Webber denies Vettel pole
Mark Webber has managed to secure his 13th pole position, after denying team-mate Sebastian Vettel during a thrilling qualifying session around Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit. The Red Bull duo will start tomorrow’s race ahead of the Mercedes’ of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, after the latter spun in the dying minutes of Q3.
The all-important qualifying hour began with the sun setting over the picturesque Yas Marina Circuit, with many drivers immediately electing to spill out onto the track when the session turned green with the likes of Jenson Button, Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez all leaving the pit-lane. The Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne produced the initial benchmark with a 01:43.442, before the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg rose to the top with 01:42.567 despite dipping all four wheels over the white line at both Turns 20 and 21.
As an abundance of sparks were seen emanating from the rear of Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi’s cars’ through the first sector, Lewis Hamilton was heard requesting a clear visor over the team radio as the sun creeped ever lower. Fernando Alonso managed to slot into 3rd position as the session progressed, whilst Jenson Button completely missed the apex of Turn 9. At the front Nico Rosberg managed to improve with a 01:42.279, before his Mercedes team-mate of Lewis Hamilton continued to lower the benchmark with a 01:42.231.
After remaining in the pit-lane for the opening few minutes, both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber finally left the confines of the pit-lane to produce their first timed laps of the qualifying session. Initially the newly-crowned Champion rose to the top for Red Bull, before team-mate Mark Webber instantly bettered his time with a 01:41.568. The Red Bull’s reign was short-lived, however, as the times quickly tumbled once again as the opening segment drew to a climactic conclusion. Kimi Raikkonen managed to rise to the top in his Lotus with a 01:41.276, with team-mate Romain Grosjean slotting into 2nd position.
Despite running within the perilous drop-zone for the majority of the segment, Felipe Massa managed to catapult himself to the top of the timing sheets in the dying minutes, however it was later discovered that the Brazilian driver had put all four wheels over the white line at Turn 21. As the checkered flag fell Lewis Hamilton rose to the top for Mercedes with an impressive 01:40.693, as the times chopped and changed in traditional fashion up and down the order. After the opening session Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil joined the usual suspects of Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi, Charles Pic and Max Chilton in elimination from proceedings.
After a short break, Paul di Resta soon became the first driver to take to the track for Force India. The Scotsman managed to produce the first timed lap of the segment with a 01:41.477, which was quickly thwarted by the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg. Mark Webber could only initially manage 2nd fastest for Red Bull, before Kimi Raikkonen stormed to the top for Lotus with a 01:40.971. Nico Rosberg rose Mercedes to the sharp-end of the order as the session neared it’s conclusion, with the German managing to produce an impressive 01:40.473 on scrubbed tyres. Lewis Hamilton slotted neatly into 2nd position behind his team-mate, creating a 1-2 for the German marque which remained unbeaten as the session drew to a conclusion.
Sebastian Vettel could only manage 3rd fastest behind the Mercedes duo, as former World Champion Fernando Alonso continued to struggle greatly in his Ferrari. Unlike team-mate Felipe Massa, the Spanish sensation was unable to propel himself out of the drop-zone, which saw him shockingly eliminated from proceedings along with Paul di Resta, Jenson Button, Jean-Eric Vergne, Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas. This was Fernando Alonso’s worst qualifying performance since last year’s European Grand Prix, where he also qualified 11th..
After the shock exit of Fernando Alonso after Q2 and the surprising pace of the Mercedes, the all-important top ten shootout was poised to be yet another thriller with many eager to see whether Red Bull’s dominance could be challenged. However, the Milton Keynes-based outfit immediately asserted their authority over proceedings during the opening minutes of the top ten shootout, with Sebastian Vettel in particular producing a 01:40.091 despite Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s best efforts to thwart him.
As per usual the drivers all returned to the pits after completing their first timed laps, to change tyres and prepare for their second flying laps in a bid to overthrow the rampaging Red Bull’s. When the top ten returned to the track it was clear that the Mercedes would be unable to question Sebastian Vettel’s pace, however Mark Webber hadn’t read the script as the Australian ace stormed to a superlative 01:39.957 to snatch away pole from his German team-mate. Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying session ended with a spin at Turn 14, as the Briton was unable to even thwart his team-mate.
With Mark Webber’s career drawing to a conclusion, the 37-year-old is refusing to leave the sport without a fight. Although his team-mate and his team have secured both Championships already, Mark Webber will undoubtedly be striving to secure victory in tomorrow’s 55-lap race. However, remaining ahead of not only his team-mate but the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will be imperative if the Australian ace has his sights set on his 10th victory in Formula 1.
Author: Andy Young
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