Vettel equals Mansell’s qualifying record with pole in Abu Dhabi

Sebastian Vettel achieved his fourteenth pole position of the season, equalling the qualifying record set by Nigel Mansell, by snatching the important grid slot from the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

After setting the pace in all three practice sessions in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton and Button had to settle for second and third behind the world champion’s flying Red Bull.

Mark Webber lines up fourth ahead of the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

Hamilton looked the favourite for pole following an impressive practice form and being the quickest in Q1 and Q2. The 2008 world champion held provisional pole on his first flying lap in Q3 with one minute, 38.704 seconds – which was 0.042 seconds quicker than the current world champion could manage at that stage.

Button was only fourth fastest after the first runs, but went straight to the top with his second attempt.

Immediately, the 2009 world champion’s pole time was beaten by his McLaren team-mate with a margin of 0.009 seconds to reclaim the top spot.

And yet Vettel was still on his final flying lap and as he crossed the finishing line – the double world champion not only beat Hamilton by 0.141 seconds with a lap time of one minute, 38.481 seconds – he equalled Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record of fourteen poles in a season. A superb achievement for the 24-year-old German.

Behind Button and Webber, the Scuderias filled row three, having never looked likely to threaten for the leading positions. Fernando Alonso was 0.6 seconds off pole and a similar margin ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, who caused a brief delay to the session when he demolishing a chicane marker post in Q2 and left debris on the track.

Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher were seventh and eighth for Mercedes, with Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta completing the top ten for Force India. This time di Resta was the only driver who did not attempt a run in Q3.

As for Williams, this was the worst qualifying result in a truly awful season of racing. Both Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello will start on the back row of the grid, with the former receiving a ten-place grid penalty for exceeding the eight-engine limit, while the latter had further engine issues meant he did not set a time at all.

As practice had hinted, Force India had a comfortable margin over its usual rivals Toro Rosso and Sauber, with Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari only P13 and P15, with Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi P11 and P16 for Sauber. Renault’s suspicion that it would struggle at the Yas Marina circuit proved true as Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna took P12 and P14.

Heikki Kovalainen beat his tail-end rivals by a comfortable 0.9 seconds, with his Lotus team-mate Jarno Trulli next up.

Hispania’s Daniel Ricciardo produced a sensational first qualifying lap, which put him close to Kovalainen, and ahead of the rest of the backmarker pack, but he would ultimately slip behind Trulli and Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock.

So an exciting qualifying session with Vettel setting a new record. Can the McLarens fight back in the race? And will we see overtaking thanks to the two DRS zones on the Yas Marina circuit? All this and more will be answered on Sunday.

Qualifying positions from Yas Marina:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m38.481s
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.622s
3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.631s
4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m38.858s
5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m39.058s
6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m39.695s
7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m39.773s
8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m40.662s
9.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m40.768s
10.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes No time
11.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m40.874s
12.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m40.919s
13.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m41.009s
14.  Bruno Senna           Renault              1m41.079s
15.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m41.162s
16.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m41.240s
17.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m42.979s
18.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m43.884s
19.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m44.515s
20.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m44.641s
21.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m44.699s
22.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m45.159s
23.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosoworth   No time
24.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m41.760s*

*Ten-place grid penalty for exceeding engine limit

107 per cent time: 1m46.766s

10 thoughts to “Vettel equals Mansell’s qualifying record with pole in Abu Dhabi”

  1. After claiming his fourteenth pole position of the season, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was not surprised to take the top spot. has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel says he was not surprised to be on pole position in Abu Dhabi despite his problems during practice.

    The Red Bull driver was unable to match the pace of McLaren in the practice sessions, as he felt uncomfortable with his car around the Yas Marina circuit.

    Vettel, however, managed to turn things around once more for the grid-deciding session to secure a record-equalling 14th pole of the season.

    He said there was no magic to his turnaround.

    “I don’t know, there is no box in the car that I open and get it from,” he said of his pace in qualifying. “To be honest I would not say I’m surprised, but we expected to be closer than in practice, much closer.

    “McLaren were very quick straightaway yesterday in particular and I wasn’t happy with car. I wasn’t happy with myself. Overnight we tried to find out where the problem was. I think this afternoon it was already quite a bit better, but this is a tricky place with different conditions.

    “In Q2 we were quite close to reaching Lewis and we thought in Q3 we would have a chance. In the first run in Q3 I pushed a bit too hard, but in the last run I was able to have a good start in the lap.

    “When I crossed the line I looked up to the monitor and I couldn’t read the laptime, but the green was good so I was very pleased.”

    Vettel admitted, however, McLaren will be hard to beat in the race tomorrow given its long-run pace.

    “It is going to be a long race, a fun race, as we have seen all weekend,” he said. “McLaren are very competitive on the long runs as well, and they will be very quick in the race.

    “Also we need to see from some people behind. We have to focus on ourselves, try to get a good start. It will be a long fight to the chequered flag. I am confident and ready.”

  2. After setting the quickest time in Q1 and Q2, Lewis Hamilton was disappointing not to take pole position in Q3. His pace was the maximum he could do in the McLaren. has the story.

    Lewis Hamilton believes he extracted the maximum pace possible from his McLaren on his way to a front-row start for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

    Hamilton said that while he was disappointed not to replicate the pace that put him top of the timesheets in Q2, that second nevertheless represented a satisfying outcome.

    “It was a good session for me,” said the 2008 world champion, who was 0.2s slower in Q3 than Q2 while Sebastian Vettel improved by the same amount to take pole.

    “We’ve had quite a good couple of days and made quite a big improvement, from the last race at least. I felt it was as fast as I could go. It wasn’t really a great lap, the one in Q2 was much better, but that’s the way it is.”

    Hamilton’s result means he has never qualified lower than second for any of the Abu Dhabi Grands Prix that have been held.

    His McLaren team-mate Jenson Button will start third after lapping just 0.009s slower than Hamilton.

  3. Despite the two DRS zones on the Yas Marina circuit, McLaren’s Jenson Button believes it will still be difficult to overtake. has the details.

    Jenson Button fears it might be hard to overtake in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix even with two DRS zones available this year.

    The McLaren driver held provisional pole for a short time near the end of Q3 before he was pushed down to third by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and the other McLaren of Lewis Hamilton.

    Last year’s race saw a famous lack of overtaking, frustrating pre-weekend championship leader Fernando Alonso’s title bid. There were hopes that DRS and Pirelli would bring more action to Yas Marina, but Button suspects he will have to rely on pit strategy to try and make forward progress.

    “I think it is going to be tough to overtake with DRS,” Button admitted.

    “Hopefully we will have a different story tomorrow in the race, we will have to see, but [the DRS zone] does feel short here.

    “Yesterday I was DRS doing Turn 7 to Turn 8 and still could not overtake anybody.

    “Hopefully there will be possibilities. It is a long, long race, with a couple of pitstops that are important to get right.

    “We don’t know what is going to happen with the tyres, but we know more than Seb obviously.”

    Button was pleased with his qualifying time in the end, saying his car had a few minor handling problems during the session.

    “All weekend I have been reasonably happy with balance but still feel there is more to get from the car,” he said.

    “I’m trying to find it, but was struggling with a nervous rear end. I tried a few things before qualifying, and at the start of qualifying it felt a bit better.

    “During qualifying I found myself with massive bits of understeer, then tried to put more front end on the car but ran out of options.

    “I’m quite happy with the lap and happy with the improvements we have made. In qualifying there is not so much you can change.”

    McLaren was quickest in all three practice sessions, but Button said he was not surprised that Vettel had still come through to take pole.

    “We have seen it before, we’re very quick in practice, we are working through our programme,” said Button.”It is not about being quickest during the day, it is just the way it happens. We run a different programme, we’ve seen it before and we expect RBR to be quick.

    “We feel we are more competitive and can challenge them in the race more than qualifying.”

  4. Rubens Barrichello will start from 23rd on the grid – the worst grid position of his career – in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after an engine problem sidelined the Williams driver in Q1.

    It will also be the modern Williams team’s most lowly start to a grand prix since it became a two-car operation in 1979, with both cars occupying the last row of the grid once Pastor Maldonado’s ten-place grid penalty is applied.

    The team’s worst starting position was recorded in the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix, when Jo Vonlanthen qualified 28th for what was then known as Frank Williams Racing Cars. Though cars entered by Sir Frank’s earlier operations did post worse qualifying performances.

    Barrichello has struggled for track time throughout the Abu Dhabi weekend after missing Friday’s opening practice session with an oil pressure problem which called for an engine change.

    He then suffered another oil leak after a routine engine change on Saturday morning – which meant that through the weekend he only completed 43 practice laps before qualifying.

    “This morning we fitted a brand new engine and it was looking great because I had saved one for the end of the season,” Barrichello told the BBC. “We went out and I had a bit of difficulty with it after two laps and we came back, we tried to review all the situation just before qualifying they told me there was no way so it’s even more frustrating.

    “You are so eager to go and you have the mentality to put a very nice lap together and the engine wasn’t working.

    “It’s been a hard weekend in a way because I can’t remember myself doing so few laps. I’ve done P2 and that was it. So I hope that the set-up is okay and I hope that I enjoy myself. I try to enjoy myself as much as I can but today is a disappointing day.”

    Barrichello admitted that 2011 has proved the most challenging of his 19-year F1 career, but said that he still believed Williams can turn its performance around next year.

    “Most definitely (it’s my toughest season),” he said. “We have been having a tough season.

    “Last year it started tough but the team worked well together and we solved all the problems, this year with all the news of coming and going of people it’s been tough to keep the team organised so it is suffering. If they keep it going with a good mentality they will sort it out.”

    Barrichello’s position in the team remains in doubt for next season with Williams courting Kimi Raikkonen to make a return to the sport, but Rubens said that he has far from given up on returning for a 20th season.

    “I would love to be sitting in a competitive car next year just like in the past with Honda and Brawn – it’s going to be 40 years of age with 20 years of experience so I think it is almost a must for me to be there for next year,” he said.

    “I’m doing everything I can, I am even looking for sponsors if that’s what we need. I’m looking for everything just to show that my passion is behind the steering wheel and I want to be there next year.”


  5. Sauber’s Sergio Perez was delighted with his qualifying performance. has the story.

    Sergio Perez admitted he was delighted with his performance in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after just missing out on a top-ten finish.

    The Sauber driver qualified in a strong 11th position, and said he was hoping to be able to do even better but he could not get his tyres to work properly at the end of Q2 as the Swiss squad continued with its issues to warm up the Pirelli rubber.

    Perez, however, is still hopeful of a good race thanks to what he labelled as an aggressive strategy.

    “I’m very happy with 11th in qualifying,” said Perez. “Everybody in the team did a good job. I did my fastest laptime in Q2 with a set of soft tyres I had used before in Q1. Of course I was hoping to improve in Q2 when I got the fresh tyres, but it was impossible for me to get them to work.

    “We are in a challenging situation regarding the battle for positions in the Constructors’ Championship, but I hope for a good race with an aggressive strategy tomorrow. Everything can happen. It will be my first twilight race, but I have seen yesterday and today that the tinted tear off visors work quite well.”

    Team-mate Kamui Kobayashi qualified down in 16th after he also struggled to get his new tyres up to the right temperature for his final run in Q2.

    “I did what was eventually my fastest lap time in Q2 on the set of soft tyres I had used before in Q1,” he said. “This lap wasn’t perfect, but I put my hopes on the set of new tyres.

    “Then we struggled a lot to get the fresh ones up to temperature and that’s why I couldn’t improve. The difference in grip between the used set and the new one was really big. Nevertheless I have a good feeling for the race here.”

  6. Nico Rosberg believes he failed to extract the maximum performance from his Mercedes package in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

    The German driver will start the race from seventh position, but he said he felt he could have done better had he managed to get his tyres to the right temperature for his last run.

    Rosberg said the lower track temperatures and traffic did not help his cause either.

    “We didn’t quite get the maximum from our qualifying session today which was a shame,” said Rosberg. “The track temperatures dropped during the session and it became more difficult to get the tyres working.

    “On my second run in Q3, I had too much traffic in front of me to warm the tyres up sufficiently and that hurt me on the quick lap, otherwise I think we could have been further ahead. However I’m on the good side of the grid and it should be a fun race tomorrow.”

    Team-mate Michael Schumacher qualified in eighth position – albeit nearly a second behind Rosberg – and the seven-time champion admitted there was not much more he could have done.

    “It was quite a tight qualifying today,” Schumacher said. “I aborted my last lap in Q1 to save tyres, and having some fresh tyres left is the good news from Q3 as well. Overall it was a normal qualifying where we would probably not have much more in the pocket.

    “I also expect a straightforward race and we will try to make the most out of opportunities that arise. The tyres should not be a big issue here, and we tested their behaviour in P2 yesterday which took place at the same time as the race. The fact that the track temperatures will drop during the race might be good for us as we struggle a bit with the tyre temperatures here.”


  7. Force India driver Paul di Resta says not running in the top ten shootout will give him the best chance to score points in Sunday’s race. has the story.

    Paul di Resta says his decision not to run in Q3 will give him an “optimum strategy” to score points in tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

    The Scot decided against going out in the final qualifying segment in order to save tyres for the race.

    He will start from 10th position.

    “Getting two cars in the top ten was the objective today and that’s what we achieved,” said di Resta. “We made some good progress this morning perfecting the set-up and I was happy with the car in qualifying. Q1 and Q2 went well and we got the job done by getting in the top ten.

    “Our approach to Q3 was to give us the optimum strategy for tomorrow. For the race we are definitely hoping for points because our focus is to maintain our sixth place in the championship.

    “I’m really looking forward to this race because the place looks spectacular at night. It’s also nice to drive in twilight conditions when it’s a bit cooler.”

    Team-mate Adrian Sutil qualified right in front, the German also waiting in the garage to see if rival Mercedes would run in Q3.

    In the end Sutil completed one run but said it was not ideal.

    “I’m happy with ninth place today and it was a good session for me,” Sutil said. “In Q3 we waited a bit longer than planned because we wanted to wait and see what Mercedes did.

    “In the end they decided to go out so I also went out and I did a timed lap. The lap was a little bit compromised because I didn’t get the tyres fully up to temperature, so maybe I could have been a bit higher up. Still, I don’t think we can complain too much because P9 is a fair reflection of our pace at the moment.”

  8. Fernando Alonso believes that starting from the clean side of the grid for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be a big benefit after qualifying fifth for the race.

    The Ferrari driver completed a pair of one-lap runs during Q3 to put himself fifth for the eighth occasion this year.

    But while he acknowledged that he was not surprised to be behind the Red Bulls and McLarens in qualifying, he is expecting to gain ground at the start and use the fact that the Ferrari is always stronger in race trim to his advantage.

    “We’re more or less where we expected to be,” said the 30-year-old Spaniard. “All year long, with a few exceptions, Red Bull and McLaren are stronger than us on Saturday, while on Sunday the situation is usually different, with the gaps between us being much closer.

    “We know we can fight for the podium, but to succeed, we will have to do everything perfectly, beginning with the start and our strategy.

    “I will start from the clean side of the track and hope I can make up some places. The first lap is a good window of opportunity.”

    Alonso continued to use Ferrari’s new-spec front wing during the session, while his team-mate Felipe Massa – who will start alongside him on the front row – reverted back to the old-spec component, having suffered from excessive flapping in practice and at the last race in India.

    Technical director Pat Fry said that the team will use the upcoming Young Driver test – at which Jules Bianchi will drive – to attempt to cure the problem.

    “With Felipe we decided to use the old type [of wing], because despite the efforts we have made these past weeks, we have still not resolved some problems relating to the behaviour of this new part, which furthermore, seem to be contagious,” said Fry.

    “We will continue to work on it, including during the three days of testing at this track next week.”


  9. The sport’s governing body has extended the first DRS zone at the circuit in aid to create overtaking. has the details.

    The FIA will extend the first DRS zone at the Yas Marina circuit for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after fears that the original planned length was too short.

    The original zone was supposed to start 470 metres after Turn 7, but the FIA has chosen to extend this by 75 metres.

    Despite the extension, several F1 drivers are sceptical that DRS will be very effective – especially because overtaking has always been so difficult at the track in the past.

    When asked if the longer zone will make things better, Jenson Button said: “From my experience yesterday, no. I was trying DRS from the exit of Turn 7 all the way down to Turn 8, and I was struggling to overtake cars.

    “So lengthening it by 75 metres or whatever is not going to make a big difference because it is only half the straight we will be using – it is going to be tricky.

    “Two DRS zones is good, but it is still very difficult to overtake. It has always been tough here for the last two years. We haven’t seen too many overtakes on the straight. This should help a little bit, but whether it is enough we have to wait and see.”

    Fernando Alonso said: “For DRS, we need to wait until tomorrow to have a clear answer. The impressions yesterday for all of us was that it was not enough distance, so the FIA increase it for tomorrow. Hopefully that will work, but it is very difficult to know now – we need to wait and evaluate after the race.”

    Lewis Hamilton added: “Maybe they should extend it even more. I didn’t have the same problems as Jenson. I was with a Toro Rosso, which is quite quick on the straight, and I was DRSing and he wasn’t.

    “By the time I caught him it was too late and last year I think when I was challenging the car in front, I would catch them right at the end of the straight but it was too late. If DRS starts not early enough we could be in the same position tomorrow, where we haven’t seen enough overtaking.”

  10. Lewis Hamilton believes that McLaren has the pace to beat Sebastian Vettel to victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – after declaring himself in a better frame of mind than he has been at recent events.

    Boosted by a trouble-free weekend and solid pace from McLaren, Hamilton is upbeat about the prospects of taking the fight to pole position man Vettel and deliver a win that would do much to erase memories of recent on-track troubles.

    “I think we have got the pace,” he said when asked by AUTOSPORT about whether he believed McLaren could overhaul Vettel. “I think yesterday on our long run it looked quite positive.

    “For me, I’ve not done that many good long runs in practice in P2 for a couple of races now, so to get a good decent stint in which is consistent is a good step for me, so hopefully that will help us. If we can get a better start than the Red Bulls that will be even better, but following here is still tough.”

    Hamilton welcomed the fact he was well away on the grid from Felipe Massa, with whom he has clashed several times this season, and that he had so far not visited the stewards this weekend.

    “I’m ahead of Felipe, so that helps!” he smiled. “With racing a lot of it is mental. Even if you think you’re ready, subconsciously you might not be. This weekend I feel fresh, clean in my mind. I’ve stayed out of trouble which makes a huge difference and adds to your confidence, and then you just roll with it.

    “I’m second on the grid. I’ve not taken a penalty, which is usually quite a big hit to your confidence, and we’re in a good position tomorrow to just move forward. I feel strong, I feel that I arrive tomorrow in as good a position, in terms of preparation, that I can ever do. So there’s no reason why I can’t compete for at least the position I’m in at the moment, if not further.”

    Team-mate Jenson Button was equally optimistic about what McLaren can achieve in the penultimate race of the season.

    “Our pace looked pretty good yesterday,” he said. “Whether it is good enough tomorrow we have to wait and see. Seb didn’t do any running on the softer of two tyres, which is positive for us. But still they will have a competitive car and he is starting in best place for a good race tomorrow.

    “We are more competitive in the race than in India; I have a better feeling in the car, so unless everybody does we should be looking a bit more competitive.”


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