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Qualifying analysis - can McLaren take the bull by the horns? 12 Nov 2011

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26 passes the stray bollard that stopped the qualifying session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 150 Italia. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Paul di Resta (GBR) Sahara Force India Formula One Team VJM04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C30. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Bruno Senna (BRA) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Jaime Alguersuari (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW33.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Team Lotus T128. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday, 11 November 2011 Jerome d'Ambrosio (BEL) Virgin Racing MVR-02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) HRT Formula 1 Team F111 leaves the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011 Jaime Alguersuari (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 12 November 2011

As he’s done 13 times previously this season, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took the top grid slot during qualifying for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi race. But up until Q3 McLaren had ruled the roost and from second and third Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button could well spring a surprise. We take a team-by-team look at how all the runners performed…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 38.481s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 38.858s, P4

Vettel said he hadn’t really been happy with his RB7 until Q2, which was the first time he really got close to Hamilton. Everything came together perfectly on his second run in Q3 to earn him a 14th seasonal pole, which equalled Nigel Mansell’s long-standing record from 1992. Webber said his last run was a bit scrappy, which was why it failed to improve on his first one. He said that he felt that there was more to come from his car, and that this was not one of those occasions when he felt that his team mate had been beyond reach.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 38.622s, P2
Jenson Button, 1m 38.631s, P3

Hamilton said he wasn’t surprised that Vettel ultimately found the pace he did. He added his McLaren had been great right up until Q2 when it first began to understeer as it reached its ultimate limit, and that neither of his Q3 runs had been anything special. Button said he’d been chasing a nervous rear end all weekend but that the understeer he also encountered in Q3 helped to rebalance the car by reducing its front-end effectiveness. Both go into the race knowing they have to make great starts if they are to beat Vettel, and on top of that Button doesn’t expect DRS to be very effective here.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 39.058s, P5
Felipe Massa, 1m 39.695s, P6

Alonso said there were no surprises and that he was pretty much where he’d expected to be. For the eighth time in 18 races he was fifth on the grid. Massa caused Q2 to be red flagged temporarily after dislodging a chicane kerb marker and its mounting, then struggled to get the best out of his tyres on his first flying lap. Later he rued not making a longer run. He also felt he lost some of the pace he showed in India after Ferrari’s decision to revert him to the old front wing.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 39.773s, P7
Michael Schumacher, 1m 40.662s, P8

After trying the prime Pirellis on his first run in Q3, Rosberg switched quickly to the options but then encountered traffic which hampered his second run. Schumacher just made it through Q1 after opting to save tyres and thinks he’s in good shape on the rubber front for the race.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 40.768s, P9
Paul di Resta, No time, P10

Sutil and Di Resta scrapped mano a mano all the way through qualifying and proved very evenly matched. Sutil waited to see what Mercedes did in Q3 before finally deciding to venture out. Di Resta stayed in the pits, preferring to conserve rubber and give himself the optimum chance of defending the team’s sixth place overall by scoring good points come the race.

Sauber
Sergio Perez 1m 40.874s, P11
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 41.240s, P16

Both drivers were disappointed when their new tyres in Q2 did not enable them to go as quickly as they had on the tyres they’d already used in Q1, but they are quite confident of strong race performances.

Renault
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 40.919s, P12
Bruno Senna, 1m 41.079s, P14

After yesterday’s steering and electronic problems, Petrov was relieved to get the best from his R31, while Senna admitted to a small error on his best lap that made the difference between his lap time and his team mate’s.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 41.009s, P13
Jaime Alguersuari, 1m 41.162s, P15

Toro Rosso lacked pace relative to its recent outings, on a slower track less well suited to the STR06, but neither driver was too concerned as they tend to race better than they qualify and 13th and 15th places weren’t the end of the world.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 41.760s, P17, will start P24
Rubens Barrichello, No time, will start P23

Maldonado couldn’t get his Williams fully balanced and dropped from 17th to 23rd once his 10-place grid penalty for using a ninth engine was applied. Barrichello never got out at all as an oil leak from FP3 could not be rectified in time, and thus the duo start from the back of the grid.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 42.979s, P18, will start P17
Jarno Trulli, 1m 43.884s, P19, will start P18

Kovalainen yet again got everything that the T128 had to offer, but Trulli’s qualifying was inevitably compromised when he lost FP3 because of a gearbox problem.

Virgin
Timo Glock, 1m 44.515s, P20, will start P19
Jerome D'Ambrosio, 1m 44.699s, P22, will start P21

Glock struggled with brake problems in the morning which got worse in the afternoon as his MVR-02 lacked stability, but said that his best qualifying lap was a good one devoid of mistakes. D’Ambrosio didn’t get a perfect lap.

HRT
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 44.641s, P21, will start P20
Vitantonio Liuzzi, 1m 45.159s, P23, will start P22

Ricciardo was gratified to find his car behaving well after earlier reservations, and that without the need to pass Glock in the second sector of his fast lap he might have been able to beat the Virgin. Liuzzi’s luck did not hold after strong showings in practice, as a broken suspension mounting gave his F111 a mind of its own.

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