It was another Red Bull Racing front row and yet this time it’s Mark Webber who starts on pole position. The Australian edging out his team-mate Sebastian Vettel with a late Q3 run to take the top spot at Yas Marina.
Earlier, both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg topped the qualifying segment for Mercedes, but Red Bull’s pace at the crucial moment was too much, leaving the Silver Arrows on row two.
Vettel recorded a time of one minute, 40.091 seconds on his first run of Q3, ahead of the Mercedes duo, with Webber apparently struggling.
But a great final effort helped the Australian to one minute, 39.957 seconds and even a late improvement from the four-time world champion was not enough to deny Webber pole position.
Rosberg qualified in third ahead of his team-mate Hamilton, who spin off during his final run. As for Kimi Raikkonen, the Lotus driver secured fifth place.
Nico Hulkenberg continued his fine form for Sauber with sixth, ahead of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus and the Ferrari of Felipe Massa.
The lap times in Q2 were again highly competitive and two big names fell. Fernando Alonso’s car hated the final, twisty sector and the Ferrari driver could only managed P11, not helped by a minor error as well.
Jenson Button also failed to make into Q3 with the McLaren driver describing a “very strange” loss of grip after final practice.
With the Abu Dhabi circuit getting faster in Q1, the last soft-tyred runs proved crucial and it was Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil’s Force India who were the midfielders to fall.
Giedo van der Garde topped the Caterham/Marussia battle, while Jules Bianchi (who qualified in P20) will receive a five-place grid penalty after his gearbox needed changing thanks to his crash in final practice.
A few hours after qualifying, the race stewards have decided to exclude Kimi Raikkonen after his Lotus car failed a floor deflection test. The Iceman will now start Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the back.
So a fantastic achievement by Mark Webber in his final season of Formula 1 racing. This pole position is his 13th in the sport and he matches Jack Brabham’s record and on Alan Jones’ birthday too. Let’s hope he can win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to sign off his career in style.
Qualifying times from Abu Dhabi:
1. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m39.957s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m40.075s
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m40.419s
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m40.501s
5. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.576s
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m40.997s
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m41.015s
8. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m41.068s
9. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.111s
10. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m41.093s
11. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m41.133s
12. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m41.200s
13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.279s
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m41.395s
15. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m41.447s
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.999s
17. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m42.051s
18. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m43.252s
19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m43.528s
20. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m44.198s
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m43.398s*
22. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m40.542s**
107 per cent time: 1m47.741s
*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change
**Sent to back of the grid for failing a technical inspection