Sebastian Vettel confident that he has the pace to trump race tactics in India
Frontrunners under threat from medium-shod Webber, Alonso & Kimi
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 27/10/13 9:52am
While the World Champion, along with Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, will start out on the soft compound, Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber will begin the race from fourth position on the durable but slower medium tyres.
With Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen also opting to run a contra-strategy, Sunday's race promises to be an intriguing tactical battle before the two strategies converge for an exciting race to finish.
Nevertheless, the smart money remains on Vettel claiming yet another race victory, and the 26-year-old is understandably optimistic that his superior pace - which has seen him top every session so far this weekend at the Buddh International Circuit - will see him prevail.
"We have been very strong on both compounds, and we decided to go with what I did and Mark decided for the opposite," Vettel told reporters in the wake of claiming his 43rd career pole. "We'll find out tomorrow what is the right strategy, but the race is long and then there is plenty of time to make up. In the end, the strategies shouldn't determine the result. We have very good pace, the car behaves well around here."
While calculations have determined there is little to choose between the two strategies, there is a strong possibility that Vettel, Rosberg and Hamilton will return to the track trapped in traffic after shedding their brittle soft tyres within ten laps of the race commencing.
For once since the summer break, victory for Vettel seems to be far from certain, and as Rosberg acknowledged in the post-qualy press conference, Webber's strategy, which will be mirrored by Alonso and Raikkonen, represents a clear danger to the frontrunners.
"It was a consideration, but we decided the soft tyre was the best way to go," said the Mercedes driver. "The mediums isn't a gamble, because it's a good strategy, but we just decided that our one was the better one.
"We've been a little bit quicker [than Ferrari] all weekend, but for sure that strategy is a threat because there is so little between the two strategies so we will need to keep an eye on them."
Vettel is guaranteed to clinch his fourth consecutive World Championship if he finishes fifth or higher in Sunday's race, while just ten points currently separate Ferrari and Mercedes in their battle to finish second behind Red Bull in the Constructors' Championship.