Mark Webber edged out teammate and newly crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel to claim pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Vettel was the last man to cross the line under the floodlights in qualifying, but could only marginally improve his previous time, which Webber had just surpassed, to finish a tenth of a second back.
With Red Bull again dominant, Mercedes were best of the rest as Nico Rosberg took third place and Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fourth after suffering suspension failure on his final lap. Kimi Raikkonen qualified fifth, but will be forced to start from the back of the grid after his Lotus failed Formula One’s front-floor deflection test.
Webber is in the final straight of his Formula One career with just three races of his final season before retirement remaining. But the veteran Australian shows no signs of going out quietly and now has a second pole in the past three races. Webber was delighted that the alterations undertaken during qualifying paid dividends.
“It wasn’t the most electric start to Q1 or Q2, but we made changes to the car as the session went on and I got more comfortable,” he said, according to the official Formula One website. “I knew I had to work on certain sections of the track which Sebastian had already been doing a good job on, so I had to try and match him as well as continuing to keep the areas where I was doing a good job too, so overall I’m happy with the pole. We’re really looking forward to the race tomorrow.”
On the back of six straight victories, Vettel wrapped up the title in India last weekend with ample time to spare. But he looks unlikely to ease up and his competitive instincts were in full evidence with his frustrated head-thrusting reaction as he crossed the line and realized that he had failed to surpass his teammate. While praising the team’s performance, Vettel was clearly disappointed with his final lap.
“Mark did a very good lap, so congratulations to him,” he said. “I should have done a little bit better, but I don’t know if it would have been enough, Mark deserves to be on pole today; it was a good lap with no mistakes. On top of that, it’s a great result for the team and we should have a strong result tomorrow.
Nico Hulkenberg again impressed in his Sauber and benefited from Raikkonen’s relegation by moving up into fifth. Raikkonen’s Romain Grosjean will start from a further place back, ahead of Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo. Second-placed man in the drivers’ championship, Fernando Alonso, rounds out the top 10 but it was a disappointing performance from the Spaniard as he failed to make it into the top-10 shootout.
Where to watch: The Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will get underway at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.