I don’t know how you sandbag in Formula One but Sebastien Vettel is proving to be a master.
After waiting until the last second to snatch the pole in Australia, he did it again Saturday in Malaysia.
Following the third practice session, in which he finished fifth in his Red Bull-Renault – fifth – behind pace-setter Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes), Mark Webber (Red Bull), Jenson Button (Mercedes) and Nick Heidfeld (Renault), Vettel went out and set fastest time for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix – one minute, 34.879 seconds.
Hamilton finished second (1:34:974) and Webber (1:35:179), Button (1:35:200) and Fernando Alonso (1:35:802; Ferrari) were the rest of the top five.
Heidfeld, Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Vitaly Petrov (Renault), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber-Ferrari) rounded out the top ten (full results here).
Vettel started off the weekend by finishing 17th in the first practice session. His teammate, Webber, was fastest and that got the British media all excited, particularly after Webber topped the charts in the second practice and Vettel could only make it up to fourth.
Lewis Hamilton knocked Webber off his perch in the third practice session to get the British media even more wound up, particularly since Button was third fastest in that session but – when push came to shove – Vettel showed everybody who’s boss.
The word last year was that Vettel was starting to exhibit behaviour usually associated with Michael Schumacher. All I can say is that if this keeps up, the kid’s going to be insufferable.
Speaking of Schumacher, he’s been pretty much Vettel in reverse. After finishing third in the first practice session, he slipped to fifth, then tenth and when qualifying was over, he’d missed the top ten again. He’ll start 11th
Slowest in qualifying was Narain Karthikeyan in his HRT-Cosworth, who turned a lap of 1:42:574 – just under eight seconds slower than Vettel. According to F1 rules, this is within 107 per cent of the pole speed, so the Indian driver will be legal to start the race, as will his teammate, Tonio Luizzi, who was not much faster.
I trust they will be instructed to take a lap or two and then get off (as is the case in oval-track open-wheel racing when there is a speed difference of that magnitude). Vettel or any of the other front-runners coming up on someone going that much slower would be like an express train catching up to one on a milk run, which would be stupid and dangerous.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville proved himself more than ready for the IZOD IndyCar Series when he finished in the top ten in practice at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama Friday (full results here) in advance of today’s qualifying session for tomorrow ‘s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.
"Hinch," who served an apprenticeship in Champ Car Atlantic and the Firestone Indy Lights series, plus a side trip to the A1 GP Series, was finally confirmed for a ride in the big leagues this week when his sponsor, Sprott Inc., officially came on board.
The Canadian rookie finished ninth. Fastest was Team Penske’s Will Power, with Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) second and Ryan Briscoe (Penske) third. Multi-time champion Dario Franchitti (Ganassi) finished fourth. Danica Patrick (Andretti) was 14th; Simona de Silvestro (Wiggins) was 17th. Alex Tagliani (Schmidt) was 15th, Marco Andretti 18th (what is with that guy?) and Sebastien Bourdais (Coyne) was 24th (surprising – and maybe embarrassing).
For what it’s worth, the differential between the fastest time set by Power and the slowest by 26th-place driver JR Hildebrand (Panther) was less than two seconds.
Carl Edwards led 169 of the 200 laps at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night to win his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race of 2011. Brad Keselowski finished second, with Paul Menard, Joey Logano and Elliot Sadler rounding out the top five (story, results here).
Kyle Busch, who was hoping to win his third consecutive Nationwide race and fourth of the season, was wrecked on Lap 88 when a tire on a car being driven by Tim Schendel blew out and their cars collided.
Busch spent several days this week tutoring Kimi Raikkonen for his Camping World Truck Series debut at Charlotte on May 20.
The Sprint Cup race at Texas goes tonight, with David Ragan on pole (the first of his career). Edwards will start second and Clint Bowyer third with Matt Kenseth fourth. (Story, lineup here)
If you want to know times and channels, you’re on your own. I ain’t putting that stuff in anymore. There was supposed to be an F1 qualifying repeat today (or that was the scheduled plan) and then it didn’t happen.
I’m sick and tired of being embarrassed.
Please, no more emails. There’s nothing I can do.
Yell at them. You know who they are.