McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton has ended Red Bull’s recent run of three one-two qualifying results, thanks to a pole position lap of 1m40.630s in Abu Dhabi using the P Zero Yellow soft. The soft tyre, making its final appearance of the year this weekend, has been nominated together with the P Zero White medium tyre for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton was three-tenths of a second ahead of Red Bull driver Mark Webber in final qualifying: historically the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has only ever been won from the front row of the grid.
Qualifying got underway at 5pm local time, which is the same time that the race will start tomorrow. With track and air temperatures falling, many competitors were out at the very start of Q1 on the medium tyres, in order to make the most of the warmer conditions. Only the HRT and Marussia cars began the session on the soft tyres. The session started off with 29 degrees centigrade ambient temperature and 31 degrees track temperature, with the track temperature also dropping to 29 degrees over the qualifying hour. Only Ferrari, Lotus, McLaren, Red Bull and the Sauber of Sergio Perez used just the medium tyre in Q1: all the others also used a set of softs. Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher set his fastest Q1 time on the medium tyre and did not improve when he moved onto a set of softs.
The remaining 17 drivers started Q2 on the soft tyre, with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton topping the time sheets as he did in Q1. The final part of qualifying, Q3, was also run using the soft tyres only. Most drivers opted for two runs in Q3, but Hamilton’s time on his first run was enough to seal his 25th career pole position and his second in Abu Dhabi. Webber clinched second place on his third and final run with the soft tyres. Hamilton has been quickest in every session so far apart from FP2 at Yas Marina, where Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel went fastest.
Hamilton was also fastest during the third and final free practice session today at Abu Dhabi with a time of 1m42.130s on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre. Vettel lost time with a mechanical problem during the session, which was again characterised by high track temperatures in the region of 45 degrees centigrade, but was third-fastest behind his team mate in final qualifying.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “We believe that we’re now looking at a one-stop strategy for many competitors. The pace of development in Formula One is unrivalled, and we can see this in the way that all the teams have really got on top of our tyres now: which was the same pattern we saw last year. Degradation is low with both compounds – and there’s also not a lot of thermal degradation – but one cause of this is also the track surface, which is particularly smooth in Abu Dhabi as was the case as well in India. From what we can see so far the long run race pace is quite closely matched, which will put the emphasis on strategy to make the difference. We saw a great lap not only from Lewis Hamilton but also from Pastor Maldonado in the Williams, who will start from fourth on the grid.”
Tyres used by the top ten qualifiers