got the car on the grid and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Asked if he felt he would be fit for the race, Raikkonen replied: “We will race and see what happens.”
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m42.841s 2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m42.932s +0.091s 3. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m43.058s +0.217s 4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m43.152s +0.311s 5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m43.254s +0.413s 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m43.890s +1.049s 7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m43.938s +1.097s 8. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.282s +1.441s 9. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m44.439s +1.598s 10. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari No time set Q2 cut-off time: 1m44.555s Gap ** 11. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m44.555s +1.650s 12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m44.588s +1.683s 13. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m44.658s +1.753s 14. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.752s +1.847s 15. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m45.185s +2.280s 16. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m45.388s +2.483s Q1 cut-off time: 1m45.982s Gap * 17. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m46.121s +1.925s 18. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m46.619s +2.423s 19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m48.111s +3.915s 20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m48.320s +4.124s 21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m48.830s +4.634s 22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m48.930s +4.734s
Kimi Raikkonen – 13th: “Unfortunately today didn’t go to plan as the issue with my back meant I couldn’t really drive properly this morning, so we didn’t get everything done like we wanted in the practice session. It’s still quite painful and there wasn’t much more I could do in qualifying when you take that combination of things into account. It’s not the first time I’ve driven with a problem and it probably won’t be the last time either, but I’ll be on the grid tomorrow and we’ll try to get the maximum from where we are at the start.”
Romain Grosjean – 3rd: “After all the issues we had yesterday the team did a fantastic job to get the car running well and also to find a good setup despite having done so few laps. The car felt good all day; enough that we were confident in taking a risk during Q1 by not running the option tyres. It was a great strategy call that really paid off, and I think with a little more luck on the out lap we could maybe even have been one place higher. Sebastian [Vettel] looks to have a pretty clear advantage, but we’ve got lots of fresh tyres for tomorrow so a podium is definitely the target.”
Alan Permane – trackside operations director: “We have mixed feelings today. It’s unfortunate that Kimi had a problem with his back which caused him quite a bit of pain and affected his performance, whilst Romain enjoyed a pretty much perfect day after all the car troubles he had yesterday. FP3 went well for him, then qualifying went completely to plan. We’re very happy with third on the grid and looking forward to a strong race tomorrow. We knew the last two races would be difficult for our car and so they proved to be, but we were expecting better performance once we got to the higher downforce tracks such as Singapore and this has also transpired. Our long run pace was very good yesterday with Kimi second on pace only to the Red Bulls. Sebastian [Vettel] will be hard to beat as he’s in very good form, but there’s no reason why a podium for Romain is not possible and we have seen some storming drives through the field from Kimi in the past too. We could be in for an exciting and rewarding race.”
The Finn complained of back pain during Friday’s running, and his situation worsened in the final practice session, which he ended 12th overall.
Lotus had been concerned enough to start getting reserve driver Davide Valsecchi ready just in case he was needed to step in.
It is thought that Raikkonen’s issue has been caused by a trapped nerve.
Following attention from the team’s medical staff on Saturday evening, Lotus and Raikkonen have decided that he will now take part in qualifying – although it is unclear if he will be able to complete all three sessions.
It is possible that the Finn may only take part in Q1, to secure his spot in the grid, before returning to his hotel to rest ahead of the race.
If Raikkonen is unwell on Sunday, then Formula 1’s rules mean that it is too late for a replacement to be slotted in.
The Finn had a heavy testing accident at Magny-Cours in September 2001, during his rookie Formula 1 season with Sauber.
Raikkonen went off at the fast Imola chicane leading to the Chateau d’Eau corner and had a violent rearward impact.
He was taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up, and though he escaped serious injury, his back trouble is a legacy of that incident.
In Singapore this weekend Lotus got reserve driver Davide Valsecchi ready in case Raikkonen could not drive in qualifying.
He was able to participate but only managed 13th on the grid.
Raikkonen has now returned to his hotel to rest before the race.
Although the back problem remained an issue in qualifying, Raikkonen felt it had eased since final practice earlier in the day.