Red Bull may have locked out the front row for the second time in two races, but their dominance is not as great as it was previously.
Today, we saw a genuine battle for pole position in which the two Mercedes cars looked to be a match for Vettel and Webber. It is also fair to say that the final gap the two Red Bulls had over their closest rivals does not reveal the full picture.
Indeed, had Lewis Hamilton not had a wishbone failure on his final flying lap, it’s likely that he would have ended on the front row. He could have even taken pole position. Hamilton has a great record at this circuit having led the most laps here of any driver since 2009. He’s also taken pole position twice, but rather ironically, has never won at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Additionally, the Lotus cars underperformed in qualifying. For many, Romain Grosjean remains the dark horse this weekend. The Frenchman topped the time sheets in the opening practice session, but he failed to put it all together today. He therefore starts in sixth place, but in a car with good long run pace, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he ended up on the podium for the fourth time in as many races.
Unfortunately, Grosjean’s team mate, Kimi Raikkonen will have a tougher time of it. The Finn won here last year, but any hopes of a repeat victory disappeared earlier today when his car failed scrutineering. He starts from the back of the grid, but can perhaps take solace from the events of last year. His good friend Sebastian Vettel started from the pit lane 12 months ago, but ended up on the podium.
Like Vettel last year though, Raikkonen is likely to need several safety cars to have any hope of finishing in the points, let alone on the podium.
But what about Mark Webber’s chances of taking victory? The Australian’s time in Formula One is quickly coming to an end, and few would begrudge him taking one last win. To do that though, Webber has to defy the odds. He’s had some truly awful luck so far this year, and statistics show that only once has the pole sitter of this race even gone on to see the chequered flag.
He’ll also have to see off Vettel too, something he has failed to achieve in the last two races. In Japan, he qualified on pole but lost victory to Vettel. Only last weekend he was in a strong position on a differing strategy to his team mate, but looked to be finishing behind him before he was forced to retire.
Webber’s confidence will surely be boosted by today’s result however. Unlike Japan, where Vettel didn’t have KERS in Q3, today he took pole in a straight fight. The other thing to consider is that now both championships are done and dusted, there’s nothing to lose. The only thing at stake, from the drivers’ point of view, is pride.
With all that in mind, we could be in for a thrilling Grand Prix tomorrow. Don’t miss it.