Sebastian Vettel emerged from plumes of spray on Saturday to deliver a typically accomplished lap in treacherous conditions and claim pole position for Sunday’s season-closing Brazilian Grand Prix.
Smiling and relaxed, the four-time champion made light of the heavy rain, postponements and obvious dangers to secure his ninth pole of the season, the 45th of his career, and extend his Red Bull team’s run of poles to nine.
There was a 40-minute wait before the last session got underway and it ended with teammate Mark Webber in fourth place on the grid for his last race in Formula One.
“That was a big surprise,” Vettel said.
“It was a long time for us to get out, a lot of rain after Q2 so we had to wait.
“If there’s too much water on the track, the risk of aquaplaning is too high. We got out and I was surprised how much of the water had gone.”
Vettel clocked a best lap of one minute and 26.479 seconds to finish seven-tenths of a second clear of fellow German Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.
“Everything went to plan and the whole team did a good job,” said Rosberg.
“We had a perfect strategy in the end on inters. It’s a great place to start tomorrow, at the front of the grid.”
Third-placed Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was delighted with his best qualifying result since the Bahrain Grand Prix in April.
The Spaniard said: “Usually we are better in the wet, so we have been waiting for a wet race, but unfortunately it came in the last race of the season.
“It makes a change to be so far up the grid. We have an opportunity starting so far up the front.”
Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion, was fifth in the second Mercedes followed by Romain Grosjean of Lotus then Daniel Ricciardo and his Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.
Local hero Felipe Massa, who leaves Ferrari after this weekend’s contest, was ninth and Nico Hulkenberg of Sauber 10th.