Mark Webber took his second pole position in three races ahead of tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Webber prevailed in a tight battle with his team mate. Newly crowned four times World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, will start from the front row after failing to improve his time in Q3.
As qualifying started, most runners decided to start on the medium compound tyre. However, both Red Bull drivers elected to use the soft tyres straight away, and before long, most went that way too. With lap times improving rapidly as the session entered its last few minutes, it was Lewis Hamilton who went fastest, from Felipe Massa. Kimi Raikkonen was third, with Pastor Maldonado fourth.
At this stage, Webber and Vettel were only eighth and eleventh fastest respectively, but it was enough for them to get through to Q2. Failing to progress beyond Q1 were Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil. They joined the usual suspects, as Giedo van der Garde qualified the best of the new teams. Jules Bianchi was just behind him, but will start last after a penalty for a gearbox change.
In Q2, it increasingly looked like it would be a battle for pole position between the Mercedes and Red Bull cars. This time, Rosberg went fastest, with Hamilton in second, while Webber was once again quicker than Vettel. McLaren’s Sergio Perez, Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo all produced lap times good enough to see them in the top ten.
The Lotuses of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, plus Felipe Massa, completed those to progress into Q3. But the big shock was the loss of Fernando Alonso who will start tomorrow’s race from eleventh. It is the first time this season the Spaniard has failed to make it through to the top ten, and he appeared to be all out of sorts in the closing moments of the session.
The others to drop out were Paul di Resta and Jenson Button, who failed to match his team mate’s pace. Likewise Jean Eric Vergne couldn’t match Ricciardo’s pace, while the two Williams cars of Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top sixteen.
Sebastian Vettel set the time sheets alight at the start of Q3, comfortably ahead of the Mercedes pairing of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Mark Webber meanwhile was struggling, and was someway off his team mate’s pace. But a front wing adjustment changed his fortunes, and while others failed to improve, he bettered his early lap time to take pole by a tenth of a second.
The two Red Bulls were almost half a second clear of their closest challenger. Nico Rosberg starts third for tomorrow’s race, getting the better of Lewis Hamilton who spun and stalled his car on his last lap.
Kimi Raikkonen put any off track politics behind him to go fifth fastest. Team mate Grosjean struggled and could only go seventh, the two split by Hulkenberg. Felipe Massa could do no better than eighth, ahead of Perez and Ricciardo who completed the top ten.