Formula One News » Hamilton dominates qualifying in Abu Dhabi, Vettel excluded Posted on 03/11/2012
Hamilton, who had been quickest in final practice this morning and fastest in Q1 and Q2, posted a 1 minute 40.603 second lap early in Q3, and with his rivals unable to match that, he had enough in hand to not even have to bother setting a time on his second run. It was the Brit’s sixth pole position of the season and the 25th of his F1 career.
“It’s the first time in a long time we have been ahead of the Red Bulls,” Hamilton said. “But I know it’s going to be, as always, very, very tough in the race because they’ve got great race pace.
“We are strong enough to fight them, however, and the team’s done a fantastic job here. The car’s felt beautiful all weekend. I don’t know why the car works so well. We’ve not really made any improvements to the car since the last race, so I guess it just suits the circuit. The guys are still massively focused so I hope that tomorrow’s a good day for us.”
Mark Webber will start alongside Hamilton on the front row in his Red Bull RB8, the Aussie was the only other runner to break the 1m 41s bracket, but still finished up 0.348 seconds slower.
“First of all credit to Lewis, he’s obviously got a quick car this weekend and he bumped us off the front row, that’s the first time in a while, maybe since six or eight weeks ago when we had a good run, so now they’ve done a good job today. Credit where it’s due and we did the best we could,” Webber added.
Sebastian Vettel meanwhile came in third on a 1m 41.073s, 0.095 seconds further back. The German, however, had to stop out on track after Q3, and when it was later found that there was insufficent fuel in his car to provide a sample, he was demoted to the back of the grid.
“I don’t why I was asked to stop. I think probably some problem. It shouldn’t be something major,” Vettel said before news of the stewards ruling some 4-5 hours after qualifying finished.
“Obviously this morning wasn’t ideal, not being able to run [in FP3 due to brake problems]. So we didn’t get probably the answers that we were hoping for.
“Nevertheless, this afternoon we were settling in quite well and the pace was there, but McLaren and in particular Lewis, are pretty quick – they were out of reach today. I think I should have been a little bit quicker. But all in all I think we can be quite happy. Race pace should be good tomorrow. As we know it’s a long race here and there’s a lot of things that can happen, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Behind, Williams driver Pastor Maldonado shined and was fourth fastest, ahead of the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and a disappointed Jenson Button in P6 in his McLaren.
“It was a difficult session, especially in Q2 as we were on the limit in P10, but I saw the potential in the car. We then found a great balance in Q3 and I’m happy that we are back to looking strong again,” Maldonado remarked.
“I think we showed throughout all the weekend that we are competitive and I did my best in qualifying. I’m really happy for the team, for myself and looking forward to the race tomorrow. Points are very important for us so I will be pushing to the maximum.”
Ferrari number one driver Fernando Alonso could do no better than seventh, 0.952 seconds off the pole time, and 0.509 seconds slower than Vettel.
“In all three free practice sessions, we were always around this position, so it would have been too optimistic to hope for more in Q3: a place between fifth and eighth was within our expectations going into the session and that’s where we are,” Alonso said. “I did almost the same time on three occasions between Q2 and Q3, which means there was nothing more to come.
“Usually, Saturday is the day we suffer the most, while on Sunday things always go better: let’s hope that will also be the case this time. We know that in the three remaining races, we must score fourteen points more than Vettel and that is our one and only objective.”
Nico Rosberg split the two Ferraris in his Mercedes and was eighth fastest, with Felipe Massa back in ninth and Lotus pilot Romain Grosjean tenth.
“Qualifying worked out well for us today as P8 was our target and we were able to achieve that position. I’m ahead of a Ferrari and a Lotus so that’s a good step, and we have made some improvements with our set-up work this weekend,” Rosberg stated.
“Thanks to my mechanics today who did a great job to fix an issue with the brakes just before qualifying and make sure that the car was ready in time. It won’t be an easy task for us to move up the field tomorrow but I’m looking forward to the race and to seeing what we can achieve.”
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg ended Q2 just on the wrong side of the cut off in P11, 0.112 seconds behind Maldonado – the last man to make it through to the top-ten shootout.
“I expected a bit more, but it seemed that our car was no so competitive in the cooler temperatures because I felt much happier during final practice in the sunny conditions. So maybe the lower temperatures caught us out,” Hulkenberg pondered. “I will start from eleventh, just one position away from the points, and I have a free choice of tyres so hopefully we can use that to our advantage to come away with some points.”
Sergio Perez was just behind Hulkenberg in twelfth, and despite having impeded Bruno Senna in Q1, he escaped with a reprimand. Paul di Resta, Michael Schumacher, Senna, Kamui Kobayashi and Daniel Ricciardo also went out in the second session and filled positions 13 through to 17 on the timesheets.
Of the rest, Jean-Eric Vergne was again eliminated in Q1. The Toro Rosso driver was pushing at the end of the first session and was keen to avoid being dumped out for the eighth time this year, but he spun and finished up in 18th.
“It’s quite frustrating to fail to make it to Q2 today. We have been struggling all weekend with understeer and we are still trying to do our maximum and I was pushing a lot. We really only had one lap to see where the balance was this afternoon and the car seemed to be going the other way towards oversteer and I made a mistake,” Vergne explained.
Of the ‘new’ teams, Heikki Kovalainen led the way for Caterham in 19th, with Charles Pic a pretty impressive 20th for Marussia, followed by the other Caterham of Vitaly Petrov and the second Marussia of Timo Glock. HRT pair Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan were slowest.