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Qualifying analysis - flying Hamilton surprises Red Bull 31 Oct 2009

Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix BGP 001 in qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24 in qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Toyota TF109 in qualifying. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW31 in qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009 A young fan enjoys qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009

The first day/night qualifying session proved a complete success on the dramatic new Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, where Lewis Hamilton’s 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, Toyota’s Jarno Trulli 661, BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica 654.5, BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld 664, Williams’ Nico Rosberg 665 and Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi 661.5.

McLaren
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. Kovalainen’s 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.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 41.615s, P2
Mark Webber, 1m 41.726s, P3

Vettel admitted that he and Webber were surprised by Hamilton’s pace, especially when it transpired that he wasn’t 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 McLaren’s KERS was particularly advantageous here.

Brawn GP
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.

Toyota
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.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 41.992s, P7
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 42.343s, P8

Kubica rued Friday’s loss of time after his second session engine failure and said that the lower track temperature in qualifying had a deleterious affect on his F1.09’s 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.

Williams
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 didn’t manage to get his last lap together in Q2.

Toro Rosso
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 didn’t run at all in the morning, for reasons the team didn’t divulge, and never managed to catch up.

Ferrari
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 didn’t, and prospects for regaining third place in the constructors’ championship from McLaren appear weak.

Renault
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.

Force India
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.