Abu Dhabi GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Hamilton by a country mile
Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying at the new Yas Island circuit in Abu Dhabi. The McLaren-Mercedes driver used his KERS system to great effect to snatch pole in the final moments of the qualifying session. The talking point, however, was not that Hamilton was on pole but rather the advantage he seemed to have over everyone else... Nearly seven-tenths of a second is a major gap in modern F1. A real surprise.
There was an even bigger surprise later in the evening when the fuel weights were published. After the number-crunching was done, it became clear that Hamilton still had a half a second advantage over the rest of the field. This meant that most of the teams shrugged their shoulders and went into Sunday with the firm belief that Hamilton would dominate the race. There would, of course, be the excitements of the first lap but if Lewis was ahead at the end of it, there seemed to be little hope for the rest of the field.
With such an advantage and Ferrari being uncompetitive by comparison there was little hope of much excitement in the fight for third place in the Constructors' Championship. Thus, it seemed, that the interest on Sunday would be focussed primarily on the fight for second place in the Drivers' Championship between Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello. Vettel qualified second with Rubens fourth, the pair separated by the second Red Bull of Mark Webber.
Newly-crowned World Champion Jenson Button was fifth.
Heikki Kovalainen was quick all weekend in his McLaren but in qualifying the gearbox lunched itself and so the Finn ended up out of contention, and facing a five-place drop on the grid because of the need for a gearbox change. It was clearly not his lucky day.
Ferrari did not have a car in the top 10.
The most interesting point at the end of qualifying was that the field was much more spread out than we have come to expect, an indication that McLaren's preparation work was rather better than that of the opposition and that the nature of the circuit is such that it seems to highlight the level of car performance rather than giving the drivers the chance to make a difference. Some found this very frustrating. It is also unusual in street circuits, although in reality the Yas Island facility is a street track in name only.