Vettel does it again, beats McLarens for Abu Dhabi pole
Lewis Hamilton will start 2nd barely faster than his teammate Jenson Button.
German sensation Vettel's teammate Mark Webber was 4th and the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa 5th and 6th respectively.
That was before Hamilton pipped him by 0.009s to reclaim pole.
Vettel was still on his last lap, though, and he gutted out a 1m38.481s and beat Hamilton by 0.141s.
It was Vettel's 14th pole of the year, equaling Nigel Mansell's record set while driving for Williams. It was Vettel's 29th pole of the year, tying Juan Manuel Fangio.
Sebastian Vettel (1st, 1:38.481): "I'm pretty pleased. Yesterday I wasn't very happy with my own performance and with the car and I didn't feel that comfortable. Today was much better straightaway when we went out this afternoon, but this evening when the sun went down, I had a much better feeling and the car was more together. It came in my direction and helped us. McLaren looked strong throughout the weekend, but I thought if I get everything right then in Q3 then we might have a chance (for the pole) and that's the way it came for us. I'm very pleased with the pole and it's a very special one to equal Nigel Mansell as well. It's a fantastic year and it's not over yet, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Mark Webber (4th, 1:38.858): "I'm disappointed with my last run, it was a bit scrappy. We had to communicate more than normal during the out lap due to a few things we were managing, so that affected the prep a little. I'm disappointed as there is certainly more there. Sometimes you see Seb's lap and you go, 'wow you can't do that', he did a good lap for sure today, but I didn't feel like I got the most out of it when it counted. It will be an interesting first sector, then we'll get into the race from there. I think this track is traditionally pretty hard to pass on, so it's likely to be down to the DRS zone and pit stops."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "An unbelievable final lap from Sebastian, to get the pole in what was a really exciting final qualifying tonight. It's a remarkable achievement for him to equal Nigel Mansell's 14 poles in a single season, which by coincidence also happened to be achieved in an Adrian Newey designed car back in 1992, with a Renault engine. It was a tremendous achievement for Sebastian. In such a tight qualifying session, it all came down to the final run and Mark in P4 was only two tenths off the front row; it demonstrates just how tight it is this weekend. I'm sure we're set for a really exciting race tomorrow."
Cyril Dumont, Renault: "I think again today we had an incredible Vettel. This year is simply his year and today he has equaled Mansell's record for the number of poles gained in one season. He also equaled Fangio, in terms of number of poles gained in his career, so it's his year. It will be interesting tomorrow, Mark is not far away from the front either and we have some good memories from this track, so it will be interesting tomorrow to see where we finish."
Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 1:38.622): "It would be nice to have had pole position, but that Red Bull, as always, is very quick in Q3! Still, we've got our car to a point where it works particularly well on certain tracks, and we always seem to go well here. To be as competitive as we've been this weekend is very encouraging - we're on the front row so we can have a good race from there. And, for the first time in quite a while, my long-run pace was pretty good too, and I think we had more fuel on board than some of the other teams. I feel really good about tomorrow, in fact. I hope I have a good start - I really want to get into Turn One first. But, if I can't, I'll follow Sebastian [Vettel] as closely as I can, I'll try my hardest not to let him get more than a second ahead, and I'll try to get ahead through the DRS zones. Last year I started second but braked early into Turn One and let Sebastian have the corner. I've just told him that's not going to happen tomorrow, though..."
Jenson Button (3rd, 1:38.631): "I haven't really been able to find a balance that suits me perfectly this weekend. The car changed quite a lot for qualifying. In practice I'd been struggling with the rear end; but, during qualifying, I suddenly had great rear grip and masses of understeer - so the car felt completely different to me. Obviously, there's only a certain number of things you can do during the qualifying session to counteract that, so we used everything we could to make the car work reasonably well, and I felt much happier as a result. Third isn't a bad place from which to start - hopefully we'll get one over on the Red Bulls tomorrow."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "It may sound a little churlish to say that we're a bit disappointed with second and third today, but the honest truth is that we are. Granted, second and third is a pretty creditable result - it's a platform from which we can win tomorrow in fact - but I don't mind admitting that we were eyeing pole position today. Lewis and Jenson both did a good job though - and, looking forward, they're both great racers and we think we'll have a strong race package for tomorrow. Our long-run pace has been impressive all weekend, and we think we'll be in good shape on both the Prime and the Option [tire]. People tend to opine that it's difficult to overtake here in Abu Dhabi - and so it is. But there are two DRS zones, and of course there's also the all-important drag down to the first corner. Beyond that, you've got to get the strategy right, and let's just say that we intend to pile the pressure on tomorrow afternoon!"
Fernando Alonso (5th, 1:39.058): "We are more or less where we expected to be going into the session. It's not because this is the eighth time out of eighteen qualifying sessions that I have ended up fifth. It's that, all year long, with a few rare exceptions, McLaren and Red Bull are stronger than us on Saturday, while on Sunday the situation is usually different, with the gaps between us being much closer. We know we can fight for the podium, but to succeed, we will have to do everything perfectly, beginning with the start and our strategy. In Q3, I thought of doing just one run, but then the first one was not perfect and we preferred to try everything right to the end. I don't think it would have made such a difference having a new set of tires tomorrow, also because the degradation does not seem that high. Maybe the best time could have come on the second or third flying lap, but going down that route would have compromised our strategy, as we would have to start on tires that were more worn than those of our rivals. I will start from the clean side of the track and hope to make up some places: the first lap is a good window of opportunity. The front wing? Mine worked well all weekend, but the team decided to move back with Felipe. In one sense it's positive, because we will have an even greater amount of data to compare in order to get a good understanding of this new component. Tomorrow it will be interesting to see how the tires will behave from the start to the finish of the race, as the temperature drops."
Felipe Massa (6th, 1:39.695): "To be honest, I hoped for more from this qualifying. I struggled more than expected to get the best out of the tires on the first flying lap: maybe it would have been worth trying a longer run, with two attempts. As expected, today McLaren and Red Bull showed they have the edge over us. In the end, we are in the grid positions we can expect in this final part of the season. Sure, having to use the old type of front wing cost me something in terms of performance: in India, when we compared the two versions, I immediately felt the new one was an improvement, giving more grip and better stability under braking. Having said that, I don't think I could have got a place on the two front rows. Tomorrow we will have to see what we can do. Certainly the DRS will help with overtaking, but we have seen on other occasions, even with the moveable rear wing, that it is not a foregone conclusion."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "We weren't expecting any surprises and we did not get any. We know what is our potential in qualifying and, in order to get onto the front two rows, something special must happen: in India that was the case, but not here, so our positions are relatively easy to understand. Just to make it clear, it's not a case of being pleased with this result in absolute terms, but neither should we be trying to fool our fans by claiming to be able to fight for the win. Tomorrow, we have every chance of fighting for a place on the podium: it won't be easy, but neither will it be impossible. In a track where, as we are only too aware, overtaking has never been easy, it will be interesting to see how effective will be the two zones where we can activate the moveable rear wing. Strategy, the work done by the drivers and the team, tire behavior and reliability: the usual parameters will once again hold the key."
Pat Fry: "We can be neither surprised nor disappointed with this result, because we are where logic says we should be. Looking carefully at the times, sector by sector, one can see that Fernando was at the level of the fastest in the first two, but paid a penalty in the third, where there are more low speed corners and where traction is more important. In fact, that's not surprising either, as we know this is our Achilles Heel. Tomorrow, we can expect a pretty standard race in terms of how it evolves strategically. For the first pit stop, it will be important to find the right moment to stop out of traffic. The tires are working well, even if we had a few problems in getting them immediately up to temperature, especially with the Mediums. As for the choices relating to the front wing, with Felipe we decided to use the old type, because despite the efforts we have made these past weeks, we have still not resolved some problems relating to the behavior of this new part, which furthermore, seem to be contagious... We will continue to work on it, including during the three days of testing at this track next week."
Nico Rosberg (7th, 1:39.773): "We didn't quite get the maximum from our qualifying session today which was a shame. The track temperatures dropped during the session and it became more difficult to get the tires working. On my second run in Q3, I had too much traffic in front of me to warm the tires up sufficiently and that hurt me on the quick lap, otherwise I think we could have been further ahead. However I'm on the good side of the grid and it should be a fun race tomorrow."
Michael Schumacher (8th, 1:40.682): "It was quite a tight qualifying today. I aborted my last lap in Q1 to save tires, and having some fresh tires left is the good news from Q3 as well. Overall it was a normal qualifying where we would probably not have much more in the pocket. I also expect a straightforward race and we will try to make the most out of opportunities that arise. The tires should not be a big issue here, and we tested their behavior in P2 yesterday which took place at the same time as the race. The fact that the track temperatures will drop during the race might be good for us as we struggle a bit with the tire temperatures here."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "It was a reasonably straightforward qualifying session for us today with both drivers and the team doing a very good job. There was a little difference in straight-line speed on Michael's car which hampered his pace in relation to Nico so we need to have a look at that and understand why. Otherwise we are in good shape for the race and looking forward to tomorrow."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "The best possible job from our team, Nico and Michael today. We have again been mindful of our strategy in order to save tires for the race tomorrow, and we hope this approach will be to our benefit as has been the case in recent races. We would like to take the opportunity of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to express the whole team's appreciation for our partner and co-owner Aabar which is, for our home race, also visible in increased branding on our cars. Today six Mercedes-powered cars made it into the top ten on the grid, the second time in the last five races."
Vitaly Petrov (12th, 1:40.919): "We had a difficult start to the weekend, with a few mechanical problems yesterday (steering rack then an electrical component). From there on we were up against it, especially at a track where we are not expected to be high flyers. To be frank, today we took the absolute maximum from our car. We couldn't have expected any miracles, and I am generally happy with P12 on the grid because I know that both I and the team did all that we could do; setting a competitive lap time at this circuit is tough. Tomorrow will be a demanding day for us; people have said that the tire degradation will be lower than at many tracks but I'm not so sure - I think it will play a significant role. The race will be long, and we will have to select the right tactics to ensure we come away from this weekend with something positive."
Bruno Senna (14th, 1:41.079): "I'm disappointed because I made a mistake on my last lap and lost a lot of time. It was a gamble to go for one flying lap, and unfortunately I could not get into the position I wanted to be; I really feel I could have made P11. At least the sets of tires have only done one lap each, which should be a good thing for the race tomorrow. Let's hope my below par qualifying position doesn't harm me too much tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the race, it's an exciting place to race and I will be giving it my best shot."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "We always knew this weekend would be a bit of a struggle if you look at our car and this track. This season, we haven't performed well on tracks with predominantly low speed corners. We felt we would be strong to be just outside the top 10 and that's just where we ended up. We could have been 11th and 12th but I don't think Q3 was possible for us today. Bruno made a small error during the flying lap in Q2 and he could have been very, very close to Vitaly. However, I think you get that up and down the entire field; everyone could have eked out a little extra so I don't think we can look too much into that. It's fairly typical here that it cools down as you run through the day. We anticipated that, and elected to do three-lap runs on our soft tires in Q2. I think that was the right thing to do because the third laps were quicker. Bruno felt he could do it on one lap and he was able to warm the tires a little bit better than Vitaly. It will be a tricky race but we will do our best to score points. We will have to look at things tonight to see how we can extract the maximum from what could be a difficult day for us. Quite simply, we are where we are because of our pace. We need a slice of luck or some help with some people not finishing, but what we need to focus on is having as strong a race as possible, and the rest will take care of itself."
Pastor Maldonado (17th, 1:41.760): "It's a long race here and we need to come up with a strong strategy to get a positive result from 23rd. We've obviously been thinking about our strategy all weekend because we've known about the grid penalty for a while now. We haven't decided 100% and we'll keep working on it tonight to make sure we give ourselves the best possible chance. I will do my best and I know the team will too. We must be confident."
Rubens Barrichello (24th, No Time): "The team tried everything to fix the problem that we had this morning. Unfortunately, they weren't able to and I couldn't go out in qualifying. I fully support the team and know we will come through this smiling."
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: "That was obviously a very disappointing day for Rubens having had an engine issue disrupt his P3 running and then stop him setting a lap in qualifying. Pastor made his way into Q2 but will take a grid penalty due to having a ninth engine fitted at the start of the weekend. Both drivers therefore start from the back but we look forward to seeing them attack in the race."
Adrian Sutil (9th, 1:40.768): "I'm happy with ninth place today and it was a good session for me. In Q3 we waited a bit longer than planned because we wanted to wait and see what Mercedes did. In the end they decided to go out so I also went out and I did a timed lap. The lap was a little bit compromised because I didn't get the tires fully up to temperature, so maybe I could have been a bit higher up. Still, I don't think we can complain too much because P9 is a fair reflection of our pace at the moment."
Paul di Resta (10th, No Time): "Getting two cars in the top ten was the objective today and that's what we achieved. We made some good progress this morning perfecting the set-up and I was happy with the car in qualifying. Q1 and Q2 went well and we got the job done by getting in the top ten. Our approach to Q3 was to give us the optimum strategy for tomorrow. For the race we are definitely hoping for points because our focus is to maintain our sixth place in the championship. I'm really looking forward to this race because the place looks spectacular at night. It's also nice to drive in twilight conditions when it's a bit cooler."
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal: "I'm very pleased with our performance today and with both Sahara Force India cars starting from the fifth row of the grid we are in good shape for tomorrow. It will be an interesting race because we have seen that the tire degradation here is not that severe, which means we need to think long and hard about how we will use the strategy. With just two races to go we are not underestimating how important it is to score points here to strengthen our grasp on sixth place in the constructors' championship. I believe we have the speed to do so, but as I've said before you never know until it's in the bag."
Sergio Perez (11th, 1:40.874): "I'm very happy with 11th in qualifying. Everybody in the team did a good job. I did my fastest lap time in Q2 with a set of soft tires I had used before in Q1. Of course I was hoping to improve in Q2 when I got the fresh tires, but it was impossible for me to get them to work. We are in a challenging situation regarding the battle for positions in the constructors' championship, but I hope for a good race with an aggressive strategy tomorrow. Everything can happen. It will be my first twilight race, but I have seen yesterday and today that the tinted tear off visors work quite well."
Kamui Kobayashi (16th, 1:41.240): "I did what was eventually my fastest lap time in Q2 on the set of soft tires I had used before in Q1. This lap wasn't perfect, but I put my hopes on the set of new tires. Then we struggled a lot to get the fresh ones up to temperature and that's why I couldn't improve. The difference in grip between the used set and the new one was really big. Nevertheless I have a good feeling for the race here."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "After some difficult qualifying sessions in recent races, we were able to make a step forward today, which is really positive. Sergio drove a very good lap and just missed making it into Q3. He was able to keep the Toro Rosso cars, our direct competitors, behind him and also the two Renault cars, which was positive. For Kamui it didn't work out that well. However, I'm confident about our performance for the race where it will be crucial to manage the tires properly."
Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering: "Our goal for today was to improve our qualifying performance, and Sergio's 11th place shows that we achieved this goal. In the third free practice we mainly worked on the mechanical set-up of the car. Sergio was able to put in a very good lap, while Kamui was a bit unlucky. It is puzzling to us that both our drivers set their quickest lap times on used soft tires. We have to analyze this. Now our goal for the race is to score points."
Sebastien Buemi (13th, 1:41.009): "Overall, I am reasonably satisfied with my own performance, even if I am only thirteenth, one tenth of a second off eleventh place, which shows it was quite a difficult session. But I think that, in the cockpit I did a good job and unfortunately, the fact this track is much slower than those at the last three races has not suited us so well. Tomorrow's race will be tough and long and anything could happen and I will be looking to exploit any opportunity that comes my way and I should be able to fight with those cars directly in front of me on the grid."
Jaime Alguersuari (15th, 1:41.162): "I am pleased that we managed to improve the car from the free practice session to qualifying and I believe we have made the right choices for the race in terms of downforce levels and other set-up tools. We are often more competitive in the race than in qualifying and I believe that will be the case tomorrow, more so than in recent races as this has not been the best track for us. But I do not think my grid position is that bad and I am convinced I can work my way up into a points position by the end of the night."
Giorgio Ascanelli, Technical Director: "We are running at a track where car balance, which is our forte, is not so crucial, while braking and sheer grip is more important and we are not so good in these areas, although I should make it clear that is no reflection on Brembo who is doing a good job for us. We struggled a bit in finding the best set up, however given the situation we found ourselves in yesterday, I would say we have made a step forward today. Overall therefore, these positions are not too disappointing. This is a case where we can apply the cliché that we should be better in race trim than in qualifying: Sergio is a tenth ahead and Kobayashi is a tenth behind, so it should be an interesting and exciting battle tomorrow evening. Fortunately for Pirelli, but unfortunately for us, the tire situation looks stable so I am not expecting any unusual developments on that front to come along and help us and make it more fun."
Heikki Kovalainen (18th, 1:42.979): "I am really pleased with that performance today. We definitely got as much performance as we could out of the car and to break into the 1.42s is very satisfying. I pretty much nailed the quick lap and I think we know that where we are on race pace gives us another chance of a strong finish tomorrow. I'm also looking forward to Brazil where we have an update to the rear wing coming - that should give us a better chance of using the DRS more effectively around the whole lap in qualifying, helping us get much closer to our race pace on Saturday afternoons, so another quick lap like that in Brazil with the update would be a great way to finish the qualifying sessions this season."
Jarno Trulli (19th, 1:43.884): "It's obviously been a tricky Saturday for me, having had to sit out FP3 when we found an issue with the gearbox that couldn't be fixed in time for me to run in that session. Despite that, the team worked well to fix the problem and gave me the chance to get out in qualifying without incurring any penalties, so putting together a lap that comfortably keeps me ahead of the guys behind is, in the circumstances, pretty good."
Riad Asmat, Chief Executive Officer: "I think we can be reasonably pleased with today's performance. Heikki put in another incredible lap, getting it just right in all three sectors to finish as close as he did to Michael ahead, and Jarno had to perform in a car that he had barely had track time in today and managed to put in a good lap, pretty close to his team mate. Two more races to go, one tomorrow and then the final race in Brazil in two weeks, and two more races for us to secure that all important tenth place. If the drivers and the team can keep up the level of performance we have seen today and for a good part of the whole season, I think we will be ok."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "A reasonably satisfying qualifying session for us. Obviously Jarno had some ground to make up after losing this morning's session with a gearbox issue that we were able to fix in time for qualifying. Heikki put in another very good Q1 and extracted as much performance as he could out of the car, so they both did well today. We put both cars on two runs in the session, first on the medium compounds and then on the softs, and we finished the session closer to the pack ahead than we have all season, so that points towards another strong Sunday for us. The key now is to maintain the pace we have shown since Singapore and make sure we bring both cars to the checkered flag without any problems."
Thierry Salvi, Renault: "We saw from Heikki's fastest time that the work everyone put in last night and today gave us the performance we were looking for. With the change in track temperatures we do have to give the drivers different engine maps to suit the ambient temperatures, as well as maximizing performance for the specific characteristics of this track, and the times we put in on both cars, especially considering the lack of running Jarno had earlier, puts this down as a good qualifying session for the team."
Daniel Ricciardo (21st, 1:44.641): "I'm happy with today's performance as we were a little bit unsure coming in to qualifying. I always tried to stay positive and believed that I could put in the best performance possible but there were a few doubts with the set-up and free practice hadn't gone well since yesterday. But we got out there and the car was good, I felt I drove well and managed to clock my best time on my last lap. I had a really good first sector and in the second sector I lost a bit of time because Glock had to let me through so I could've maybe even finished above him without that incident. But I pushed as much as I could like I always do and I'm very happy to get a good result out of it."
Vitantonio Liuzzi (23rd, 1:45.159): "The result in qualifying was a shame because we'd had a good weekend up until qualifying. After my second run we suffered a broken suspension bracket and the car had massive understeering on left hand turns but I tried to continue doing some laps so that we could try and understand what the problem was exactly. The car wasn't fast at all and very unbalanced and that is why we were so far behind. It's a pity because this is a track where we could have achieved our best performance in qualifying this season. But we can still be competitive in tomorrow's race if we fix it; tomorrow is another day."
Colin Kolles, Team Principal: "This morning we had a trouble-free session which allowed us to complete the program and prepare for qualifying. The afternoon qualifying session started quite well too, but Tonio had an issue on the front suspension which has to be investigated and that prevented him to pull out a perfect lap in the end. Daniel was ahead of both Virgins but lost a couple of tenths on the second sector that left him right behind Glock. Nevertheless, the pace that both drivers showed over the different sessions is good and there is almost no difference to our direct rivals. Tomorrow, if we all do our best and stay focused from the beginning to the end, I am confident that we can get a good result for the team that would allow us to finish the season on high spirits."
Timo Glock (20th, 1:44.515): "Today the car was a bit more difficult to drive than yesterday. We already struggled this morning with the braking - I just didn't have the confidence to go to the maximum and push. Depending on the corner, the rear end behaved differently, making it quite difficult for me to judge. But my qualifying lap was a good one and I am happy to be in front of HRT and pleased with the lap. It was good and no mistakes. But I'm sure that if we have more confidence in the car we can push more, so we have to look into this and understand why it changed overnight."
Jerome d'Ambrosio (22nd, 1:44.699): "I had a reasonable qualifying today. I didn't get the perfect lap but equally it wasn't such a bad one. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow as my set-up was oriented more towards the race rather than optimized for qualifying, so I like to think there is more to come. This is a special race track with the timing of the qualifying and race, as the reference points are gradually changing as the light is falling. I hope we can have a good two-car finish for the team."
John Booth, Team Principal: "A good result for the team in qualifying today. Jerome progressed well over the course of this morning and it was pleasing to see him opting for the bold strategy of a single hot lap right at the end of the session. Timo was less happy with the car on his first run in qualifying and this forced him to be slightly more conservative with a final three-lap run. Looking at his time, and correcting it to a more optimal single timed lap, I think we can be pleased with where we are relative to our competitors. We spent a lot of time before coming here analyzing our performance in recent races in order to make the most of the last two rounds of the season. As a consequence, we took the decision yesterday to focus our set-up towards the race rather than qualifying, so we're optimistic that we can enjoy a strong two-car finish tomorrow. As always here in Abu Dhabi, the track and its spectacular backdrop will add an extra special dimension for ourselves and the fans."
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