Vettel breaks McLaren drivers hearts

12/11/2011
NEWS STORY

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.

Hamilton, Webber, Button, Vettel, Rosberg, Alonso, Massa and Schumacher have clearly settled for what they've already done. However, a 42.190 from Sutil drops Schumacher to ninth. When Buemi and di Resta improve this drops the German to eleventh.

As more and more drivers improve Schumacher drops to fifteenth as, with 2:02 on the clock, Barrichello looks unlikely to be coming out.

Now down in seventeenth, Schumacher leaves the pits on softs as does Massa who has dropped to thirteenth. Barrichello climbs out of his car and walks over to the pit-wall.

As Schumacher begins his all important lap, he's now seventeenth, the camera cuts to Paul McCartney who has just entered the paddock.

Even though he appears safe, Schumacher goes quickest of all in S2, the German subsequently diving into the pits having been told that he is safe.

Therefore, Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Webber, Button, Vettel, Sutil, Petrov, di Resta, Rosberg, Perez and Alonso.

We lose Kovalainen, Trulli, Glock, Ricciardo, d'Ambrosio, Liuzzi and the hapless Barrichello.

Alguersuari is first out for Q2, the circuit lights now shining as the temperature drops to 26 (air) and 30 (track).

As Alguersuari posts41.423, all but Maldonado, Sutil and di Resta are on track. Buemi posts 41.098 to take the top spot, ahead of Petrov and Kobayashi.

A 39.209 sees Webber go quickest, but this is soon beaten by Vettel (38.516) and then Hamilton (38.434).

The session is red flagged when one of the bollards is demolished. With bits of bollard strewn across the track, and having been hit by the likes of Massa and Hamilton, the stewards take the wise decision to stop the session.

Hamilton is currently quickest, ahead of Vettel, Alonso, Button, Webber and Massa. No times from Rosberg, Maldonado or the Force Indias.

When the session resumes, Massa is first out, followed, shortly after, by Rosberg.

Running over the kerb at Turn 9, Massa has all four wheels off the ground. The Ferrari driver subsequently posts 39.623.

Webber posts PBs in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 38.821 to go third.

Di Resta goes eighth (40.506), the Scot only just above the danger zone. A poor middle sector means that Schumacher (40.554) remains tenth.

With 1:17 on the clock, Perez, Buemi, Alguersuari, Petrov, Kobayashi, Senna and Maldonado face elimination.

The Force India duo match one another in S1, while Schumacher appears to have totally eased off. Far too early surely.

Di Resta goes eighth (40.414) but Sutil posts a 40.205.

Petrov fails to improve which appears to save Schumacher's bacon. Indeed, there are no further improvements and Schumacher is able to abort his lap (again) thereby saving his tyres.

Quickest was Hamilton, ahead of Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Button, Rosberg, Massa, Sutil, di Resta and Schumacher.

We lose Perez, Petrov, Buemi, Senna, Alguersuari, Kobayashi and Maldonado.

The lights go green and Button leads teammate Hamilton, Alonso, Massa and Rosberg, the German, surprisingly, on medium tyres. Advised that everyone else is on soft tyres, Rosberg is told that he will complete just one lap. This suggests that Mercedes believe the Force Indias wont be coming out.

Purples in all three sectors for the out lap, Vettel, Webber and Hamilton setting the pace.

Hamilton posts 38.704 as Button goes second and Alonso third. Moments later Webber goes second (38.858) only to be demoted by his Red Bull teammate's 38.746.

Replay shows Button really clouting the kerbs, while we also get another lovely on-board shot of Vettel giving us real insight into the world of the F1 driver.

everyone else returns to the pits, taking on fresh rubber for the final assault. The Mercedes and Force India duos yet to post a time.

Button is first out while Alonso nips out ahead of Hamilton. As Sutil leaves the Force India garage, Vettel looks likely to be last out. As in previous races, inexplicably, the main bunch of drivers are bunched up leaving no room for errors.

All ten drivers are on track, and all are on the soft rubber.

At the head of the queue, Button goes quickest in S1, nobody else going quicker. He's also quickest in S2, only Vettel going quicker.

At the line Button posts 38.631 however, Hamilton eclipses this with a 38.622 only to be leapfrogged by Vettel's 38.481.
A keen fan of the F1 stats, Vettel is told that his fourteenth pole of the season equals the record set by Nigel Mansell in 1992.

Having been quickest in all three practice sessions, McLaren, certainly in Hamilton's case, appeared to have pole all sewn up, however, one can never write off Mr Vettel.

At the track where he stunned the world - and the form book - to snatch the title from Fernando Alonso twelve months ago, Vettel looks likely to take his twelfth win of the season. Despite two DRS zones it unlikely overtaking will be any easier tomorrow than it was then.

Behind Vettel, Hamilton will start from second ahead of Button, Webber, Alonso, Massa, Rosberg, Schumacher, Sutil and di Resta.

Perez is eleventh, Petrov, Buemi, Senna, Alguersuari, Kobayashi, Maldonado, Kovalainen, Trulli, Glock, Ricciardo, d'Ambrosio, Liuzzi and Barrichello.

Check out our Abu Dhabi qualifying gallery, here.

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Published: 12/11/2011
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