Mark Webber of Red Bull upset the Abu Dhabi hierarchy today. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have been the only two drivers to ever take pole position at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi for the past four years, but their monopoly of the circuit over one lap has been taken away from them.
It wasn’t always looking like a guaranteed Red Bull pole today, however. The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were extremely strong in the first two qualifying sessions, making the fight for pole position look much more hotly contested than in recent races.
In the end, though, the Red Bull came out on top. Behind Webber was Vettel, with Rosberg and Hamilton locking out the second row. For Hamilton, there will be a tinge of regret, as a spin on his final lap cost him a potential front row spot. Kimi Raikkonen was back on form in qualifying in fifth. This is his best performance on Saturday since the German Grand Prix in July, where he qualified his teammate. Incidentally, Raikkonen also qualified fifth in Abu Dhabi last season, when bad luck struck the pole sitter and the Finn went on to win the race.
Nico Hulkenberg was outstanding once again. He qualified sixth today after a strong showing in final practice. Form man, Romain Grosjean, will be disappointed with seventh. The Frenchman complained of a vibration on his rear tires during his final lap in Q3. It was discovered that his hot tires had picked up paint from the floor of his garage, causing an imbalance. It just goes to show how sensitive both the cars and drivers are. Felipe Massa was eighth, just ahead of Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo.
The biggest surprise of the session, however, was Fernando Alonso. After struggling for pace the entire weekend in his Ferrari, the Spaniard was only able to bring the car home in 11th place this morning. The only consolation he can take from this is that he has free choice over what tire he starts on. Not much considering his pace in Q1 and and early in Q2.
Paul di Resta, Jenson Button (another surprise elimination), Jean Eric Vergne, Pastor Maldonado, Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez, Adrian Sutil, Giedo van der Garde, Charles Pic, Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi make up the rest of the grid.
All indications from Friday suggest this could be another Red Bull dominated race. Lotus were the only team to even come close to Vettel on the long runs on Friday, but with Raikkonen and Grosjean further back than they wanted, and the quick Mercedes ahead of them, it won’t be an easy task to catch them.
After losing their second-place position in the constructors’ championship to Mercedes last weekend in India, Ferrari could be under serious threat from Lotus tomorrow. Ferrari’s lowly qualifying positions, mediocre race pace and poor traction will not serve them well on the tricky, stop-start Yas Marina circuit.