Vettel Edges Abu Dhabi Pole
That man Sebastian Vettel clinched pole yet again, his fourteenth of the season – equalling Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record in the process (all be it over a longer season.) His late run of 1 minute 38.481s pushed the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button back into second and third respectively by just over a tenth of a second. Questions remain, however, about the circuits ability to allow overtaking.
Hamilton was quickest in Q1 and Q2 and led the final shootout after the first runs. He further improved his time on his final run but the Red Bull of Vettel was still out on track and the German produced the perfect lap just when he needed it, edging out the McLaren driver by just 0.141 seconds.
With both cars through to the final shoot-out, even if Paul di Resta never bothered contesting it, Force India set out from a strong position tomorrow in which to score points and open up the gap between them and the resurgent Toro Rosso.
The drivers shouldn’t have too much to be disappointed by although Tonio Liuzzi will be frustrated to come back from his break and qualify behind his team mate, Daniel Ricciardo. Kamui Kobayashi also finds himself five places behind his team mate although he shouldn’t beat himself up too much after a very closely thought midfield battle separated by less than four tenths of a second.
Some said Kimi Raikkonen would be announced as a Williams driver this weekend. Instead the bad news for Rubens Barrichello came in the form of an engine problem which prevented him from even starting qualifying. With team mate Pastor Maldonado taking a 10-place grid penalty for exceeding his engine quota for the season, it sees the once mighty team hit an all time low as they line up on the last row of the grid – an event that was given added poignancy by Vettel equaling Mansell’s achievements with the outfit.
For the third year in a row, Vettel and Hamilton line-up on the front row at the Yas Marina and the dirty side of the grid has yet to hamper either. Vettel holds the ace but McLaren’s race pace should give them a chance – if they can get past.
Organisers were so confident that 2011’s changes would solve Abu Dhabi’s failings that they decided to delay any changes to the track. Now the FIA have decided to extend the DRS zone on the long back straight by 75 m after skepticism over its effectiveness. However, based on his experiments in free practice, Jenson Button remains unconvinced: “I was trying DRS from the exit of Turn 7 all the way down to Turn 8, and I was struggling to overtake cars. So lengthening it by 75 metres or whatever is not going to make a big difference because it is only half the straight we will be using.”
|1. Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1:38.481|
|4. Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1:38.858|
|9. Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:40.768|
|10. di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||No time set|
|Q2 cut-off time:||1:40.554|
|13. Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:41.009|
|15. Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:41.162|
|Q1 cut-off time:||1:42.605
|24. Barrichello*||Williams-Cosworth||No time set|
107% time: 1:46.766
Maldonado qualified 17th but starts 24th after taking a 10 place grid drop.
Barrichello did not take part in qualifying, he starts 23rd.
|Sector 1||Sector 2||Sector 3||Speed Trap|
|Vettel||17.408 s||Vettel||41.857 s||Hamilton||38.886 s||Perez||323.4 km/h|
|Button||17.429 s||Button||41.905 s||Vettel||38.933 s||Kobayashi||322.8 km/h|
|Alonso||17.440 s||Hamilton||41.908 s||Webber||39.235 s||Alguersuari||320.2 km/h|
What are your predictions for the race? Who will win? Who should have done better?
Photo: Red Bull Racing/Mark Thompson/Getty Images