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Qualy: Webber Clinches Abu Dhabi Pole

Saturday 2nd November 2013

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Qualy: Webber Clinches Abu Dhabi Pole

Qualy: Webber Clinches Abu Dhabi Pole

Mark Webber beat team-mate Sebastian Vettel to pole position in Abu Dhabi, only the Aussie's second of this season.

Webber will start his final Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the coveted grid slot having posted a 1:39.957 as the chequered flag was waved.

Nico Rosberg was third quickest, best of the non-Red Bull racers, while Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fourth after finishing his qualifying session in dramatic style.

Felipe Massa was the only Ferrari driver inside the top ten as Fernando Alonso could only manage P11 in what was a disappointing Saturday afternoon for the double World Champion.

Qualifying 1
With the sun going down over Abu Dhabi, the track had dropped ten degrees from final practice, 47C to 36C, with the ambient falling to 32C.

Max Chilton set the first sub 1:50 lap with a 1:44.974, quicker than team-mate Bianchi. This was soon reduced to 1:43.442 by Jean-Eric Vergne and to 1:42.567 by Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had been sent out on mediums with at least seven laps of fuel and told to do fast laps on Laps 1, 3 and 5. Rosberg came round again and lowered his fastest time to 1:42.279 which was bettered by Hamilton with a 1:42.231.

Both Red Bulls sat in the garage and were still not out on track with ten minutes to go. When they did come out they both had soft tyres on, rather than waste rubber setting a time that was likely to be beaten and saving a set of mediums in the process.

The improved pace of the soft tyre was plain to see when Kimi Raikkonen used it to take P1 with a 1:41.276, but more so by Pastor Maldonado. In recent races it is the two Williams cars that have looked most vulnerable in Q1 and the fact that Maldonado could jump to P4 meant that everybody beneath him would have to go again on softs.

With the whole grid improving time, the timesheets pinballed around. With four minutes to go the positions around the dropzone had been: 14.Ricciardo, 15.Van der Garde, 16.Gutierrez, 17.Maldonado, 18.Massa, 19.Grosjean.

With one minute to go it had been transformed to: 15.Alonso, 16.Perez, 17.Sutil, 18.Van der Garde, 19.Massa.

Lewis Hamilton's time set on medium tyres was in freefall as those around him improved and before he could get across the line on soft tyres, he and Massa had fallen to P17 and P19. Massa improved in a resounding way by taking P1 with a 1:41.254, while Lewis Hamilton put in an even more spectacular 1:40.693 to take P1 off him.

So out went: 17.Gutierrez, 18.Sutil, 19.van der Garde, 20.Bianchi, 21.Pic, 22.Chilton

Sutil had described his car as undriveable, but he was still almost four tenths down on team-mate DiResta. Gutierrez was three tenths down on Hulkenberg's time. It was an unusual session in that every driver had used at least one set of the option tyre.

Qualifying 2
The temperatures had now dropped to 31C with the track 34C for the start of Q2.

Paul DiResta set the first time of 1:41.477 to start the session with Nico Hulkenberg improving that to a 1:41.147, Mark Webber slotted into P2. Kimi Raikkonen, in the 10cm shorter shorter wheelbase Lotus reduced it to a 1:40.971.

Then it was the turn of the Mercedes brothers to lock out the top, Nico Rosberg re-set P1 with a 1:40.473 with Lewis Hamilton a mere .004 slower. Behind them Sebastian Vettel could only manage P3.

Running into the last four minutes very little time separated the top cars, but the danger zone was: 7.Massa, 8.Grosjean, 9.Perez, 10.Vergne, 11.DiResta, 12.Alonso, 13.Ricciardo, 14.Maldonado, 15.Bottas, 16.Button.

The top four looked safe, but surprisingly Mercedes sent Lewis Hamilton(P2) out on track just in case conditions changed. Vettel in P3, who was 0.3 slower than Hamilton, stayed in the garage.

Fernando Alonso started his lap to break into the top 10 well with a purple (fastest) sector. But then after a mistake decided to back off and try again. He had just enough time. Maldonado could only make P11 and Bottas P12. Jenson Button's lap was only good enough P9 which soon slipped to P10 with Ricciardo getting in front of him. Perez took P5 and pushed Jenson to P11, Massa took P10, but Alonso was still not safe.

As the Ferrari crossed the line it was only good enough for P11, pushing Button a further place down to P13.

So out went: 11.Alonso, 12.DiResta, 13.Button, 14.Vergne, 15.Maldonado, 16.Bottas

It was the first time that Alonso had missed Q3 all season, although the time differences had been small. Vettel in P4 had set a 1:40.781 while Jean-Eric Vergne in P14 put in a 1:41.279 - so ten places covered by 0.5 of a second. Button couldn't quite believe the set-up difference between a car that had been well inside the top ten in free practice.

Qualifying 3
Mark Webber was keen to get on with it in Q3 and actually overtook teammate Vettel on his outlap. Nico Hulkenberg set provisional pole with a 1:41.379 which was easily beaten by Lewis Hamilton with a 1:40.501 and then team-mate Nico Rosberg snatched it from him with a 1:40.419.

Mark Webber couldn't beat the Merc times but having been only P3 in Q2, all of a sudden the real Sebastian Vettel was unwrapped and he unleashed a 1:40.091 to take provisional pole. It didn't look like Mercedes were going to find 0.4 for a second run.

Massa, Ricciardo and Perez were going to make just one attempt and though there was conjecture that they might opt for medium tyres, in the end none of them did.

So after the first runs it was: Vettel, Rosberg, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Webber, Grosjean, Hulkenberg.

Out they came for the second runs with 10 cars on track. Nico Hulkenberg managed to grab P4 and then Mark Webber started to turn the timing screens purple in S1 and S2 and crossed the line to eclipse Vettel's time by just over a tenth of a second. Vettel started his flying lap, but a mistake at Turn 1 already put him behind on the clock.

When the World Champion crossed the line it was only good enough for P2. Lewis Hamilton was last man out on track but spun his car after he reported something break. It didn't lose Mercedes a place as the only person he looked like beating was his team-mate.

Thus it was an all-Red Bull front row with Webber and Vettel, and an all-Mercedes second row with Rosberg and Hamilton. Raikkonen claimed an excellent P5 ahead of Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Massa and Perez, who had squeezed ahead of Ricciardo right at the end of the session.

Webber's pole was the first non-Vettel, non-Hamilton pole witnessed at the Abu Dhabi Grand prix in its five years of running. In tomorrow's race, there will be a lot of emotional goodwill from the crowd and the paddock for the polesitter to win the race.

FH

Times
01 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:39.957
02 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:40.075 +0.118
03 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:40.419 +0.462
04 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:40.501 +0.544
05 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:40.542 +0.585
06 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:40.576 +0.619
07 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:40.997 +1.040
08 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:41.015 +1.058
09 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:41.068 +1.111
10 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:41.111 +1.154
11 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:41.093
12 Paul di Resta Force India 1:41.133
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:41.200
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:41.279
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:41.395
16 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:41.447
17 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:41.999
18 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:42.051
19 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:43.252
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:43.398
21 Charles Pic Caterham 1:43.528
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1:44.198

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