It was the first time all weekend that the Red Bull driver has topped the timesheets – but it was the only session that really mattered as he looks to secure his 13th victory of the season.
Q3 ended up taking place 40 minutes later than planned due to the amount of rain that deluged the circuit during the afternoon. And many drivers were left floundering after being caught out by the sudden downpour that began during Q1.
Getting straight out onto track to put in a banker lap was of paramount importance for the drivers, but many teams just weren’t quick enough off the mark.
With the track getting wetter and wetter by the second, most drivers ducked back into the pits to wait out the rest of the session. But as the track finally started to dry out a bit, those on the bubble of being knocked out were forced to take action.
Kovalainen was the first to make a big improvement on his time in the Lotus, leaping from 14th to fifth in the dying seconds of the session.
Vergne too managed to make it through to Q2 – but his improved position knocked Maldonado back down into the drop zone, and he was unable to better his time during his final flying lap.
Q2 was blighted by rain too, but the drivers were still able to run out of track. Both McLarens and Force Indias had a dismal afternoon, with neither of their drivers able to haul themselves up into the top ten.
But while Button was disappointed with his car’s performance over the afternoon, at least he didn’t put it in the wall like his team mate Perez did.
Just as the chequered flag dropped to signal the end of the session, Perez dropped his McLaren into a corner, which sent him flying off the track and into the wall. It wasn’t a good end to the season for the driver who recently found himself out of a job for next year.
By this time, the rain was really coming down over Interlagos, and the session was postponed for 10 minutes to give the track the chance to dry out. But the rain showed no sign of letting up – and it would be postponed another three times before the lights finally went out and rendered the session under way.
The teams had no idea whether there would be more rain by the end of the session – and with standing water still on the track, the best solution was to go out on the full wet tyres.
The Red Bulls quickly set times. But Grosjean – who’d topped the second session – quickly ducked into the pits to change onto the inters, and it wasn’t long before the remaining nine drivers followed suit.
Grosjean’s good showing during Q2 gave the fans hope that he may be able to pull off a similar feat in the final session. But the rain held off, allowing Vettel to work his usual magic. And as the chequered flag dropped, nobody could match his blistering time.
But it wasn’t his team mate Webber joining him on the second row. Rosberg was on fine form in second position, with Alonso putting in a surprise performance to drive his Ferrari into third. By Sarah Ellis
Pos Driver Team
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari
4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
7. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari
8. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari
9. Felipe Massa Ferrari
10. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari
11. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes
13. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault
14. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes
15. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
16. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari
19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault
20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth
22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth