Sebastian Vettel broke the lap record at the Buddh International Circuit in qualifying on his way to his seventh pole position of the season.
The result means he remains the only driver to have ever started on pole position for the Indian Grand Prix.
However, the race is likely to feature numerous differing strategies after teams in the top ten were undecided on which was the best tyre for race day. Vettel set his fastest time on the softer tyre, and he will be joined on the front row by the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg. Lewis Hamilton will start third, with both Silver Arrows also electing to start on the softer, faster tyre.
The fastest man on the slower but more durable prime tyre is Mark Webber. The Australian, who claimed pole position last time out in Japan, starts tomorrow’s race from fourth position and is confident that he is on the superior strategy.
Highlighting the split strategies, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg will all start on the softer tyre and qualified in fifth, sixth, and seventh places respectively. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso, who is the only man who can stop Vettel wrapping up the title tomorrow, starts from eighth place on the harder tyre. Both McLarens also start on the prime, with Sergio Perez getting the better of team mate Jenson Button for ninth place.
Vettel was dominant throughout qualifying, topping the times in both Q2 and Q3. However, he wasn’t fastest in Q1 as he chose to clear the first session by using the harder tyre, while the majority went for the soft. It left Jenson Button to post the fastest time in an incredibly close session, the first time a McLaren has been fastest in qualifying this year.
Romain Grosjean, who starred in Japan, also attempted to make it through Q1 on the prime tyres, but Lotus misjudged his pace and he was therefore the shock name to drop out in the twenty minute session. He joined Pastor Maldonado and the usual suspects from Caterham and Marussia as the drivers failing to progress, with Jules Bianchi posting the fastest time of the “new” teams.
In Q2, it was Vettel who returned to the top of the times, ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber was third and half a second off the pace, despite a wide moment on his fastest lap.
Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo failed to make it through into the top ten, and there was nothing for the sparse Indian crowd to cheer about either as neither Force India progressed into the top ten. Paul di Resta got the better of Sutil for twelfth, while Vergne, Bottas and Gutierrez will start from fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth places for the race tomorrow.