SAO PAULO, Brazil — Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has a mountain to climb in Interlagos on Sunday afternoon if he is to beat Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel to the Formula One title.
As McLaren locked out the front row in qualifying at the Sao Paulo track on Saturday, courtesy of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and Mark Webber outpaced Red Bull teammate Vettel, the Spaniard could do no better than eighth in his Ferrari.
Hamilton led all the way in the first runs in Q3, on a track that had dried after rain at lunchtime, but on the second runs Webber momentarily usurped him with 1m 12.581s. But Hamilton quickly redressed that to take his first-ever pole here with 1m 12.458s, and just after Vettel’s 1m 12.760s had fallen short of his teammate, Button slammed in a 1m 12.513s to snatch second.
Making it worse for Alonso, who couldn’t better 1m 13.253s, teammate Felipe Massa went fifth quickest with 1m 12.987s to show Ferrari’s true potential.
Then Pastor Maldonado did 1m 13.174s for Williams and Nico Hulkenberg 1m 13.206s for Force India, leaving the Spaniard on the fourth row ahead of Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 13.298s and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg on 1m 13.489s.
Vettel will be champion if he finishes in the top four, even if Alonso wins; if he finishes fifth, sixth or seventh if Alonso doesn’t win; if he finishes eighth or ninth if Alonso finishes third or lower; or no matter what his result if Alonso isn’t on the podium.
Alonso will be champion if he wins and Vettel is fifth or lower; if he is second and Vettel is eighth or lower; or if he is third and Vettel is 10th or lower.