Qualifying analysis - flying Hamilton surprises Red Bull 31 Oct 2009
The first day/night qualifying session proved a complete success on the dramatic new Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, where Lewis Hamiltons pace in the McLaren surprised Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. This trio seems to have a small but crucial advantage over the Brawn duo of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button.
For the record, the fuel weights were: Hamilton, 658.5 kg; Vettel 663, Webber 660, Barrichello 655, Button 657, Toyotas Jarno Trulli 661, BMW Saubers Robert Kubica 654.5, BMW Saubers Nick Heidfeld 664, Williams Nico Rosberg 665 and Toro Rossos Sebastien Buemi 661.5.
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 40.948s, P1
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 40.983, P13, will start P18
Hamilton was delighted with the MP4-24, saying it felt the best it had all season. He used KERS for all it was worth, and said things just got better and better as he regained the advantage from the speedy Red Bull duo. Kovalainens chances were damned straight away in Q2; he had just set the first fast time when he suffered a gearbox failure. The unit required replacement, leaving him with a grid-place penalty that dropped him from 13th to 18th.
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 41.615s, P2
Mark Webber, 1m 41.726s, P3
Vettel admitted that he and Webber were surprised by Hamiltons pace, especially when it transpired that he wasnt that much lighter on fuel. Both felt they got the best from their RB5s and said the cars were working well. They also thought that McLarens KERS was particularly advantageous here.
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 41.786s, P4
Jenson Button, 1m 41.892s, P5
Barrichello said he was happy with the way his car improved as the temperatures dropped for qualifying. Button was very quick all through practice and Q1 and Q2, but with a fuel load in Q3 he started to get serious vibrations which led to debilitating understeer.
Jarno Trulli, 1m 41.897s, P6
Kamui Kobayashi, 40.777s, P12
Trulli felt he got things right in all of the sessions and was happy with sixth, especially as Button only marginally improved on his time. Kobayashi had hoped to make Q3 in his first fully dry Formula One qualifying. In the end he was philosophical to miss out by just a couple of tenths.
Robert Kubica, 1m 41.992s, P7
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 42.343s, P8
Kubica rued Fridays loss of time after his second session engine failure and said that the lower track temperature in qualifying had a deleterious affect on his F1.09s handling. Heidfeld was quite happy on the greater fuel load and said that his marginal chance of a final improvement might have been frustrated when he came across Webber late in the lap.
Nico Rosberg, 1m 42.583s, P9
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 41.148s, P14, will start P13
Rosberg made the top 10 again in his final race for Williams, and felt that ninth was the best he could have expected as his FW31 struggled on the open sections of the circuit. Nakajima didnt manage to get his last lap together in Q2.
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 42.583s, P10
Jaime Alguersuari, 1m 41.689s, P15, will start P14
Buemi admitted that he had hoped for better than 10th after shining all through practice, but said he was happy overall given his fuel load. Alguersuari lost valuable track time when he didnt run at all in the morning, for reasons the team didnt divulge, and never managed to catch up.
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 40.726s, P11
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 42.184s, P20
Once again Raikkoinen got the most out of the ageing F60, and Fisichella didnt, and prospects for regaining third place in the constructors championship from McLaren appear weak.
Fernando Alonso, 1m 41.667, P16, will start P15
Romain Grosjean, 1m 41.950s, P19
Renault struggled throughout practice and qualifying here, and 16th and 19th indicated the depth of the problem.
Vitantonio Liuzzi 1m 41.701s, P17, will start P16
Adrian Sutil, 1m 41.863s, P18, will start P17
Liuzzi was really happy with his VJM02 on his first run in Q1 and believed he had the pace to get through to Q2. But the second set of soft tyres changed its behaviour for the worst as it lost grip. Sutil also complained of oversteer.