Lewis Hamilton looks like the man to beat after producing an excellent lap to fend off a Red Bull challenge and clinch the final pole position of the 2009 season in Abu Dhabi. The outgoing champion will start from the best row of the grid, joined by Sebastian Vettel, as Mark Webber will attempt to protect his team-mate from Rubens Barrichello in the battle for second in the championship. Champion Jenson Button will start fifth.
Formula One’s first ever visit to Abu Dhabi always promised to be spectacular and the Yas Marina circuit failed to disappoint as the sport enjoyed, not only the first ever qualifying session in the United Arab Emirates, but the final grid shootout of the decade as well as the season. With the track at temperatures of 31°C, the sell-out crowd was able to make the most of pleasant weather conditions and temperatures of 29°C accompanied by a slight breeze.
After struggling in practice, it was an unsurprisingly short day for Renault as both Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean fell at the first hurdle; the Spaniard will start his final race with the French marque from 16th on the grid as the Frenchman, who is the leading candidate for Spinner of the Year, will stare at the starting lights from the back row alongside Giancarlo Fisichella, who yet again proved extremely uncompetitive in what has been a cursed reserve driver’s seat at the Scuderia.
Force India was another team to see both of its cars eliminated in Q1 as Adrian Sutil, who struggled with a brake problem on Friday, starts 18th and is out-qualified by team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Both Toro Rossos qualified for Q2 although Jaime Alguersuari was able to go no further and will join Alonso to make up an all-Spanish eighth row of the grid. The two Finns were also knocked out in the second phase; a last-gasp effort from Nico Rosberg saw Kimi Räikkönen wave goodbye to top ten chances as he starts 11th on Sunday.
The elimination of his compatriot, however, was a bigger surprise as Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren – which led the second practice session on Friday – stopped on-track with a gearbox problem; he is the filling in a Japanese sandwich, with Kobayashi and Nakajima 12th and 14th for Toyota and Williams.
The top ten shootout, which was now fully bathed by floodlighting as opposed to a sunset, welcomed the Toro Rosso of Sébastien Buemi on his 21st birthday; the Swiss driver could not threaten the other nine men, however, and starts tenth alongside Nico Rosberg. Three Germans successfully passed through to the final round, with Heidfeld’s eighth place seeing him and Renault-bound Robert Kubica made an all-BMW Row 4 on the Bavarian company’s last weekend in F1.
With Hamilton’s KERS-shod McLaren having looked strong for pole all weekend, the Englishman was the last man to complete a lap as his effort of 1:40.948 beat Sebastian Vettel, who in-turn had moved ahead of team-mate Mark Webber.
Rubens Barrichello starts two places behind the man he must finished ahead of in the battle for this year’s runner-up spot as Champion Jenson Button, who is out-qualified by the two men he beat to the title a fortnight ago, starts ahead of Jarno Trulli’s Toyota.
2009 Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:40.948|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault||1:41.615|
|3.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault||1:41.726|
|4.||Rubens Barrichello||Brawn GP Mercedes||1:41.786|
|5.||Jenson Button||Brawn GP Mercedes||1:41.892|
|7.||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber||1:41.992|
|8.||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||1:42.343|
|9.||Nico Rosberg||Williams Toyota||1:42.583|
|10.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:42.713|
|13.||Heikki Kovalainen||McLaren Mercedes||1:40.983|
|14.||Kazuki Nakajima||Williams Toyota||1:4.148|
|15.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:4.689|
|17.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India Mercedes||1:41.701|
|18.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes||1:41.863|