Is F1 qualifying less important now than it used to be?

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The four flyaway rounds to start the 2013 Formula One season have produced three different polesitters and three different race winners. Only one polesitter, Sebastian Vettel, has gone on to win the race – and controversially so in Malaysia.

While Mercedes seems to excel on one-lap speed but has consistently dropped back in the races, other teams are tending to opt to set their cars up for the race rather than qualifying. Overtaking has certainly been made easier of late thanks to the 2013 tire compounds and DRS.

So does qualifying still matter nearly as much as it once did? Not so, according to Mark Webber, who was one of several drivers to admit their thoughts to Autosport.

“Qualifying has become less and less important over the years,” he said. “Back in the day it was everything really – it was 75-80 percent of where you come around on the first lap. Now it is less of a factor, but it is still important in terms of traffic. You don’t want to be sitting in too much traffic with the tires – they don’t like being in disturbed air and they wear a lot more.”

For Felipe Massa, qualifying still takes precedence – and not just because Ferrari needs to improve its average grid position.

“This is something we always need to work for,” he said. “Although we cannot make the car worse for what we have in the race because we need to be the quickest car in qualifying.”

Leave it to Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, to be as succinct as ever.

“It helps if you can be in front, to save your tires, and you also have less chance of having issues at the start,” he said.

Hamilton hails ‘greatest day’ after USGP victory, Mercedes title win

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Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his jubilation after taking a giant step towards his fourth Formula 1 championship win with victory in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix that also saw Mercedes clinch the constructors’ title.

Hamilton recovered from an early pass by F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel to take his sixth victory on American soil, five of which have come at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, to extend his lead to 66 points.

With just 75 left on offer this season, Hamilton needs just one top-five finish in the final three races to clinch his fourth world title, with the enormity of the victory not being lost on the Mercedes driver.

“Today has been amazing. It’s been the greatest day,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the race.

“I woke up a bit tired, felt the rain, then was like, ‘What the hell?’ But I didn’t mind. I won here in the rain in the past. Then it dried up, clear blue skies, amazing opening at the beginning of the GP.

“I lost first place into Turn 1. It was OK. That first section, we got through there, and it felt very reminiscent of 2012: ‘Game on. You have to save the tires’, and he wasn’t doing that. I kind of kept my cool.”

“I saw I got a good exit of Turn 1, this was the lap and it was. His tires were dropping off anyway.”

Hamilton’s victory saw Mercedes wrap up its fourth consecutive F1 constructors’ title with three races to spare, with the Briton having played a key part in each of its successes.

“I’m so proud of this team. Big congratulations to the guys, people don’t know the amount of work they do,” Hamilton said.

“It’s over 1,500 people in two factories, so much brainpower and a lot of people to manage to extract the best from each of those.

“To come into a new era of car and perform as we have. There’s been a newfound love within the team. Ferrari, we want to beat them, thrash them.

“So they put more hours of working in to do that. That’s for all their hard work.”