Supreme Lewis Hamilton takes Abu Dhabi pole
31 October, 2009
2008 Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton (Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) may be relinquishing his crown, but one thing is sure he intends doing it in style. He took pole position on his very last lap in qualifying, for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit, in commanding style.
The Red Bull Racing and Brawn GP quartet gave chase, with the energy drinks boys coming close, but to no avail. Hamilton and McLaren have had the edge for most of the weekend and the outgoing Champion emphasized it on that final supreme lap.
Speaking on BBC, former Grand Prix driver Martin Brundle summed up what was in store in the first ever Formula 1 qualifying at Yas Marina: “This is a qualifying session with a difference with light fading fast, sunset becoming night and the track surface cooling quickly.”
Fittingly first out was the youngest ever F1 driver Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) in the first qualifying session on Formula 1’s newest race track. The young Spaniard obviously keen to make up for lost time after failing to make the final practice session, a couple of hours earlier, due to hydraulic problems on his car.
Within a few laps of Q1 it became apparent that the preferred harder tyres were taking at least two or three laps to get up to optimum temperatures, hence the serious times started appearing on the board only after several minutes.
First of the big names to post a meaningful time was Jenson Button (Brawn GP) followed in quick succession by Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) and Hamilton. Only real drama was a spin by Heikki Kovalainen (Vodafone McLaren Merecedes) who recovered quickly.
After 15 minutes Hamilton was quickest of all, the first driver to go under the 100 second mark around Yas Marina. Button was next quickest with Jarno Trulli (Panasonic Toyota) showing some useful pace early on. BMW Sauber duo Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld were next up in fourth and fifth respectively.
First big shock of the weekend was Fernando Alonso (Renault) failing to make the cut and dropping out for an early shower. He said afterwards, “Hopefully tomorrow we can have a good race with plenty of overtaking manoeuvres the track is quite wide so there should be places to get past people.”
In truth the French team looked out of sorts throughout the weekend, with Romain Grosjean again spinning (has he done a session without at least pointing the wrong way?) on his way to the second slowest time.
Based on their form earlier in the day Force India were expected at least to make it through to Q2 and even Q3. Alas whatever transpired on the cars between the final practice session and qualifying set them back and Vitantonio Liuzzi will start tomorrow’s race in 17th Adrian Sutil beside him in 18th.
Giancarlo Fisichella (Ferrari) was slowest of them all which perhaps explained the broad smiles on Luca Badoer’s face on the Scuderia’s pit wall. Fisi reflected, “It was a difficult situation being out there with no grip. I was only a tenth slower than Kimi up until the last sector, but then there was a lot of understeer and the car wouldn’t work so unfortunately I didn’t get through.” Sad but true.
On to Q2 and it was clear that Hamilton would take some beating and perhaps even an all McLaren front row. Good script but alas Kovalainen was soon parked with reported transmission problems.
Nevertheless it was Hamilton who again set a formidable pace on a track that appeared to be slowing. No one could match him although they tried hard. Vettel ended second quickest, from Button, Webber and Trulli.
Dropping out after the ten minutes of Q2 were Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) who extracted the maximum out of the hapless F60 to be rewarded with 11th on the grid for the race, Kamui Kobayashi (Panasonic Toyota) was 12th ahead of Kovalainen who was parked out on circuit 13th quickest, Kazuki Nakajima (AT&T Williams) 14th and Alguersuari 15th.
It was always going to be a frantic Q3 as it was obvious that only one set of tyres would be used as the ten minutes simply did not allow for two stints as the tyres were simply not getting up to the required heat and were delivering best performance two or three laps into their use.
Notably birthday boy Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) was a permanent fixture on the sharp end of the timing screens throughout all three qualifying sessions. Of all the rookies the 21 year old has been the most composed and impressive all weekend.
The top of the timing sheets changed just about every time a driver crossed the line with just about everyone topping the carts at one point. Starting with Heidfeld followed by Buemi, Kubica, Webber, Button, Trulli, Barrichello and Hamilton all in quick succession.
The final lap would be the one and the Red Bull duo planted themselves firmly at the top, first Webber then Vettel. All eyes turned to Hamilton who would be the last to post a flying lap and the fastest one at that. Job done.
Vettel got pushed down to second on the grid with Webber third. Barrichello was best of the Brawn Boys in fourth, which came as surprise because Button looked a front row candidate throughout but had to settle for fifth.
Trulli took sixth ahead of both the BMWs of Kubica and Heidfeld who were seventh and eighth respectively. Nico Rosberg (AT&T Williams) did well to take ninth on the grid after narrowly missing the cut in both Q1 and Q2. Buemi was tenth.
At the end of the night Hamilton was simply supreme. Almost a quarter of a second “more supreme” than his rivals. The outgoing World Champion, will start the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from pole position. You could not have scripted it any better, unless of course a win is also written into the script and he delivers. Would not bet against him taking victory at the circuit’s first Grand Prix.
2009 FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX
|7||5||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber||1:40.520||1:40.545||1:41.992||25|
|8||6||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||1:40.558||1:40.635||1:42.343||24|
|17||21||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||1:41.701||10|
|18||20||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:41.863||10|