’09 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Saturday Qualifying – Hamilton takes Pole for season’s last Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton was absolutely unbeatable at each of the three qualifying sessions as he stitched up pole position for the season’s last Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will start P2 and P3 with the Brawns of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button P4 and P5 respectively. The Toyota of Jarno Trulli was P6 followed by the two BMW’s of Robert  Kubica and Nick Heidfeld in P7 and P8. Williams’ Nico Rosberg and Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Buemi complete the top ten grid positions for the first-ever race at the desert track of Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi Qualifying

It was a gobsmacking performance by the McLaren team and Hamilton as he was fastest in each of the three sessions. The team will be slightly disappointed as their second driver Heikki Kovalainen suffered what seemed like a gearbox problem and couldn’t make it out of Q2. Red Bull were very slow in the first session but picked up the pace later on and if it weren’t for the KERS power of the McLaren, would have locked out the front row of the grid. Brawns look to be heavily fuelled and they too seem to be fast around the circuit and could be hoping for a good finish.

Q1 was completely owned by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton as he set an astonishingly quick time of 1 Min 39.8 and was pretty much unbeatable around the Yas Marina circuit. He seemed to get the maximum out of the KERS system and find an ideal line around the spanking new circuit having two long straights and few tight corners. Newly crowned World Champion Jenson Button set the second fastest time which was still half-a-second behind Hamilton’s time and Jarno Trulli, surprisingly, was third fastest. As the drivers tried to come to terms with the still-dusty track and the low setting sun, there were a few spins and offs but no serious accidents. The drivers to miss out in the firsts session were both the Force Indias of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil, both the Renaults of Sebastian Grosjean and Fernando Alonso and the Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella.

The second session saw someone else at last be faster than Hamilton, albeit initially. And that included the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel – who were were faster than they were in the first session – as well as the Toro Rosso of Sebastian Buemi. Jenson Button also was quicker and was second fastest. But Hamilton had the last laugh yet again as he pulled out another fastest lap to shoot up to the top of the timesheets in Q2 as well. The drop zone had two surprises in store – the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen didn’t make it, as too did Kamui Kobayashi of Toyota, the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima and the Toro Rosso of Jaime Algersuari. Kovalainen was fastest in the first practice session and with the sister car at the top of the charts, it was somewhat of a surprise to see him so lowly down the order. Raikkonen was 6th fastest at one time but as the others made improvements on their times, he steadily dropped down and simply ran out of time to make that up!

The early pace setter in Q3 was the Toyota of Jarno Trulli but at the moment of reckoning, the top drivers came out with their best times as first Barrichello, then Webber and then Vettel came up trumps for P1. But it was that man Hamilton again who set the fastest time when it mattered and picked up his fourth pole position of the season…and sure looks good for the race win as well.

The KERS on the McLaren will be a big advantage as none of the other cars in the top ten have it and that should translate into a great start off the line. Fuel strategies would decide who among the Red Bulls or the Brawns will end up on the podium and with the mini-battle between Vettel and Barrichello for 2nd place in the standings, it will be an exciting one to watch. Ferrari will have an uphill battle ahead of them to regain third/fifth places in the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championship and with Hamilton looking unbeatable, it seems they will have to settle for staying behind their fiercest rivals.

Despite the fact that the titles have already been decided, the race should be an interesting one to watch. If not for the battles on the track, for the sheer joy of watching the first-ever day-night F1 race itself! The track looks to be a beautiful one, from what we’ve seen on-screen and with the multi-coloured lights of the Yas Marina hotel should provide a spectacular backdrop for the curtains to fall on what has been a truly incredible F1 season. Bring.It.On.

Image courtesy REUTERS/Steve Crisp (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES SPORT MOTOR RACING)

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