Lewis Hamilton’s strong run of form during the second half of the season continued with the first-ever F1 pole position at the new Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.
His fastest lap was a full 0.7 seconds quicker than second-placed Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, but he said there had been nothing simple about the achievement: “It’s never easy – but it was definitely as fun as it looked.”
Vettel and his team-mate Mark Webber took second and third ahead of the Brawn GP cars of Rubens Barrichello and new world champion Jenson Button.
But when fuel weights are taken into account the Red Bulls and sixth-place Jarno Trulli are heavier, and can stay out longer, than Hamilton or the Brawns.
The first session of qualifying saw Fernando Alonso eliminated – the first time he had ever failed to advance to Q2. He said: “We know that we probably have the worst car of the grid and we are doing everything we can, both me and Grosjean.”
The two Renault drivers will be joined on the back rows of the grid by the two Force Indias, Giancarlo Fisichella of Ferrari and McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen, who qualified 13th but drops to 18th following a penalty for a gearbox change.
Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest of the drivers who were unable to make the pole shoot-out, with Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima and Jaime Alguersuari also failing to advance.
Afterwards Hamilton said: “My pole lap wasn’t too aggressive – I was very smooth, and it just kept getting better and better. KERS Hybrid and the engine have been fantastic all season and today was no exception, but it’s the chassis that has really come good lately.
“We’ve brought them all together this weekend to create the perfect package but, even more encouragingly, this is all a work-in-progress for next year.”
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh added: “Lewis did a brilliant job. We were relatively aggressive in terms of his fuel strategy, but we’ve certainly been more aggressive in a few other qualifying sessions this year and there’s therefore no doubt that his pace here is very genuine. Heikki, too, would have figured at or close to the front had he not been hampered by a gearbox problem not of his making.”
For Brawn, Button said: “The car has felt good here all weekend and the first two sessions went well in qualifying today. Unfortunately in Q3, when we were running with high fuel and new tyres, I started to get massive vibrations every time that I hit the brakes which made the steering wheel shudder.
“With such a smooth circuit any kind of vibration just leads to understeer which made the car quite a handful to drive. It’s frustrating as we had the potential for a better performance today and should have been challenging for the first row behind Lewis. Hopefully we can solve the issue before the race.”
Qualifying positions and fuel weights for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:40.948 (658.5kg)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:41.615 (663kg)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:41.726 (660kg)
- Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP: 1:41.786 (655kg)
- Jenson Button, Brawn GP: 1:41.892 (657kg)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:41.897 (661kg)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:41.992 (654.5kg)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:42.343 (664kg)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:42.583 (665kg)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:42.713 (661.5kg)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:40.726 (692kg)
- Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota: 1:40.777 (694.3kg)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:40.983 (697kg) *
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:41.148(704kg)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:41.689 (696.5kg)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:41.667 (708.3kg)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:41.701 (695kg)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:41.863 (696kg)
- Romain Grosjean, Renault: 1:41.950 (696kg)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari: 1:42.184 (692.5kg)
* will take five-place grid penalty