Mark Webber regrets letting U.S. GP pole 'slip through fingers' to Sebastian Vettel
Vettel pleased to turn tables from Abu Dhabi pole fight
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 18/11/13 4:33pm
A rueful Mark Webber admitted his third pole position in four races had "slipped through the fingers" after he was pipped to the head of the grid by team-mate Sebastian Vettel in Austin.
Despite not beating his quadruple World Champion team-mate in a race when both cars have finished in 2013, Webber has rallied on Saturdays recently and outqualified the sister Red Bull in both Japan and Abu Dhabi.
The 37-year-old, who retires from F1 after next week's Brazilian GP, looked on course to make it a hat-trick at the Circuit of the Americas on Saturday after holding the upper hand over Vettel at the start of Q3 before the German produced a stunning final sector to turn the tables.
Speaking in the post-qualy press conference, Webber conceded he had just overcooked things through the circuit's final two corners.
"I didn't think I'd done enough [on the first Q3 run], you need to improve. Obviously there's two shots, we both had two sets of options," Webber reflected.
"The first part of the lap was very good, I was happy with that, but didn't quite get [turns] 19 and 20 as I wanted. If I just repeated what I did initially in Q3 probably it was going to be enough, but just tried to squeeze a bit more out and it's easy to unload the car a little bit in these conditions."
Webber's gut instinct was duly backed up by the official timings: the Australian lapped two tenths of a second slower through the final sector on his last lap compared with his opening Q2 effort (31.843s v 31.615s). Had he simply matched his earlier time then he would have been on pole by 0.125 seconds.
"Sometimes you're happy that you've given your best and you're on the front row, but today I think one slipped through the fingers," Webber added.
"But anyway we're up there and well done to Seb. He put three sectors together, I put two and a half together and just dropped it in the last sector."
Although pole represented Vettel's eighth of the season, and 44th of his career, the German appeared to take particular satisfaction from defeating Webber on this occasion, having himself let pole slip two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi via a first-corner mistake.
"Both of us would like to have the upper hand," Vettel admitted.
"Two weeks ago I probably felt like Mark is now, and now I feel like he felt two weeks ago. So obviously very happy for myself. I had a good run in the end."
The 26-year-old added that the onset of gustier conditions in the Texan afternoon had made the three-part qualifying hour challenging - and therefore pole particularly rewarding.
"It was a tricky session because the wind picked up quite a lot from this morning and it does influence the behaviour of the car. So not easy, especially around the high-speed corners. I wasn't that happy with my first run in Q3 but I think I had a solid run at the end which was enough to put the car on pole," Vettel explained.
"It was very close with Mark, he seemed to get closer and closer the longer the weekend went on. Fortunately I just managed to stay ahead."
Vettel heads into Sunday's race chasing an eighth successive victory, which would set a new F1 record for the most consecutive wins during a single season.
The German has never won in the United States, albeit only after two attempts - the first of which in 2007 at Indianapolis was his maiden GP - but says making up for his defeat to Lewis Hamilton in the inaugural Austin event 12 months ago isn't on his mind.
"No regrets to last year," Vettel insisted. "It was a tight battle with Lewis, in the end he was just a little bit quicker. We were having a hard time to stay ahead of him. Obviously the way he then passed was not the nicest way with traffic, but it's a long time ago so looking forward to tomorrow.
"Definitely if you have the chance to win you want to go for it."