Vettel on pole for U.S. Grand Prix

Sat Nov 17, 2012 4:06pm EST
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By Steve Keating

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel roared to pole position at the U.S. Grand Prix on Saturday with the German perfectly placed to claim a third straight Formula One title in his milestone 100th race.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, 10 points behind the championship leader with one round to come after Sunday, set only the ninth quickest time in qualifying at Austin's new Circuit of the Americas.

"It was a bit closer than I wanted, but fantastic to start on the front and on the clean side," said Vettel, 25, of his sixth pole of the season and 36th of his career, after beating McLaren's Lewis Hamilton to the top slot.

Alonso, the only driver who can deny Vettel the title, gained one position immediately with France's Romain Grosjean handed a five-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.

That moved the determined Spaniard up to eighth on the starting grid and right behind Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa in sixth.

"I think the car is more or less the same as the last race, we were position seven in Abu Dhabi and here we are position eight," Alonso, who finished second in that race at Yas Marina, told reporters.

"So more or less it is the same and we will try to recover good places on Sunday that normally is our strong point so I still believe that tomorrow we can score more points than Sebastian.

"The race is long, anything can happen and we need to keep confident and optimistic because normally the race pace improves a lot," added the Ferrari driver, who must finish at least fourth if Vettel wins in order to stay mathematically in contention for the finale in Brazil.   Continued...

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (C) gives a thumbs-up next to team mate Mark Webber (L) of Australia and McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton (R) of Britain following the qualifying session of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas November 17, 2012. Vettel will start the U.S. Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday, with Hamilton alongside on the front row and Webber third on the starting grid. REUTERS/Jim Young