Hamilton Dances To Pole Under Dark, Vettel And Alonso Show Pressure

In recent weeks, Lewis Hamilton has looked increasingly relaxed as he comes to the closing stages of his fourteen-year stay with McLaren. He was pleased with the car following Friday practice and stormed to pole position under the lights of the Abu Dhabi circuit, with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel in 2nd and 3rd respectively, though Vettel later had his qualifying times wiped out and has to start from the back of the grid due to a rule-break regarding fuel.

Making just one run in Q3, his time looked good enough as quickest but the Englishman did go out as again like his rivals did. They however, were unable to beat it, leaving Lewis at the head of the grid for the fifth this this season. It also gives him the 25th pole of his career, the third-best total on the current grid.

It was a session which was far from flawless from Sebastian Vettel, the German running wide at numerous times and even touching the barrier at one point, an impact which looked much more serious in slow-motion to his right-front tyre but left no damage. What did leave damage was his team seemingly under-fuelling his car which left him unable to return to the pits after qualifying, his race engineer ordering him to stop his car on the side of the track. The stewards brought both driver and team members to explain why, and their explanations were accepted. Upon later inspection on the car by the FIA, there was insufficient fuel left in the car to provide the mandatory 1-litre of fuel and only 850ml could be extracted.

Vettel had qualified in third but was later excluded from the results, leaving him in 24th

Team boss Christian Horner said that there was enough fuel left, but that the remaining amount could not be taken from the car, and that the team would make changes in order to boost Vettel’s chances of finishing with points in the race.

“The rules dictate that one litre has to be able to be provided without the removal of bodywork, without manipulating the car,” said Horner.

“We believe that the fuel is in the cell, according to what Renault have told us, but you cannot dismantle the cell to give the sample.

“The car will be worked on tonight, so it is out of parc ferme, and we should have a better understanding and hopefully a cure for tomorrow.”

Hamilton was surprised at getting pole position

Lewis Hamilton spoke of his excitement at beating the Red Bulls to pole and hoped that the same could happen in the race.

“I’m very excited. Very excited,” said Hamilton. “It’s the first time for a long time to be ahead of the Red Bulls. Normally I see the tail of them at the start of the race.

“I know the race will be tough because they have great race pace. I hope we are strong enough to fight.

“The car has been beautiful all weekend.”

Webber is confident of Red Bull’s chances of victory

Mark Webber commented on McLaren’s “quick” car but was upbeat that his own team could take them on in the race.

“Lewis’s starts lately haven’t been phenomenal so let’s see if he has a good one tomorrow,” he said. “We will see how they get off the line but I am looking to go forward for sure.

“Credit to Lewis and McLaren, they have a quick car this. They had momentum six to eight weeks ago and we knocked them off.

“We have a bit of friendly fire [with reliability problems] that we need to tidy up, but team is exceptional and we know what we need to improve.

“[McLaren] look strong this weekend but we are positive.”

Maldonado has excelled at circuits with a street element to them

Pastor Maldonado threw out any suggestions that he will let the title contenders through and said that he will push hard for himself and his team in the race which he starts from third place.

“We need to look at ourselves. Points would be very important for us so I will push at the maximum and then we’ll see.

“I think we have very strong pace and are very competitive.”

Alonso remains hopeful of his race chances

Fernando Alonso seemed exasperated, with his Ferrari once again unable to challenge the front-runners, a task made harder by the cars which he felt were impeding him, the Spaniard waving angrily from his car to show his frustration. Started from seventh, he said that his grid position could not be improved on and that his target was to out-score Vettel.

“I think things are they way they always are. I don’t know what expectations people had at home and I don’t know what expectations people outside the team had,” said Alonso.

“We were seventh or eighth in most sessions and in qualifying we are seventh and ninth, so we are where we expected. The car worked well, the updates worked well, but the others are improving too, so it’s nothing new.

“I would like to be closer to the front, yes, but it is what it is. Fortunately the races are on Sunday and tomorrow the target is to score more points than Vettel.

“Everything can change, starting from seventh or starting from third. Sometimes you start from pole and something happens, so to decide whether it was a good or a bad weekend, we’ll be here at the same time tomorrow.”

Sauber’s tyre conservation is unlikely to be a major strength in the race

The conditions and track at Abu Dhabi, coupled with harder tyres mean that the drivers will look to just make one pit-stop during the race tomorrow, but Sergio Perez says that is an obstacle for his Sauber team.

“I’m expecting a very difficult race due to the low degradation and people doing the same strategies. But we expect the Mercedes [of eighth-place starter Nico Rosberg] which is quite high up to struggle so maybe we can make up some positions.”

“We are in a good position. Our race pace is good, so we should be strong.

“That [fighting for eighth] should be the target for us.”

“Pirelli has been quite conservative for the last races, where people will make one pitstop,” said Perez.

“I expect to do an easy one-stop.

“Tyres will degrade a bit but I don’t see many going for two stops. It will be an interesting race but degradation will be very low.

“Normally, it’s a lot more interesting when you have more degradation.”

Schumacher was calm about his team’s prospects

Michael Schumacher had another tough session and starts 13th but denied he was frustrated with his team’s recent struggles.

“There’s no reason to call it frustration. It’s part of the process that we are involved in.”

“Things looked pretty good at the beginning of the year. We’ve just sort of lost the train and didn’t keep up the development. So there’s no reason why we should be surprised or frustrated by what’s happening, it’s just a natural consequence.

“It’s more important that we understand everything to fix it. That’s what we’re focused on now.”

Abu Dhabi GP Grid

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m40.630s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m40.978s + 0.348
3. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m41.226s + 0.596
4. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m41.260s + 0.630
5. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m41.290s + 0.660
6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m41.582s + 0.952
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m41.603s + 0.973
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m41.723s + 1.093
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m41.778s + 1.148
10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m42.019s + 1.118
11. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m42.084s + 1.183
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m42.218s + 1.317
13. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m42.289s + 1.388
14. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m42.330s + 1.429
15. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m42.606s + 1.705
16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m42.765s + 1.864
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m44.058s + 2.561
18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m44.956s + 3.459
19. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m45.089s + 3.592
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m45.151s + 3.654
21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m45.426s + 3.929
22. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m45.766s + 4.269
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m46.382s + 4.885
24. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault * Penalty


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