Mark Webber has claimed pole position for the Abu Dhabi GP from Sebastian Vettel
Australian pips World Champion and Mercs; Raikkonen sent to the back of the grid
By Mike Wise
Last Updated: 04/11/13 8:22am
The World Champion had appeared favourite for his eighth pole of the season after setting a lap nearly half a second faster than the rest earlier in the Q3 session. At that time, Webber appeared to be struggling and had complained of understeer. However, following an adjustment to his car's front wing, the 37-year-old returned to the Yas Marina track in the closing moments and produced a blistering lap of 1:39.957s.
Webber's time was the only sub-1:40s lap of the session. Vettel might have bettered it but made a mistake in Turn 1 while Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton lost control of his car due to a technical malfunction later diagnosed as a right-rear wishbone failure.
Hamilton therefore lines up fourth on the grid behind team-mate Nico Rosberg, with Mercedes having earlier seemed capable of claiming pole themselves. The last time that happened was when Hamilton started P1 in Belgium and he was second fastest behind Rosberg in Q2 but Red Bull found speed after the sun set, with Webber's pole, the 13th of his career, also equalling Sir Jack Brabham's record for Australian drivers.
Kimi Raikkonen intially won the battle to be best of the rest, but an already difficult weekend suddenly became a whole lot more trying on Saturday night when he was sent to the back of the grid. The Finn, who had threatened to boycott the race in protest at Lotus's failure to pay his salary, picked up the penalty after his car failed a floor deflection test.
As a result, Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg leads those shuffling up a place after putting in another strong performance and behind him comes Lotus's Romain Grosjean, with Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Sergio Perez (McLaren), Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) completing the top ten.
Alonso endured his worst qualifying performance of the season after failing to make Q3 and also confirmed what is best described as a 'difficult' weekend for the Scuderia. The double World Champion was clearly struggling for rear grip in the 'stop-go' third sector of the 5.554km track, although he also made a crucial mistake during his first flying lap in the second session.
He lines up directly ahead of Force India's Paul Di Resta who, in turn, starts in front of Jenson Button. The McLaren driver was sixth fastest during P3 and, like Webber, had complained of a lack of grip as the track conditions cooled.
Further down the order, Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) and Adrian Sutil (Force India) did not make it out of Q1, joining perennials Caterham and Marussia, with Giedo van der Garde leading the way for the former outfit. Max Chilton qualified 22nd but team-mate Jules Bianchi will start the race behind him after a P3 spin resulted in a gearbox change.