A commanding drive in qualifying has given Lewis Hamilton pole position for Sundays Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but the twilight session had more drama afterwards, when Sebastian Vettel was disqualified from the session after his Red Bull was unable to produce a fuel sample to the FIA scrutineers.
It was a bitter blow for the championship leader, who will be forced to start from the rear of the field. It’s a decision that will be a huge relief for his main title rival, Fernando Alonso, who qualified a disappointing seventh-fastest, which becomes sixth following Vettel’s penalty.
Up at the front of the pack, Hamilton was simply dominant. Quickest in two of the three preceding practice sessions, he was top of the timesheets in each of the three phrases of qualifying to claim an all-important pole position and end Red Bull’s recent qualifying dominance.
Mark Webber ended up as the second-fastest overall, managing to demote Vettel to third-quickest before the FIA came knocking.
Vettel’s Saturday had been fraught. After suffering from a lack of mileage in the preceding practice session, the German set about trying to make up for lost set-up time. He suffered a close brush with the barriers in Q1, before launching his RB8 over the kerbs in Q2. At the end of Q3, his car seemingly ran out of fuel on his slowing-down lap, consigning him to the same fate that befell Hamilton at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Pastor Maldonado claimed a fine fourth place – now third – in his Williams, finishing ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean.
Despite some solid practice pace, neither Force India nor Sauber could make the final qualifying cut, with Sauber-bound Nico Hulkenberg ranked quickest of those who failed to make it into Q3. The German will line up ahead of Sergio Perez, Paul di Resta, Michael Schumacher, Bruno Senna and Kamui Kobayashi.
Schumacher, Senna and Kobayashi all had lacklustre qualifying performances, winding up comfortably slower than their better-positioned team-mates as each continues their recent run of poor Saturday outings.
The Toro Rossos again took up their customary position on the ninth row of the grid, with Daniel Ricciardo once again consigning team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne to an early bath by beating him to the final spot through to Q2 – although Vergne didn’t help his cause with a spin on his last run.
The battle for the final three rows of the grid was rather more closely fought than in recent outings, with Heikki Kovalainen only just managing to out-pace Charles Pic, with the Marussia driver delivering his most impressive qualifying performance of his rookie season.
2012 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:40.630|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:40.978||+ 0.348|
|DSQ.||Sebastian Vettel*||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:41.073||+ 0.443|
|4.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||1:41.226||+ 0.596|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:41.260||+ 0.630|
|6.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:41.290||+ 0.660|
|7.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:41.582||+ 0.952|
|8.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:41.603||+ 0.973|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:41.723||+ 1.093|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:41.778||+ 1.148|
|Q2 Cut-Off – 1:41.907||Time||Gap|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:42.019||+ 0.112|
|12.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:42.084||+ 0.177|
|13.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:42.218||+ 0.311|
|14.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:42.289||+ 0.382|
|15.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||1:42.330||+ 0.423|
|16.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:42.606||+ 0.699|
|17.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:42.765||+ 0.858|
|Q1 Cut-Off – 1:43.582||Time||Gap|
|18.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:44.058||+ 0.476|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||1:44.956||+ 1.374|
|20.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:45.089||+ 1.507|
|21.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||1:45.151||+ 1.569|
|22.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:45.426||+ 1.844|
|23.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:45.766||+ 2.184|
|24.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:46.382||+ 2.800|
* Q3 session times disqualified after his car was unable to produce a viable fuel sample in post-scrutineering checks.
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