Sebastian Vettel’s sensational run of qualifying results has continued, with the German equalling the 1992 record set by Nigel Mansell of 14 pole positions in a single season, after claiming top spot with a last-minute lap in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In a thrilling qualifying battle, the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button – who had generally been the pace-setters in practice – were forced to settle for second and third on the grid, respectively.
Mark Webber will start from fourth place in the sister Red Bull, ahead of a Noah’s Ark formation for the rest of the top-ten, with the two Ferraris starting from the third row, the two Mercedes GP entries on the fourth row, and the two Force Indias claiming the fifth row.
With Hamilton having been quickest in each of the Q1 and Q2 qualifying sessions, he looked odds-on to claim pole with a rapid lap of 1:38.704. beating Vettel’s then effort by less than five-hundredths of a second.
Button then rose to top spot with his final hot lap effort, before Hamilton eased him out by just nine-thousandths of a second.
But Vettel was still circulating, and he claimed yet another pole position (maintaining his qualifying dominance at the circuit) by just 0.141 seconds.
The Ferraris claimed their rather customary third-row lockout, never looking like they had the pace (or the set-up) to threaten the two frontrunning teams. Fernando Alonso qualified fifth-fastest, while Felipe Massa scrapped his way to sixth, which included causing a red-flag interruption when he demolished a chicane bollard in Q2.
Mercedes GP claimed the fourth row, while Force India confirmed their excellent practice pace to comfortably make the final phase of qualifying, ahead of championship rivals Sauber and Toro Rosso. Renault’s slide into the midfield was exemplified with a now-customary Q2 slot: Vitaly Petrov was twelfth-fastest, while Bruno Senna was 14th.
Pastor Maldonado was slowest of the Q2 runners, and his engine penalty will see him start from the back of the grid, which he shares with Williams team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who failed to post a time in Q1 and will need the permission of the FIA Stewards to start.
Heikki Kovalainen was once again the quickest of the sophomore teams in his Lotus, a whopping 0.9 seconds ahead of team-mate Jarno Trulli.
HRT rookie Daniel Ricciardo had a very impressive qualifying session, briefly threatening Kovalainen with his first flying lap, but still managing to split the two Virgin Racing runners by the end of the session to qualify 22nd-fastest.
2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:40.478||1:38.516||1:38.481|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:39.782||1:38.434||1:38.622|
|3.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes||1:40.227||1:39.097||1:38.631|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:40.167||1:38.821||1:38.858|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||1:41.120||1:39.420||1:39.773|
|8.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:42.605||1:40.554||1:40.662|
|9.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes||1:40.595||1:40.205||1:40.768|
|10.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes||1:41.064||1:40.114||no time|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari||1:41.311||1:40.874|
|13.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:41.737||1:41.009|
|15.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:41.386||1:41.162|
|16.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari||1:41.613||1:41.240|
|17.||Pastor Maldonado*||Williams Cosworth||1:42.258||1:41.760|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus Renault||1:42.979|
|20.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus Renault||1:43.884|
|21.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:44.515|
|22.||Daniel Ricciardo***||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:44.641|
|23.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:44.699|
|23.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:45.159|
|DNQ.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth||no time|
* Denotes a ten-place grid penalty will be applied for use of engine outside the prescribed allocation of eight per season
[Image via Sutton Images]