Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the impressive Yas Marina Circuit as the out-going champion absolutely dominated the hour of evening running, topping the timesheets in each of the three qualifying rounds by a significant margin.
a small error on his first qualifying run that left him tenth on the provisional grid, Hamilton saved his best lap to the end of the ten minute pole shoot out, crossing the line an astonishing six-tenths of a second clear of the field. With his KERS advantage on the long 1.2km back straight, it is hard to see anyone other than Hamilton taking victory in the final race of the season.
"Clearly we have been very competitive all weekend and the car has felt great and I didn’t have any particular doubts in my mind whether we could have done it," Hamilton said. "KERS, when you press that button, is worth four-tenths pretty much everywhere, but obviously you have got to use it to optimise it and get the maximum from it but it works really well. Very, very happy with it."
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber qualified second and third for Red Bull Renault, the former looking to cement his current second position in the championship from Rubens Barrichello
who lines up fourth in the leading Brawn Mercedes. "The car is working well here - it just seems that our KERS button which we have on the steering wheel is not working, so it is not an easy one but let’s see tomorrow," joked Vettel.
Barrichello, who on Monday will almost certainly be unveiled as a Williams Cosworth driver for next season, was able to out-qualify his championship winning team-mate Jenson Button
in his final race for the team. Button himself was reasonably happy with fifth position but complained of a vibration issue and understeer on his final qualifying runs. Jarno Trulli
starts sixth in the leading Toyota ahead of BMW Sauber duo Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld
. Nico Rosberg struggled mightily in the second round of qualifying before pulling a lap out of the bag to line up in ninth position in his final race with Williams Toyota. Sebastien Buemi rounded out the top ten in the leading Toro Rosso Ferrari.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is an important event for Ferrari, not just because they are battling with long-time rivals McLaren Mercedes for third position in the championship, but because this is a huge market for the brand - illustrated by the huge Ferrari World complex being built adjacent to the circuit. On track it was a disappointing day with Kimi Raikkonen
lining up for his final race with the team in 11th position, while Giancarlo Fisichella
looks set to end his racing career on a whimper from the back of the field.
Kamui Kobayashi starts his second grand prix from 12th position in the second Toyota ahead of the unfortunate Heikki Kovalainen. While Hamilton strolled to pole position, team-mate Heikki Kovalainen was not as fortunate as his MP4-24 suffered a gearbox problem in the second round of qualifying whilst he ran third on track. However, as his rivals improved, he was bumped down to his eventual 13th position ahead of any potential gearbox change penalties.
Kazuki Nakajima made an error on his final lap and therefore starts 14th in the second Williams ahead of Jaime Alguersuari in the second Toro Rosso. Renault look set to end a dismal season on a new low note with Fernando Alonso
and Romain Grosjean lining up 16th and 19th having struggled for pace all weekend.
While Renault failed to shine and now seem unlikely to challenge BMW Sauber for seventh in the championship, Force India Mercedes had been expected to run well in Abu Dhabi. Tonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil however were only able to split the Renault duo in 17th and 18th with Giancarlo Fisichella
starting at the back again in the second Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton look set to cap off a mixed season with McLaren on a high note as he lines up on pole position for the 17th time in his short career, with a third win of the season firmly in his sights.
E.A. © CAPSIS International