Vettel equals Mansell’s record with Abu Dhabi pole

Sebastian Vettel has claimed pole number 14 for the season for the penultimate round of the season in Abu Dhabi overnight.
The pole from the reigning World Champion puts him equal with 1992 Champion Nigel Mansell’s record for pole positions in a season.
‘I’m pretty pleased’ said the German. Yesterday I wasn’t very happy with my own performance and with the car and I didn’t feel that comfortable. Today was much better.
‘McLaren looked strong throughout the weekend, but I thought if I get everything right then in Q3 then we might have a chance (for the pole) and that’s the way it came for us.
‘I’m very pleased with the pole and it’s a very special one to equal Nigel Mansell as well. It’s a fantastic year and it’s not over yet, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.’
Sebastian Vettel is the only man to have won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix going into tomorrow’s night’s third running of the event.
The first part of Q3 was a straight battle between the Red Bull and the McLarens. McLaren drew first blood, with Hamilton staking his claim for pole by four-hundredths of a second.
Webber followed close behind, pushing Button out of the top three, while the Ferraris followed.
Both Mercedes and Force India drivers opted to stay in their garages for the first part of the session, instead looking to join the circuit in its fastest state.
Button catapulted himself into pole briefly, by less than a tenth, but was soon pipped by Hamilton. Webber’s best effort failed to impress, keeping him in fourth, but Vettel predictably spoilt the McLaren party to put his car into P1.
‘It would be nice to have had pole position, but that Red Bull, as always, is very quick in Q3!’ noted Hamilton.
‘Still, we’ve got our car to a point where it works particularly well on certain tracks, and we always seem to go well here. To be as competitive as we’ve been this weekend is very encouraging.
‘I feel really good about tomorrow, in fact. I hope I have a good start – I really want to get into Turn One first. But, if I can’t, I’ll follow Sebastian [Vettel] as closely as I can.’
Button, meanwhile, pointed to struggles with his car as the temperature changed as the sun set.
‘I haven’t really been able to find a balance that suits me perfectly this weekend, he said. ‘The car changed quite a lot for qualifying.’
In practice I’d been struggling with the rear end; but, during qualifying, I suddenly had great rear grip and masses of understeer – so the car felt completely different to me.
‘Third isn’t a bad place from which to start – hopefully we’ll get one over on the Red Bulls tomorrow.’
 
Qualifying’s first session confirmed the durability of Pirelli’s offering of the medium- and soft-compounds for this weekend.
Lap times continued to tumble despite most drivers persisting with the same set of tyres for most of Q1 – perhaps a poor sign considering the pressure on Pirelli to play  a part in spicing up tomorrow’s race.
Williams feared Rubens Barrichello may be forced into an engine change after a technical failure before qualifying.
The Brazilian’s side of the garage were busy working on the car for most of the first session, announcing its intention to send the driver out for three timed laps in the final minutes.
However, the team opted not to give Barrichello the opportunity to set a lap time, perhaps because his qualification into Q2 would likely result in his team-mate, Pastor Maldonado, being eliminated anyway.
Lotus-Caterham-Lotus-Fernandes-Lotus’ Kovalinen qualified in P18, ahead of Trulli, Glock, Ricciardo, d’Ambrosio and Liuzzi. Barrichello, in what way prove to be the penultimate qualifying session of his career, will sit at the back of the grid.
 
Q2 was briefly interrupted with nine minutes remaining in the session, with a bollard between turns eight and nine collapsing, with debris being scattered across the track.
Pastor Maldonado’s heart wasn’t in it, already aware that he would suffer a 10-place grid penalty for a ninth engine change. He qualified in P17, but will start from the back – behind Barrichello – for tomorrow’s race.
The seven midfield cars eliminated in the second, thus, were so: Perez, Petrov, Burmi, Senna, Alguersuari, Kobayashi and Maldonado.
Perez, who almost knocked Michael Schumacher from his Q1 berth, again highlighted team-mate Kobayashi’s qualifying deficiencies, while Buemi looked to strike a blow to Alguersuari’s race as the two STR drivers battle to retain their seats next year.
 
The 2011 Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix kicks off on Monday morning at midnight AEDT.

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