Hamilton on pole with title rivals off the front row

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth pole position of 2012 in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Red Bull pair line up behind him on the grid but Sebastian Vettel could only manage third place – and then stopped with an apparent problem on his car.


Hamilton was comfortably fastest in the first part of qualifying with almost half a second in hand over everyone else – including those who returned to the track for a second effort.

Nico Rosberg improved to second with his last lap. The two Ferraris showed better pace on the medium tyre in the cooler temperatures of Q1, both drivers featuring in the top five.

Vettel had a brush with the barrier at turn 19 after running wide on the kerbs. But Jean-Eric Vergne made a more serious mistake as he began his final flying lap. He spun off at the penultimate corner, and unsurprisingly his last lap wasn’t good enough to get him into Q2. “The car is going from one balance to another,” he said after returning to the pits.

The usual six others were also knocked out, with a strong effort from Charles Pic putting him ahead of team mate Glock as well as Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham.

Bruno Senna made it into Q2 despite being held up by Sergio Perez in the turn five/six chicane, an incident the stewards are set to investigate.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari1’44.058
19Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault1’44.956
20Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth1’45.089
21Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault1’45.151
22Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth1’45.426
23Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth1’45.766
24Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth1’46.382


Hamilton stayed on top in the second phase of qualifying though with a reduced gap of three-tenths of a second over Mark Webber.

Vettel took third but Ferrari continued to show improve pace with Alonso fourth. This was despite him catching Webber at the end of his lap and gesturing at the Red Bull driver as he crossed the line.

“We saw that,” said race engineer Andrea Stella on the radio, indicating they felt Alonso got close enough to Webber for his lap to be compromised. But as it turned out neither driver was in danger of being eliminated.

Few drivers managed to find improvements with their final laps. Nico Hulkenberg fell short of making Q3 by less than three hundredths of a second.

Michael Schumacher failed to make the cut amid some confusion on his team radio, leaving him 14th behind Perez and Paul di Resta.

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Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’42.019
12Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari1’42.084
13Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes1’42.218
14Michael SchumacherMercedes1’42.289
15Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault1’42.330
16Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari1’42.606
17Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari1’42.765


Hamilton used an extra-wide entrance to the final corner as he began his first lap in Q3. It began another superb lap which sealed his sixth pole position of the year.

Behind him the Red Bull drivers contested second place and it was Webber who had the edge this time. “I should have been a little bit quicker,” admitted Vettel afterwards.

A single run from Pastor Maldonado was good enough for him to take fourth place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Jenson Button could only manage sixth with his second run, over six-tenths of a second slower than Hamilton.

Alonso failed to improve with his last run and slipped to sixth. He had been delayed briefly as he left the pits when Grosjean left the pits in front of him but the stewards ruled Lotus had done nothing wrong.

That left the Ferrari driver four places behind title rival Vettel on the grid. But with Vettel pulling to a stop with an unidentified fault near the end of his in lap, there may be further developments to come for the championship contenders.

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Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes1’40.630
2Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault1’40.978
3Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault1’41.073
4Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault1’41.226
5Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault1’41.260
6Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1’41.290
7Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’41.582
8Nico RosbergMercedes1’41.603
9Felipe MassaFerrari1’41.723
10Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1’41.778

NB. Vettel was subsequently excluded from qualifying:

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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69 comments on “Hamilton on pole with title rivals off the front row”

  1. So even when Vettel suffers all sorts of problems and Red-Bull finally isn’t the car to beat he still starts 4 places up on Alonso.

    Interesting to see why he had to park the car before the garage.

    The Ferrari clearly isn’t very good over one lap still but over race distance with their straight line speed could we see more fireworks from Fernando.

    1. Actually, Maldonado – again; the ‘new Petrov’ since Spain – could be a problem. He had the highest top speed of all during qualifying…

      I’m a bit worried about this.

  2. Will Vettel be penalized like Hamilton when he parked his car on track?

    1. Didn’t they introduce a rule that a car must return to the pits under its own power?

      1. Yes, unless there is a good enough reason why it can’t.

    2. It depends what it turns out the reason for him stopping was.

      1. More on whether Vettel might get a penalty, what kind of penalty he might get, and how he might avoid one, here:


        1. Rumoured to be a gearbox electrics problem:


          Red Bull and Vettel were due to meet the stewards 25 minutes ago.

    3. Drop Valencia!
      3rd November 2012, 14:32

      if he didn’t have enough fuel, absolutely.

      1. Apparently Christian Horner has told Gary Anderson it was a “fuel issue”.

        I can’t imagine what sort of problem that might be besides a “fuel shortage”.

        In which case he might get the same (excessively harsh, in my view) penalty Hamilton had in Spain, of being stripped of all his qualifying times and sent to the back of the grid.

        1. Leaking fuel cell?

    4. @kcampos12 – we don’t know until the actual problem is determined. He won’t be sent to the back if there was a component failure and Red Bull can prove there was, but he may then still get a penalty for having to change a component.

    5. Am I the only one that wants Vettel to receive some sort of penalty to make the race interesting?

  3. Maldonado to get a podium tomorrow!

    He has really behaved well after Grosjean’s penalty and should have got a bunch of points for Singapore. I hope he shines tomorrow.

    1. He promised to “attack” tomorrow though which doesn’t sound very good. I think more realistic goal for him is to not retire…

      Seriously though he has a chance for a very good weekend. It’s gonna be hard for him to keep Kimi behind though.

  4. Stunning performance from Hamilton. This is also good news for Alonso fan. the bad news is Alonso didn’t qualify well. There’s tons of drivers between him and Vettel. It seems Ferrari is more sensitive for cooler temperature. Anyway, I hope Alonso would make big progress tomorrow. It would be good Vettel and Alonso meet until first(and last) pit stop. then We can see what they can do.

    Also I’d liked to know what Vettel’s car problem exactly is ASAP.

  5. Vettel: We’re fighting with Paddy Lowe. :P

  6. Just shows what McLaren has lost in the name of Lewis and gained just halfof it in Sergio. Mega lap from him.

    As most of us predicted here barring PM, Ferrari is going backwards and even more so when Lotus and Pastor pipped in.

    Jenson was humiliated by Lewis. Just goes to show that McLaren won’t see another title in the near future again.

    Championship is more or less over. The only ray of hope is RBR’s reliability.

    Finally, Q2 in Abu Dhabi is the best session in the championship. What scenic view we get in the evening!!

  7. What’s interesting is that Rosberg was 0.31 slower than Button. Imagine Hamilton in the mercedes today, it might have only been a 0.1 deficit, if not more!

    I’m suddenly very excited for next season.

  8. Bye bye to McLaren pole positions in 2013, as Button cant even stay with his team mate even with the faster car during qualification.

    1. At Spa, Button was in the same position, like Lewis today. It’s true, Hamilton had more poles than Button, this year. So it’s not “bye, bye”

      1. @sorin
        common, everybody knows Spa was a completely different situation from today. there wasnt any rain, no fp3 issues, no different rear wings or parts on the car to affect the setup today.

        and even so, everybody should stop pointing at only that one single example, spa 2012, when it’s 15-3 for lewis in the overall qualifying score this year.

        the thing is, with button, mclaren won’t be able to extract all the speed their car has to offer in 2013, that’s pretty much a given. unless he finds a situation like – here it comes – spa 2012 again, where he had his 1st and only pole for mclaren. in 3 years.

      2. yes and before that, when was Button’s last pole position?

        To put it in slightly less hyperbolic fashion, it’s definitely going to be happening a lot less. Which will impact Mclaren’s chances. You can’t win a race from 4th row every time.

    2. William Brierty
      3rd November 2012, 15:08

      And he’s the man that said he was happy with the balance and that he didn’t need to make any more changes in FP3! I hope McLaren pay for their huge mistake by not retaining Hamilton, and I hope they winced when they saw the last Q3 lap of their 2013 “No. 1” driver. Expect to a freefall in McLaren’s form, and not just in qualy, because Perez has scored 1 point in the last 4 races, and none in the last three.

    3. On average & best, Button has always been over a tenth behind Hamilton in qualifying so providing McLaren gives their drivers a strong (or dominant it should be said) package, qualifying shouldn’t be the major issue others make it out to be.

    4. haha..am watching the replay of the qualifying, every time the commentator asks about Hamilton, whitmarsh the baffoon talks about Jenson..could he get any further u Jenson’s ass!! I am sooo looking forward to next season!! Why would you get rid of your fastest driver??!! It will be funny as Perez will probably out qualify Button as well next year..lol..nothing against Jenson..I just think he has to up his game..or Mclaren have to fire whitmarsh..one of the two..can anyone detect I am not a whitmarsh fan..lol

  9. Massive effort by both Maldonado and specially Pic !

    Should be interesting tomorrow… but I can’t see anyone challenging Hamilton for the lead.

    1. PIC has really been impressing me this season, Marussia will be lucky to keep hold of him next year.

      1. William Brierty
        3rd November 2012, 15:17

        They’ll be lucky or they’ll fire him themselves, in the eternal search for another pay driver. A driver like the eye-wateringly average Max Chilton. Really the bottom three teams run one driver (Caterham – Kovalainen, Marussia – Glock, HRT – De La Rosa), the other guy is simply a revenue stream.

      2. @dodge5847 hope they keep him. Though I’ve heard that Max Chilton already has the moeny and sponsors, and he’s waiting for Marussia to make up their minds.

  10. What a session, amazing how one qualifying session can suddenly re-ignite my interest. I really hope Merc sort their act out next season because Lewis proved today he is deserving of a car that can challenge the front. Phenomenal stuff from him all weekend.

    The less said about Ferrari the better I think. Alonso’s gonna have to have the race of his life if he wants to finish on the podium though I’d be interesting if Vettel gets a grid drop to see them both charging through.

    Maldonado once again proves why he deserves his seat. The guy gets a lot of hate but he always gives 100% when the cars on the pace unlike his lacklustre team-mate. I really hope Pastor can get a podium tomorrow to make up for the points he lost at Singapore.

  11. Vettel was quite aprehensive after qualifying. It certainly would be good for the championship if he got demoted to last in the grid, that would bring the fight to the last race. If he does not get penalized, he will clinch the title in Austin.

  12. Hope Pastor takes out Vettel in the opening lap…:)

    1. That’s why Webber is there: to take the bullet.

    2. I hope Pic takes out Vettel in the opening lap. ;)

      1. Don’t forget Alonso while you’re at it.

  13. William Brierty
    3rd November 2012, 14:59

    Swapped Hamilton for Perez, McLaren? Kept the receipt did you? Let’s face it, unless the MP4-28 is mega-dominant, the Button-Perez combo aren’t going to be getting many poles, or front rows. Looking at Button’s lap, and then looking at Perez’s qualifying form next to Hamilton, I bet Ross Brawn is looking forward to the qualifying at the Australian GP much more than Martin Whitmarsh, if he still has a job by then. What if Hamilton is worth 4 tenths? Where will he be able to put the W04, even if its average?

    1. so you are assuming the sauber is as fast as the mclaren? Seriously, we can’t compare Sergio with Lewis. I think McLaren took Sergio as a prospect for the future. And yes, he still needs to improve a lot (particularly one-lap times) On the other hand, Hamilton is probably the fastest right now (although not the most reliable) but he will struggle in Mercedes. And also don’t forget that Mclaren wanted to keep him and he bailed. Of the available drivers, other than the Hulk, Sergio he was the best choice

      1. William Brierty
        3rd November 2012, 15:41

        No, I’m simply illustrating the fact that Perez is inconsistent; more so than Hamilton, Hulkenberg and Di Resta. I’m also saying that McLaren are bound to struggle on Saturdays next year, and that Perez’s up-and-down nature MAY negatively impact McLaren’s 2013 ranking. From this I am suggesting that McLaren should perhaps of put a better deal on the table, bearing in mind how fundamental Hamilton’s speed has been to McLaren these past years. See, no assumptions here. And how can you assume assume that Hamilton will struggle, because as you quite rightly say, he is the fastest driver in the world, and his car is being built with money and might of Mercedes-Benz, all sealed off neatly with Ross Brawn, the best team principle there is.

      2. I am sorry, I misunderstood your comment at first, but now with that explanation I can completely understand what you mean. There is no doubt in my mind that McLaren will struggle next year, but if they manage to hold in there, something very powerful might come out of it. I think Sergio is the best young driver other than Hulkenberg. On the case of Mercedes, as the adage says, Rome was not built in a day, so if Hamilton manages to keep his cool during this “building” process with all the resources of Mercedes I think we will be in the door of a new F1 era in which Hamilton will consolidate his position as one of the greatest and win at least a couple of championships. On the other hand, if the lack of results at first has an impact on his mood, as we all know sometimes can happen, then I think it might be harder for them to pull it off. Is this a more satisfactory comment, good sir? :)

    2. As for 2013- pionts are not collected on saturdays…

      1. So by that logic alone, does Senna in… wherever row, have an equal chance of winning as Hamilton?

        Grid position becomes ever more important if you’re a top team trying to win championships, not merely pick up points and the occasional podium.

  14. Wow this is interesting.

    1. William Brierty
      3rd November 2012, 15:10

      Oooo, sarcasm.

      1. No, I’m serious.

        1. William Brierty
          3rd November 2012, 15:44

          Sorry, I was feeling childish, yeh, it actually is quite interesting.

  15. Lots of good performances (Ham, Mal, Pic) but did anyone really see Webber out qualifying Vettel at Abu Dhabi of all places! Great effort.

    1. @katederby Before qualifying started, no. However as soon as everyone got going Vettel never looked comfortable so I was thinking that it wouldn’t be a total surprise.

  16. Love this, it has a very nice layout.
    Also it’s interesting to see with Maldonado so quick in a straight line, he may cause problems for the Bulls, which can only help Alonso.

  17. @sorin : Do you remember the telemetry tweet saga after qualifying at Spa ? If Hamilton was on the same spec of McLaren like that of Button, he would have blown Button out of that rare pole spot.

    1. @uksukpam He wasn’t, he didn’t.

  18. Hamilton has really been on impervious form throughout this weekend & that culminated with a superb lap on his first Q3 run today as well as it culminating in a special four year anniversary since I started watching this sport (four years since his Brazil 2008 triumph).

    People are looking at Maldonado’s grid position (& how Vettel would be taken out) rather than his actual performance, which I was really intrigued by, seems as though he’s likened to Vettel in the sense that he possess this uncanny quality to pull some sincere time out of the rabbit on his final qualifying lap (Spain, Singapore & now Abu Dhabi) that enables him to put that Williams in positions where others assume it wouldn’t be in, although I don’t think the quality is on-par or at least, as notably proven as Vettel’s. Like Sumedh mentioned, he hasn’t hit or caused any trouble since Spa & I’m interested as to whether he can be some sort of a significance, ultimately in the title fight & particularly at the start If he can jump either of the Red Bulls, the Williams’ straight-line speed has been amongst the others at the top I believe.

  19. The tension is killing me: Stewards, hurry up and come to a verdict on Vettel!

    1. It happened, we just wait for stewards confirmation, worst case, he will start at the back and may get no points. It’s not end of the game really. I don’t think Alonso can win this race.

    2. I´m clicking the refresh button every minute, what an agony!

      1. Other forums are suggesting it’s the fuel sensor. Could very well warrant a penalty.

  20. Considering it’s an open secret the Newey/Red Bull have been ‘bending’ the rules for the last few years i would think the stewards are looking for any chance to penalize that team. Hopefully Vettel will get at least a 5 place drop and give us some excitement tomorrow.

    1. I think just seeing how the redbull will play around with the 2 drivers will get adequate excitement.As for the race win, Lewis will lead all the way to the check flat with huge gap unless something unexpected happen

  21. Someone speculates that Sebatien might suffer the same penalty as Lewis did in Spain, but so far it seems no penalty.

    1. just heard from friend in Milton Keynes – the word there is its fuel. http://wp.me/p2HWOP-ky

  22. It was fuel ….. 150cc missing.
    Vettel has been penalized to a pit lane start.

  23. Sorry.
    No pit lane start. Rear of grid start.

  24. If anyone had watched all 3 of the free practises then they would have seen and heard that the 2 Mclarens were different. Lewis has got a larger gap on his side pod area than Jenson, this was pointed out in the garage on Friday

  25. Vettel to start from Pit Lane. Think they are chaging the gear ratios?

    1. Sure. Otherwise they will not be able to overtake as easily ……. Allways “fiddling” with regulations.
      That’s what happens when you are allways on the razor’s edge ……
      Maybe the FIA inspectors would love to have a look at the “mysterious” liquid leak on Webber’s car on friday practice. Everybody suspects they are changing wheight balance by moving liquids from one container to another.

  26. Hamilton was immense today. Showed how much quicker than Button he is. Not even close! Mclaren is losing such a great driver… and Pastor, wow what an effort, this guy has pace to burn!

  27. Gear ratios must be given to FIA after FP2, and must be the same for the rest of GP, so no gear ratio chage allowed.
    The question is … Why start from pit lane instead of last position ?? Does it means thay are alloved to change settings ?

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