With the final four races of the season upon us, it’s all eyes on the championship battle and we’re used to the Red Bull chaps working their magic in qualifying, but what can Alonso and his shiny red brigade do to upset the recent form?  Not a much it seems… here’s how it unfolded during the battle for the starting grid.

The usual suspects

The first twenty minutes of qualifying followed the standard script for 2012 with the Marussia, Catherham and Hispania cars filling the bottom six places, joined by Jean-Eric Vergne who was pushed out by his team mate in the final moments of the session.

Looking at the times, Caterham were a second off the next slowest car, while the Marussia of Timo Glock was only just a tenth off the time set by Petrov in his pretty green car, impressive.  Local boy Karthikeyan was again out qualified by old-timer De La Rosa, but ahead of Charle Pic who had a tricky morning and will start last, over a second slower than Timo Glock in the same car.  Awkward.

Battle for a top 10 spot

You have to love 2012 as a season, looking down the running in Q2 and you well expect all of them with having a shot at a top 10 grid spot, it’s brilliant and once again the top 10 in this session were separated by only half a second.  Grosjean missed out and will start 11th, which means the top 10 grid spots will be looking over their shoulders as the lights go out.   Harsh?  Maybe.

Senna’s promising weekend came to an end with 13th behind Nico Hulkenberg who could only take the Force India to 12th for their ‘home’ GP.  Schumacher’s last season (?) continued to be a disappointment with only 14th for the start, 8 places back from his team mate and only ahead of Ricciardo, Di Resta and Kobayashi.

Fight for Pole AKA Vettel vs the rest

…and once again the young German was untouchable, with his wingman Webber being the next fastest man and giving the team another dominating performance and a another 1-2 for the race start.  McLaren weren’t too shabby and Ferrari have strong race pace so it may not be an easy win for the ‘bulls.  Would you bet against them?

Elsewhere, Maldonado promised more but could only delivery 9th ahead of Rosberg who didn’t bother to set a time (we don’t like this behaviour).  Raikkonen grabbed a solid 7th and could well convert that into a podium challenging performance on Sunday, he has to keep it mathematically possible for the title, wouldn’t that be a story.

Here’s the top ten:

  1. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1m25.283
  2. Mark Webber – Red Bull-Renault – 1m25.327 + 0.044
  3. Lewis Hamilton – McLaren-Mercedes – 1m25.544 + 0.261
  4. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1m25.659 + 0.376
  5. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1m25.773 + 0.490
  6. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 1m25.857 + 0.574
  7. Kimi Raikkonen – Lotus-Renault – 1m26.236 + 0.953
  8. Sergio Perez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1m26.360 + 1.077
  9. Pastor Maldonado – Williams-Renault – 1m26.713 + 1.430
  10. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – no time

…and then, 11 Grosjean, 12 Hulkenberg, 13 Senna, 14 Schumacher, 15 Ricciardo, 16 di Resta, 17 Kobayashi, 18 Vergne, 19 Petrov, 20 Kovalainen, 21 Glock, 22 de La Rosa, 23 Karthikeyan, 24 Pic.

How do you do it? Webber and Vettel dominate qualifying again – credit Red Bull Racing