Sebastian Vettel matched Nigel Mansell’s record of 14 pole positions in a season in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton set a faster lap than Vettel’s pole position time in Q2 but couldn’t repeat it when it counted.
The pair share the front row of the grid for the third time in as many races in Abu Dhabi.
Rubens Barrichello’s poor weekend continued as the Williams driver was unable to set a time in Q1.
This effectively removed any competition over who would be eliminated before Q2 as both Lotuses, Virgins and HRTs were knocked out as usual.
But Michael Schumacher had to make a late return to the track as his place in Q2 briefly came under threat from Heikki Kovalainen. He had to use one of his sets of soft tyres, though he abandoned the lap as it became clear the Lotus wasn’t going to beat the Mercedes.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
The Red Bull and McLaren drivers crossed swords early in the session. Mark Webber headed the times early on but he was quickly beaten by Vettel with a 1’38.516.
Hamilton had fractionally more time in hand, beating Vettel by less than a tenth of a second.
But the session was stopped shortly afterwards due to debris on the track. Felipe Massa and Jenson Button had dislodged a bollard at turn eight which sat on the racing line.
When the session restarted few of the front-runners returned to the track with the exception of Massa and Webber.
The two Force Indias made it into the top ten along with the two Mercedes.
Sergio Perez fell short of eliminating Schumacher by three-tenths of a second. He was eliminated along with his team mate, both Renaults and both Toro Rossos – Sebastien Buemi losing time with an off-track moment.
The last driver to set a time was Pastor Maldonado. He could only manage 17th and with a ten-place grid penalty pending he will share the final row of the grid with his team mate.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
|13||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’41.009|
|15||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’41.162|
First blood went to Hamilton in the shoot-out for pole position. The McLaren driver set a 1’38.704 and Vettel fell short of beating it by just four hundredths of a second.
It all came down to the final runs and Button briefly interjected himself into the battle for pole position, setting the quickest time with his last lap.
Hamilton took it back by a tiny margin – just nine-thousandths of a second. But his 1’38.622 was almost two-tenths slower than his best time from Q2 had been.
Nor could Vettel beat Hamilton’s Q2 time – but he had enough in hand to claim pole position. His last-second final effort gave him his 14th pole position of the year with a lap of 1’38.481.
He matches Nigel Mansell’s record from 1992, which was set when there were 16 races in a season.
The Ferraris, Mercedes and Force Indias took up rows three, four and five, with Paul di Resta opting not to set a time and preserve tyre life for the race.
Top ten in Q3
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’38.481|
|4||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’38.858|
|9||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1’40.768|
|10||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes|
2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix