In a somewhat stunning upset, Mark Webber has beaten Sebastian Vettel to win pole in Abu Dhabi by the slimmest of margins.
Webber's last lap of 1m39.957s was just enough to hold off his teammate.
“This weekend so far has gone pretty smoothly for us," said Webber. "It’s not the easiest venue, because of the changing temperatures. We run in the afternoon and then at night, so you have to be on top of the changing conditions as a driver and also from an engineering perspective. It wasn’t the most electric start to Q1 or Q2, but we made changes to the car as the session went on and I got more comfortable. I knew I had to work on certain sections of the track which Sebastian had already been doing a good job on, so I had to try and match him as well as continuing to keep the areas where I was doing a good job too, so overall I’m happy with the pole. We’re really looking forward to the race tomorrow."
“At the start of qualifying I think Mercedes looked very strong with both Nico and Lewis; Mark and myself weren’t hanging about, but they were very quick," said Vettel. "In Q3 we seemed to be able to find a little bit of extra time. Mark did a very good lap, so congratulations to him. I should have done a little bit better, but I don’t know if it would have been enough, Mark deserves to be on pole today; it was a good lap with no mistakes. On top of that, it’s a great result for the team and we should have a strong result tomorrow."
Nico Rosberg took third for Mercedes ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton who spun out trying to beat his faster teammate.
Hamilton blamed a problem with his Mercedes for his spin.
"Something gave way on the right-hand side of the car," said Hamilton. "I was going through the chicane and it snapped out.
"I tried to pull away and it wouldn't move, so something's busted."
Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top-5 for Lotus but he was later excluded from the result of Saturday evening's qualifying session in Abu Dhabi after his Lotus failed a post-session front floor deflection test.
Representatives from the Finn's team were summoned to the stewards after it was uncovered that the left-hand side of his floor deflected "more than 5mm" when the vertical load was applied, a breach of Article 3.17.5 of the sport's technical regulations.
Although the outfit claimed that curb damage caused the floor irregularity, as it had successfully argued with Romain Grosjean after Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying, the stewarding panel did not accept the viewpoint and opted to disqualify Raikkonen.
Raikkonen, who had qualified fifth quickest, will now start from the back of the grid.
Although Button was sixth quickest in Saturday's final practice, that took place on a track that reached a maximum temperature of 47'C.
And that was in stark contrast to the temperatures in qualifying which were in the mid 30s.
On the cooler track, the McLaren driver failed to repeat his earlier form and finished down in 13th place.
"It was a puzzling session," he said.
"I think we struggled to get the tires working because of the cooler temperatures – I had to take so much rear wing off to try to help balance the car, but it wasn't enough. We were maxed-out on the front wing, too.
"There wasn't anything else I could have done with the car to help the front end, since we were already running very low downforce on the rear – as could be seen by our straight-line speeds.
"It's quite frustrating, because in FP3 this afternoon we looked really promising – sixth-quickest – and the car felt very good."
Jules Bianchi will be given a five-place grid penalty for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with the Marussia driver forced into a gearbox change after his final practice accident.
In the closing stages of the session, the Frenchman lost control of his car on the exit of the second corner, before making front- and rear-end contact with the barriers.
With his gearbox unit needing to be replaced, he will drop five places from wherever he qualifies, but he could choose not to run in order to save for Sunday's race.
Mark Webber (1st, 1:39.957): "This weekend so far has gone pretty smoothly for us. It's not the easiest venue, because of the changing temperatures. We run in the afternoon and then at night, so you have to be on top of the changing conditions as a driver and also from an engineering perspective. It wasn't the most electric start to Q1 or Q2, but we made changes to the car as the session went on and I got more comfortable. I knew I had to work on certain sections of the track which Sebastian had already been doing a good job on, so I had to try and match him as well as continuing to keep the areas where I was doing a good job too, so overall I'm happy with the pole. We're really looking forward to the race tomorrow."
Sebastian Vettel (2nd, 1:40.075): "First of all I think it was a great result for the team. At the start of qualifying I think Mercedes looked very strong with both Nico and Lewis; Mark and myself weren't hanging about, but they were very quick. In Q3 we seemed to be able to find a little bit of extra time. Mark did a very good lap, so congratulations to him. I should have done a little bit better, but I don't know if it would have been enough, Mark deserves to be on pole today; it was a good lap with no mistakes. On top of that, it's a great result for the team and we should have a strong result tomorrow."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A really exciting qualifying session that came down to the last run for both cars. Mark produced a fantastic lap to get the pole position, 0.1 seconds ahead of Sebastian for a Red Bull front row, which is the best possible starting position for tomorrow's grand prix. It's going to be a fascinating race tomorrow and as usual tire behavior is going to be a critical factor."
Thierry Salvi, Renault: "Again a strong performance from the team today with both drivers locking out the front row. It's also a great starting position for the eighth – and final – engines of the year, which will hopefully close the V8 era with lots of points in the last three races. We are looking forward to the race tomorrow as even if the Championship is won, we know our drivers will get the maximum from the car. We have been amongst the quickest this weekend, so it would be good to seal it with a strong result tomorrow!"
Felipe Massa (8th, 1:41.015): "I am pleased with my qualifying and things went better than I'd expected. All weekend, we haven't been competitive enough and after this morning's free practice, I was worried I wouldn't make it to Q3, but then, thanks to a lap where I got the maximum out of the car, combined with the drop in temperature, I managed to make up a few places. Today I did all I could and I think that without a bit of oversteer at the final corner, I could have done even better. This track does not suit our car, as you need good traction and the high temperature doesn't help either, but the race is run in the evening and I hope that will allow us to bring home those important points we need right now, even if it's definitely not going to be easy."
Fernando Alonso (11th, 1:41.093): "This qualifying has been as difficult as the rest of the weekend, even if in some races, starting eleventh on new tires can help, so let's hope that's the case here. It is without a doubt better to make it through to Q3 but unfortunately I didn't manage to get a very clean lap and I didn't manage to make it by a few tenths. This is one of the tracks where we suffer a bit more than usual, but in general our Sunday performance is better and so, again this time, our approach to the race is positive. We must absolutely get a good start, stay focused and run a perfect race if we want to take points towards our aim of finishing second in the Constructors', because it will be a tough fight. We have seen that in the heat, the Softs work better than the Mediums and so logic dictates we should start on the softer tire while it's still daytime and switch to Mediums when darkness falls. Clearly, we have to see how things go."
Pat Fry: "Right from the start of the weekend, we have struggled to be competitive at this track and the outcome of qualifying reflects the hierarchy through the field that we have seen since the start. Even though we worked a lot on improving the balance of both cars, we continued to suffer from a lack of grip, especially in the third sector where our rivals make the difference. In the first two sectors, we do not have any particular difficulties and we can maintain split times that are not far off those of the best, but in the final sector the gap gets bigger which has badly effected the overall lap time. When the temperature dropped, we managed to make the tires work better, which meant the car was more reactive, even if it was not enough to allow our drivers to secure better positions. Tomorrow, we will face a very difficult race, in which it will be vital to avoid traffic in the first stint as much as possible and so we are banking on a clean start. We will have to do everything perfectly if we want to help our drivers in their quest to bring home as many points as possible."
Sergio Perez (9th, 1:41.068): "The car felt great today. If we'd found a couple of extra hundredths, we might even have been seventh – it was achievable. It was important to stay calm after a disappointing FP3. I think we've made the right steps forward for the race, particularly as we knew how much the track would change from the afternoon into the evening – we reacted well. Overall, it's been a weekend of improvement for the team, so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow."
Jenson Button (13th, 1:41.200): "Today's Q3 was a puzzling session. I think we struggled to get the tires working because of the cooler temperatures – I had to take so much rear wing off to try to help balance the car, but it wasn't enough. We were maxed-out on the front wing, too. There wasn't anything else I could have done with the car to help the front end, since we were already running very low downforce on the rear – as could be seen by our straight-line speeds. It's quite frustrating, because in FP3 this afternoon we looked really promising – sixth-quickest – and the car felt very good."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "After our reasonably promising performances in FP1, FP2 and FP3, today's qualifying session was clearly rather disappointing for us. Moreover, even in Q2 this evening, Checo had shown pace and promise, posting the fifth-fastest lap-time, so it was a pity that a yellow flag compromised his ability to deliver on that promise and pace in Q3. As for Jenson, he's looked very good throughout the weekend so far, posting the sixth-fastest lap-time in FP3 this morning, but sadly this evening he was unable to find the same balance and as a result he failed to go through to Q3. Tomorrow, though, as we've seen them do many times before, both Jenson and Checo will surely race hard and well, and will be aiming to score as many points as possible in an effort to consolidate our position in the constructors' world championship."
Kimi Raikkonen (5th, 1:40.542): "Today wasn't too bad overall. In the early sessions both yesterday and today I struggled a bit to get the car working how I wanted, but in the evening when the temperature is cooler it's been much more to my liking. This is good as the race will be in the evening so we'd prefer it that way around for sure. The short wheelbase car seems to suit my style a bit better too, so hopefully we can continue this way for tomorrow. Of course, you always want to be as far up the grid as you can and we clearly weren't the fastest today, but you never know what might happen on Sunday so we'll see what we can do."
Romain Grosjean (7th, 1:40.997): "That was one of the trickier qualifying sessions we've had recently, and seventh on the grid is not where we expected to be after the pace we've shown so far this weekend. The car felt quite different this evening – particularly in terms of front end – so we'll need to investigate where it's not quite working. It's a long race tomorrow in tough conditions and everyone around us will be starting on the same tires, so we need to try and find some performance from the data tonight to achieve our target of the podium."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "That was a great qualifying performance from Kimi who was unlucky not to be in front of both Mercedes after the final sector of his qualifying lap narrowly cost him a potential third position. By contrast, Romain had a bit of a struggle today and wasn't as comfortable with his car as he has been so far this weekend. Having both cars inside the top ten is a decent result however, as we expect to see strong race pace from the E21. Our target on pace alone is to race and beat Mercedes; ending the weekend with another good points haul over them in the Constructors' Championship in the process. Of course, we'll be ready to capitalize on any opportunities that Red Bull may present us, but they are looking very fast once more here. There don't appear to be too many permutations here, so it could be quite a straight-forward race. Certainly, the different options that presented themselves in New Delhi don't look to be available here so we'll watch how the race evolves and react accordingly."
Nico Rosberg (3rd, 1:40.419): "It's great to have another positive Saturday for our team. Again we are the best of the rest which is our aim for the weekend and starting from P3 and P4 are great positions for us to score lots of points in the Constructors' Championship. My last lap in Q3 wasn't great today but there was only a small chance to improve my time anyway. Mark and Seb were just too quick today for me to get on the front row but I'm confident that we can have a good race from here tomorrow."
Lewis Hamilton (4th, 1:40.501): "Fourth place feels pretty good this evening considering the time was set on my first Q3 lap. Unfortunately on my second lap it looks like something gave way at the back of the car as I got on the power at the chicane and it just snapped out, which forced me into a spin. It was a great lap and might just have been enough to get us onto the front row as I was fourth-tenths up on my first effort but these things happen. The car felt really strong today so we'll hope for a good start and then challenge to make up some positions in the race tomorrow. The good thing is that we are ahead of Ferrari and that's where we need to stay. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hope we can get a good result."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "That was a rather more exciting qualifying session than we have seen at recent races! Nico put together a very strong session, topping the times in Q2 and securing a strong third place in the final part. As for Lewis, he was well up on his best time to that point – enough for us to start getting a little excited on the pit wall – when the car spun. It now appears there was a technical problem which we will investigate fully when the car returns. We will never know how that lap could have panned out but we were certainly closer on ultimate performance than we have been in a while. Looking to the race, we were not particularly happy with the car on our long runs yesterday, but the drivers and their engineers did a great job overnight to make some changes and improve the situation. The track has also changed significantly, so we will have to see how things turn out. Strategy will clearly be a major consideration for the race and I am sure we will see a mix of one and two stop strategies. It certainly promises to be an intriguing race."
Toto Wolff, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "We can be satisfied with third and fourth places this afternoon. Ifs, buts and maybes don't count in motorsport so it doesn't really matter whether or not our positions could have been even better. Nico did a strong job today while Lewis was four-tenths faster than his best time until the spin. We will of course have a good look into the cause of the technical problem on the car. We have secured two good starting positions and now we need to have a clean first lap and take our opportunities in the race. It will be a tough race against Lotus in terms of strategy and perhaps even Ferrari. We will be doing all we can to race hard tomorrow and score another good haul of points."
Nico Hulkenberg (6th, 1:40.576): "It was a perfect lap and I could really get the maximum out of the car. Overtaking won't be easy on this track. There are the two DRS zones, and in the past there have been a few overtaking maneuvers, but I think we have a good top-speed. We were able to be in the top ten all weekend and I am confident this will continue to be the case tomorrow as well."
Esteban Gutierrez (17th, 1:41.999): "It's very disappointing to start P17, because our pace is really good. We were on a push, pull, push strategy and ran out of time for the second push. The call was tricky, as on the first lap I ran into traffic and for the second push we ran out of time, so I didn't get the chance to set a lap. It was clearly a mistake, and we were only missing a few seconds."
Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal: "Once again qualifying showed how competitive our car is. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in the results of both cars. As always, Nico showed an excellent performance today and used the car's potential to its maximum. Unfortunately Q1 didn't go to plan for Esteban. It was a combination of mistakes that didn't get him through to Q2. A big thank you to the team here at the racetrack. Everyone worked very hard to make the car this competitive. Now we have to concentrate on the race tomorrow."
Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering: "After a clean and competitive free practice three, overall we are very happy to have Nico in sixth. He extracted the maximum out of the car today, so all credit is due to him. Unfortunately Esteban's Q1 was compromised first of all by traffic during his first lap and then, as we were preparing for the final push lap, the focus on getting out of people's way resulted in missing the start of his final lap by a very small margin, which is clearly disappointing. Tomorrow is what counts, we had strong race pace on Friday, and it's clear our goal is to score points."
Paul di Resta (12th, 1:41.133): "I am pretty satisfied with P12, which puts us in a reasonable position for tomorrow. I'm feeling good in the car, which has worked well all weekend. For tomorrow I'm optimistic that we can be up there with a good chance of picking up some points. The car is responding well and I also think we are more suited to the race than qualifying. There's a long race ahead of us, but we will work hard to put together a good strategy tonight and try to push our way forward in the race."
Adrian Sutil (18th, 1:42.051): "I've not been feeling comfortable with the car this weekend. The practice sessions have not been easy and I just can't find a balance that is working for me. It started in second practice yesterday when we had the issue with the brakes and since then I've been struggling. We made some changes before qualifying, which were an improvement, but it was not enough to progress to Q2. So we are disappointed with P18, but it's the result of things not coming together for us. It's a long and tough race here, but I still look forward to it and will try my best to improve our performance."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "It's encouraging to see Paul up in P12 and only a tenth away from the top ten. He's been happy with the car performance from the start of practice and has progressed with each run. We have a good race car, with consistent pace over long runs, which will hopefully allow us to join the fight for points. On the other side of the garage it has been quite a challenging weekend for Adrian. He's not been comfortable with the car and, despite our best efforts, we've not found the right direction to give him a balance that gives him confidence. It will be an interesting race tomorrow and hopefully our strategy decisions tonight will allow us to move forward with both cars."
Pastor Maldonado (15th, 1:41.395): "I had a strong Q1 but in Q2 I struggled with traffic and wasn't able to put a clean lap together, with the cars that crossed the line after me benefitted from the increased rubber on track. We have made some updates for this weekend and the car is feeling more consistent which will help us tomorrow in the race, and overall I feel that we have made a positive step forward."
Valtteri Bottas (16th, 1:41.447): "I was expecting that we would be fighting for a place in Q3 so I'm a little disappointed. As the track conditions were improving other car's times were dropping but we were not able to benefit from that extra grip as much. I was also held up by traffic on my final run which cost me a few tenths. It's not the best place to start the race but we know that around this track we can be quite strong on long runs so I expect that we will be able to move up tomorrow."
Xevi Pujolar, Chief Race Engineer: "In FP3 we ran both cars with the development aero configuration tested on Friday, and Valtteri felt more confident in the car. Pastor struggled with a lack of grip caused by the high track temperatures, which were over 50 degrees, but this improved with the cooler evening temperatures in qualifying. Q1 went well for us with both drivers putting together good laps despite it being difficult to manage the traffic whilst also keeping the tires up to the optimum temperature. In Q2 I don't feel we got the potential out of either car as both drivers were hampered by traffic, losing them a couple of tenths. Overall, we have reduced the gap in terms of time to the teams in front, and with our race pace looking consistent we will be pushing for a good result tomorrow."
Daniel Ricciardo (10th, 1:41.111): "I think making it into Q3 was already a good achievement, after the difficulties I'd experienced getting the car the way I like it on Friday and even for the final practice today. My Q2 lap was a very good one, but not the best, so I came into Q3 feeling I could improve in a few areas. We decided to make a slight adjustment to the front tire pressures which turned out not to be the right decision, as I then had to work harder to warm the tires. The lap itself was not too bad, but the time never came. The heat? It's only a problem once you get out of the car because inside the cockpit you get some airflow and it's all fine."
Jean-Eric Vergne (14th, 1:41.279): "Everything went smoothly in Q1 and also in Q2, I managed to improve my time, even on old tires and I was heading for a really good time at my last attempt, but I locked the wheels massively going into Turn 8 and that wiped out any advantage I had. It is a real shame because everyone had worked so hard yesterday and last night to give me a really good car, that I was very happy with right from the start of FP3. I have to put my hand up and say I made the mistake. I wanted it too much and tried too hard. On the plus side for tomorrow, I have been on the pace all weekend and the speed is there. So, with a good strategy plan, I am looking forward to the race, when I am sure I can make up for this evening's disappointment."
James Key, Technical Director: "After neither driver was happy with the balance of the car on Friday, the team worked very hard overnight to adjust the car for today with the right wing levels. It seemed to have worked as Jev was immediately happy with the car this morning, Daniel less so, which involved a bit more work on his side of the garage before qualifying. After this qualifying, the feelings are a bit mixed, as we believed we could have had two cars in Q3. Unfortunately, Jean-Eric lost a fair bit of time in the middle sector on his final quick lap in Q2, when he just needed the two tenths improvement we could expect from new tires and, because it was so close, that mistake was enough to keep him out of the top ten. Daniel did a good job to get into Q3, but was unable to repeat his best time from Q2 and so we have ended up further back than we expected. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to be back in Q3 and from what we saw yesterday, our long run pace looked strong, so we can expect Daniel to capitalize on that, as can Jev, who has been very competitive all weekend apart from this evening."
Giedo van der Garde (19th, 1:43.252): "Similar to my teammate, the changes we made to the car since FP2 had brought in a bit too much oversteer so we used the first couple of runs to sort that out. The track was obviously improving as more rubber went down and by the time of the first run on options I was pretty happy with how the car was performing. In quali we went for two runs on the options. On the first run everything went to plan and I was up in tenth until the cars ahead went from primes to options. On the second run we timed it well but on my slowdown lap I was blocked by one of the Force Indias which was going really slow around the whole lap which meant the tires cooled down and I probably lost about three tenths on my last quick lap. It's funny though, because even though I finished ahead of our nearest rivals and my teammate I'm a bit gutted as I think I'd have been in the 1.42s, still not enough for Q2 but enough to show what the car's capable of here. Anyway, we have a long race ahead tomorrow and last year the team scored a 13th here, so I'll take the fact I finished best of our little battle and focus on getting as good a result as possible in the race."
Charles Pic (21st, 1:43.528): "Overnight we made quite a few changes to the car and in FP3 we'd gone from the understeer we'd had on Friday to oversteer on the first run. A couple more changes helped fix that a bit and we found a slightly more positive balance for the second run. We started quali on softs but I still couldn't didn't have a balance that was working for me. The car was understeering too much to really be able to push with and that affected both my runs in Q1. It's a shame as there's definitely some pace in the car here, compared to our direct competitors, but we have the race to show what we can do. On race pace we have an advantage, and with the good tire deg levels we saw on the long runs I think we have some interesting strategy options to look at for tomorrow."
Jules Bianchi (20th, 1:43.398): "It has not been a good day on my side, so to work hard together to come back from that is a big plus and I am happy with my final run, which was good enough to split the Caterhams. In FP3 I had a problem at the rear which pushed me off track and into a spin. Thankfully I was able to avoid hitting the wall too hard but there was damage to the gearbox which meant that we needed to change. It is disappointing to have a good lap in qualifying to recover from FP3, only to then have a penalty that will mean I have to start from the back. We will work to find a good strategy to get ahead of the competition."
Max Chilton (22nd, 1:44.198): "It has been a difficult day overall but particularly in qualifying with the DRS issue. On the first laps of the second run I went faster, but on my second flying lap there was nothing left in the tires, which is disappointing because I think Jules and I would have been pretty close again when it counted. Looking at what I lost from DRS and also by doing three laps versus one lap, we can say that the time loss was significant. However, tomorrow is another day and we'll be pushing to make it a positive one."
John Booth, Team Principal: "Today we have encountered more than our fair share of problems and ultimately these issues have translated into a loss of performance. With Max, the impact of the loss of his DRS in qualifying was obviously significant. We found the cause soon after the session and it will be relatively easy to fix this for tomorrow, but we didn't give him the best shot at preparing for the race. With Jules, an issue on the car in FP3 meant that he was forced off track and while the impact was not significant, it did still cause damage to the differential and this necessitated a gearbox change. The loss of his option run in FP3 and then subsequently a KERS issue early into qualifying meant that he only really had one shot at an option lap today. We managed to fix the KERS issue in time to give Jules a second qualifying run and he was finally able to get a push-lap but there was clearly more performance to come. Overnight we must get on top of the frustrations of the day and I'm confident that we will address all of the issues. Over the past few races we have had the benefit of excellent starts, so I am sure we will be able to recover from our grid positions and maintain our upward turn in form with a strong race tomorrow."
|1.||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1m39.957s||+0.000s|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1m40.075s||+0.118s|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1m41.111s||+1.154s|
|12.||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1m41.133s||+0.660s|
|14.||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1m41.279s||+0.806s|
|18.||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1m42.051s||+1.358s|
|19.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1m43.252s||+2.559s|
Final Grid Lineup
|1.||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|9.||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari|
|11.||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes|
|13.||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari|
|17.||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes|
|18.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault|