Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel took pole position in Abu Dhabi today, lapping the Yas Marina circuit in just 1m 39.394s, while his team colleague Australian Mark Webber put 1m 39.925s on the clocks and took the fifth position on the start grid....
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel took pole position in Abu Dhabi today, lapping the Yas Marina circuit in just 1m 39.394s, while his team colleague Australian Mark Webber put 1m 39.925s on the clocks and took the fifth position on the start grid. Vettel was extremely happy to score his tenth and last pole of the season, and it was just what he needed to keep his championship aspirations alive. Vettel took the pole position during his very last lap in good old 'now or never' fashion. However, the 23-year old German said he was concentrating on winning the race tomorrow, rather than to reflect on his championship chances, as a victory tomorrow might not be enough to grab the title.
"I'm happy -- it was a great lap and I'm proud of it. It was a very tight qualifying session and it's even more thrilling when you know there's tension going into it and you know 'this is it," said Vettel after the qualifying session. "It was a tight session, so now we are looking forward to tomorrow and see what happens. Ten poles in qualifying I think is a great effort, and shows how good our car is," he added.
Webber, who had been struggling to find grip, was not pleased with his result, and had a hard time hiding his disappointment, "I'm not rapped to be fifth on the grid, it's disappointing, but there's still a long way to go tomorrow; the fat lady hasn't sung yet." But he also knows the race tomorrow will decide the championship, and not today's qualifying, "We need to be there at the end of tomorrow's race and a lot can still happen; I haven't helped things today, but the Championship's not decided today."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner praised Vettel's last minute pole position, "It was always going to a tricky choice with how many laps to do in the last session and both drivers decided that they wanted to do more than two. It was ultimately the choice of Sebastian and Mark to do three and four laps respectively." He too knows only tomorrow's result will count, "Mark ended up P5 unfortunately today and so is going to need a good start and a good race tomorrow. Today has set up a scintillating grid for the final race of the year."
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who currently is leading the championship table, took under the watchful eye of Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo, who traveled to Abu Dhabi to support his team, third position on the grid -- while Felipe Massa landed sixth position. With his time, 1m 39.792s, at least Alonso is where he wanted to be: on the second row of the start grid. If he wins the race, or finishes in second position, he will be crowned World Champion for the third time tomorrow.
Alonso, who already had said ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix he was aiming for a 'perfect' weekend, did the best he could, but Vettel and Hamilton were four and three tenths of a second respectively faster today, but not fast enough to spoil his perfect weekend. Alonso was satisfied and commented: "After a good Friday, during which we worked on the set-up, today along came a good Saturday, in which we secured a good grid position, especially in terms of where our main title rival finds himself on the grid."
And when asked about tomorrow, the Spaniard was confident, "Now, we need one more day at this level and that should bring us closer to our objective. It was an important qualifying session, but you cannot call it decisive, because the race is tomorrow."
Massa will be on the third row of the starting grid, although he had a scary moment with Hamilton during Q2 which almost resulted in a crash. Massa was then during Q3 caught in traffic and had problems putting in a fast lap. "It's a real shame because I could definitely have done better and therefore started further up the grid," the Brazilian said. "However, in terms of performance, I think the situation is better than we could have expected. Fernando starts with a couple of aces to play, which in poker usually signifies a strong hand," he concluded his comment.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali was positive about the result, "Overall, we can claim to be satisfied with this result, especially in terms of the Drivers' classification." About the race he was also clear, "We have to stay concentrated on our work: if we can put together another perfect day, then we will have the opportunity to reach the target we have set our sights on."
Vettel will have Lewis Hamilton next to him on the front row of the start grid. Hamilton again pushed it to the limit, and during Q2 he had a near- miss with Massa when he tried to out brake him at Turn 14. He reported over the radio that 'Massa tried to take him out', but perhaps he should review the video footage, which tells an altogether different story.
Hamilton wrestled his McLaren into the inside of the corner, but had to take avoiding action when he ran out of asphalt. Hamilton had to cut the corner, collected the bollard which ironically is, or in this case was, placed on the inside of the corner to prevent drivers from cutting the corner, but he was lucky, there was no damage to his car and he could continue qualifying. Both Hamilton and Massa were called to the FIA marshals to give their view on the event, but they decided not to take any action.
Hamilton was delighted with his second place, "This is my best qualifying performance since Spa, and I pushed as hard as I could and got everything and more out of the car. To be just three-hundredths off the fastest Red Bull is extremely good news for the team." Like Vettel, Hamilton is not aiming for the title tomorrow, "I'm not focusing on winning the drivers' title; I'm just focusing on winning this race." But he hinted he hasn't ruled himself out for the title, "I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. It's the other drivers who'll have to worry; I don't have to be cautious at all in the race. Perhaps they need to think about that..."
Jenson Button took fourth place with a time of 1m 39.823s, although he had complained about strong vibrations in his McLaren. Button had been struggling with his car all weekend, but working on the problem, he had found the right pace again during qualifying. Button, "We've been tweaking the car all weekend, and we made a big leap from where we were yesterday, so I'm happy with the way things improved. The vibration didn't help my front locking issues, but at least they were better than I'd had in the past couple of races."
The top ten in Q3 was completed by Rubens Barrichello (7), Michael Schumacher (8), Nico Rosberg (9) and much to his own surprise, Vitaly Petrov landed 10th position ahead of his Renault team mate Robert Kubica. Barrichello who was 'best of the rest' was happy with the result, "It was a great qualifying, especially considering where we were yesterday. On Friday we were struggling a little, but we have improved the car in every aspect and I am just delighted with the outcome today. Seventh is better than I expected and I hope we can maintain this tomorrow."
His team colleague Nico Hulkenberg who took a surprise pole position in Korea this time didn't make it into Q3 and had to settle for 15th position. Hulkenberg, "In Q1 everything was fine, with the prime tyre working well. We then selected the option for Q2 and everything changed. My car suddenly behaved very unexpectedly, I lost balance and grip and the car was just sliding around all over the place."
Seven-time World Champion Schumacher made it through Q1 and Q2 without problems, but he also wasn't able to put in a good lap during the final session, "I didn't have the best last lap in Q3 today unfortunately as I didn't quite get the sectors together. That was a shame because I could have ended up one or even two positions higher. However this gives me room to improve for tomorrow and that will be my target for the race."
Rosberg took ninth position, and was like Schumacher on the Super Soft compound during Q3, but thinks he will do better during the race, "The speed was there today, however unfortunately only on the hard tyre, so it's disappointing to be starting from ninth place on the grid. For our race strategy, I had to run the options [super soft] in Q3 and I just struggled with them all the way through qualifying."
Petrov took 10th position after he and his engineers had made a steady progress over the weekend, and he was happy with the result. "I have been running in the top ten most of the weekend, and it was nice to deliver this potential in qualifying. Looking ahead to the race, it will be a very tough one for the tyres, and we need to think carefully about using the right strategy to cope with this," the Russian said.
Kubica, who already had predicted it would be difficult for Renault this weekend, "The rear of the car was sliding a lot this evening, so it was hard to get on the power early enough to set a good lap time. I tried everything, I was sideways in a lot of corners, but that's how it was today." But Kubica's 11th position also means he is free to choose the best tyre compound for his Renault for tomorrow, and this could be an advantage for him.
Japanese Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi was a bit disappointing today, he had to settle for 12th place, while his temporarily team colleague Nick Heidfeld was four tenths of a second slower and had to settle for 14th place. Although both drivers had made significant progress time-wise since the three free practice sessions, the both were disappointed by today's result, especially Kobayashi. "I missed Q3 by just a fraction of a second, and it was definitely a possibility for our car on this track. In general the car is much better than it was on Friday, and my lap was quite okay. Nevertheless I'm very much looking forward to the race tomorrow, and I believe I can score points from where I am starting."
Force India drivers Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi were 13th and 16th respectively, and were happy with the result. Both drivers are looking forward to the race, as for them and Force India it will also be in a race with Williams for the sixth position in the Constructors' Championship. Team owner Vijay Mallya, "We are in a good position to get into the points, our race pace has been very strong and we're all hungry to get back into sixth again. If we can finish the season with only teams who have previously won the Constructors' Championship ahead of us, it's going to be the icing on the cake for what's been a great season for us so far."
Toro Rosso drivers Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi were locked into a battle for 17th place during Q1, a battle that was won by Alguersuari, who during his final lap of Q1 beat Buemi to 17th place with only 0.117 second. Alguersuari about his last lap in Q1, "I think I got a good lap, improving by a tenth. I would say we were not as quick as we expected to be here and could not really attack the Saubers and Force Indias."
Buemi, who brushed the wall at the exit of turn 18 while in pursuit of his team colleague, lost valuable time and wasn't able to improve his time. "I cannot be happy with the way the session went. It was ironic that it was my team-mate who knocked me out of Q2, but now we need to focus on the race and the car's performance has not been too bad overall in free practice, so I will be trying my best as usual to get the very most out of the package for the final time this seasons," the Swiss said right after qualifying.
And finally the three new teams: Lotus, Virgin Racing and HRT. Both Lotus drivers were the best of the new teams today, and Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen finished in 19th and 20th position respectively. Kovalainen is convinced Lotus can beat Virgin and HRT during the final race of the season. "I thought the session was ok for me but congratulations to Jarno for putting in a great qualifying lap. I think I put in as good a performance as I could, and as both cars are ahead of our direct rivals it's where we want to be. We'll look to carry over today's performance into the race tomorrow and the main aim is to end the season as best of the new teams," the Finn said.
Virgin drivers Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi finished in 21st and 22nd position, while the slowest of the new teams, HRT drivers Bruno Senna and Christian Klein took the last two positions during the very last qualifying Saturday of the season. All three rookie teams have made a steady progress during the 2010 season, there is obviously still a lot of work to do for them, but HRT team principal Colin Kolles was nevertheless happy with the overall result. "The gap to the other new teams was not too big today. We could have achieved a better result but unfortunately we couldn't bring the sectors together. For the final race of the season we are hoping to have good fights with the other new teams and to achieve a satisfying result for us, said Colles.
Whether the result of tomorrow's race will be satisfying for everyone involved is of course the million dollar question. For the first time in history four drivers will fight for the title at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, and it is impossible to predict the outcome of the race, many factors come into play: tyre choice, pit stop tactics, engine reliability, driver commitment, and even plain luck could determine the outcome of the race. And what will happen tomorrow? It is like Alonso said after today's qualifying, "We will see what happens in the first ten or twenty meters, and then decide if it will be best to attack or wiser to defend. We have to keep in the mind that the world championship definitely does not get won at the first corner."
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh is certain the race tomorrow will provide a worthy end to an already classic Formula One season, "I reckon tomorrow has all the ingredients to be one of the most thrilling days in the history of Formula One, and I'm sure that trackside spectators and TV viewers alike will be on the edges of their seats during what promises to be a truly dramatic sporting occasion."