2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Saturday Qualifying – Vettel pips the McLarens to Pole Position

The McLarens were quick on Friday and on Saturday’s practice sessions and many were of the opinion that Lewis Hamilton was a shoo-in for pole position. Pah! said Sebastian Vettel as he wheeled around in his Red Bull around the Yas Marina circuit as fast as he could and took Pole Position for Sunday’s race. Lewis Hamilton had to settle for second position, 0.141 seconds slower than Vettel with Jenson Button a teeny weensy 0.009 seconds behind in third.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Saturday Qualifying

Mark Webber starts from fourth with the two Ferraris of Fernando Alonso in fifth & Felipe Massa in sixth. Mercedes have Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher seventh and eight with the two Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta completing the top ten.

It was a thrilling finale to Q3 as first Button took provisional pole as the Chequered Flag fell on the session but Hamilton came steaming in behind to usurp his teammate by the slenderest of margins – 0.009 seconds to be exact! Vettel was running the last and he beat Hamilton’s time quite effortlessly, equalling Nigel Mansell’s most-pole-positions-in-a-year record in the process.

Q1 was a disappointing one for Williams as an Engine problem meant Rubens Barrichello was unable to set a time and hence will start at the tail-end of the grid for the race. The two Lotuses of Heikki Kovalainen & Jarno Trulli, the Marussia Virgins of Timo Glock, & Jerome D’Ambrosio and the two HRTs of  Daniel Ricciardo & Vitantonio Liuzzi were the ones to exit out at the end of the session.

Q2 was Red Flagged for a while as Felipe Massa clipped a kerbside bollard and it landed in the middle of the track. When the session resumed, the casualties were the two Renaults of Vitaly Petrov, & Bruno Senna, the two Toro Rossos of Sebastian Buemi & Jaime Alguersuari, the two Saubers of Sergio Perez & Kamui Kobayashi along with the Williams of Pastor Maldonado. Maldonado had to fit in his 9th engine of the season and hence automatically cops a 10-place penalty on the grid, joining his teammate at the tail-end.

There’s a sneaky feeling in the paddock that McLaren have the race pace to trouble the Red Bulls and genuinely believe that if one of Button or Hamilton can stay close to pole sitter Vettel at the start and then use KERS to get ahead, they have a good chance of winning the race. Vettel has the challenge of notching up wins in the next two races to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in a season and he will be all out to get that. My tip for the race win: Jenson Button (and Alonso to be on the podium yet again!)

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