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Vettel breaks McLaren drivers hearts

NEWS STORY
12/11/2011

Ahead of today's all important qualifying session, the air temperature is 26 degrees C, while the track temperature is 32 degrees. Being somewhat cooler than this morning, the sun will begin to set during the course of the hour, it will be interesting to see how this effects tyre temperatures and therefore grip.

Tyre options are soft and medium, with Pirelli expecting two stops to be the norm tomorrow, though Sauber could well opt for one.

McLaren has been quickest in all three practice sessions, Jenson Button yesterday morning and Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon and again this morning.

The Red Bulls have been up there, certainly this morning, while Ferrari is also looking competitive, especially once the Maranello outfit opted to remove the wobbly front wing that Felipe Massa used in India and again yesterday.

While Button looks to have sewn up runner-up spot in the Drivers' Championship, he cannot take anything for granted, with Alonso, Webber and teammate Hamilton still in with a shout.

With a limited number of vacancies for next season, this is one of the last opportunities for unsigned drivers to make an impression, while the fight for the best of the rest in terms of the constructors' title is as hard as one would expect it to be, after all, it is this that decides the all important prize money…. the lubricant that keeps Formula One running.

We remarked earlier that Abu Dhabi still fails to excite, and despite the constant hype it remains totally uninspiring and characterless. We also remarked that the overgenerous run-offs - a common feature at the newer tracks - are taking away from the challenge. However, in a move to rein in the drivers, the stewards this morning announced that drivers who cut the chicanes can expect to be punished. Charlie Whiting also warned that drivers who use the run-offs without a valid reason will also face punishment.

Even before the session begins, Williams faces an uphill struggle, Maldonado having incurred a ten-place grid penalty after exceeding his engine allocation while Barrichello, who suffered an engine failure on Friday, had limited running this morning following an oil leak.

Jarno Trulli also had a difficult morning, the Italian failing to post a time after being sidelined with a gearbox issue.

At the end of the pitlane, Senna heads a queue of five cars, including Alguersuari, Kovalainen, Trulli and Buemi. Webber is another early riser.

As their drivers wait to go out, Ferrari reveals that Massa, as previously reported, is using the old front wing, whilst Alonso is using the new version. However, in terms of the new wing it was only Massa who appeared to have the wobbling problem.

Senna posts 47.457 but in no time at all Alguersuari has gone quicker with a 43.895. Di Resta posts 42.993 but is instantly beaten by Webber's 41.816. The action is underway much earlier than expected, it's almost as though they're expecting rain. Then again, the drivers will be mindful of the sun that is sinking in the sky along with the temperature.

All on medium rubber so far as Vettel goes quickest in S1 and Hamilton in S2. The Englishman goes quickest with a 41.414 but this is almost instantly eclipsed by Vettel's 41.268. Alonso goes third with a 41.597.

As Schumacher appears to be holding up di Resta, Webber goes quickest with a 40.936 only to be leapfrogged by Hamilton's 40.661.

With 11:00 on the clock only Schumacher and Barrichello haven't posted times, the Brazilian yet to make an appearance.

Schumacher goes twenty-third with a 47.208, as the usual suspects, and Barrichello, join him in the danger zone.

Going quickest in the final two sectors, Button takes the top spot with a 40.227, McLaren 1-2.

As Schumacher improves to ninth (42.605), Webber goes quickest (40.167) only to be demoted by Hamilton's 39.782.

As is the norm, the big guns are sticking with the harder rubber, aiming to save the soft rubber for Q2 and Q3.

In the Williams garage Barrichello sits in his car staring blankly at the monitor. The Brazilian veteran deserves better than this. One dare to imagine how Kimi Raikkonen would react.

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