You know when a lap just looks fast? That one most certainly did, Martin Brundle calling it the best lap he’d ever seen Mark Webber drive. It looked sensational and was sensational, the only one to break the one minute 40 second barrier, putting the ladies’ favourite on pole for tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes will line up behind the Red Bulls, Lewis ending the session parked the wrong way on the blue paint, on a lap that just might have pinched it. Kimi Räikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg start on row three; the man who can’t get paid by Lotus and the man who would probably drive a Lotus for nowt.
But the session was all about Mark Webber today. The extremely-easy-to-like Aussie just out-drove his four-time champ teammate. Plain and simple. Amazing to think this is the same guy who three races ago stood looking at his burning RB9 as if he couldn’t wait to see the back of it, and has this weekend been telling the folks on Sky that’s he giving the gym the cold shoulder as part of an intensive preparation to drive a Le Mans prototype next year.
Vettel was quickly on the radio to apologise to the team for a mistake on his quick lap, but the TV didn’t pick it up (though to be fair, Anthony Davidson did). Fact is, Vettel simply wasn’t quite on it today, his times in Q1 and Q3 well off the top of the lists and suggesting Red Bull’s laid back approach in Q1 (neither car went anywhere near the track until the last eight mins) might not have helped.
The team did save itself a set of primes however and is planning for a two-stop strategy, which we assume will be the same for both drivers. All of you then who would love to see Webber win one more race before he moves to Porsche need to be sending some quick-starting karmic stuff in the direction of Yas Marina. If he doesn’t hold Vettel off at the start, it’s hard to imagine he will have a better chance this year.
Though they looked threatening at times its hard to imagine the Mercs putting up any kind of challenge tomorrow. It will nonetheless be interesting to see whether Hamilton can prove himself the team’s number one again after a trick few races. Regardless, the team should ram home its advantage over Ferrari (just four points right now remember) in the constructor’s championship. Ferrari has just one driver in the top ten, and it’s not Fernando Alonso, who missed the Q2 cut for the first time this year having blown his first run on virgin options.
If Webber’s RB9 was clearly on-it, then Alonso’s F138 was clearly all over the place, obviously a pig to drive. Alonso starts 11th and will of course have that choice of the tyres and strategies, but we all know Alonso can find it hard to get by cars at Yas Marina. Massa starts two rows ahead of him, but I bet Alonso is ahead at the end of the first lap. He will not be a happy boy starting there.
The full top ten then; WEB, VET, ROS, HAM, RAI, HUL, GRO, MAS, PER and RIC. Good to see so much young blood up there, and Hulkenberg with the quick-in-a-straight line Sauber and Grosjean in the easy-on-its-tyres Lotus will undoubtedly be a factor in what could be a good race, although Yas does not have a reputation for putting on a great show.
All those young ‘uns in the top ten meant it wasn’t just Alonso who got demoted, but Jenson Button also. He starts 13th, next to Jean-Eric Vergne, just ahead of the Williams and four places behind Perez. No wonder he sounded roundly hacked off that the promise McLaren had been showing all weekend evaporated when it mattered. Just two hours previous in a scorching hot FP3, Button had been sixth quickest.