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Qualifying analysis - Rosberg keeps the pressure on

22 Nov 2014

Saturday in Abu Dhabi saw title outsider Nico Rosberg do all he could to keep the heat on championship favourite and Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.

Yet again Rosberg put his silver car clearly on pole, while Hamilton very nearly fell into the clutches of the hard-charging Williams. It all added up to the prospect of a tantalising race on Sunday. We take a team-by-team look at Yas Marina’s qualifying formbook…

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, 1m 40.480s, P1

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 40.866s, P2

Rosberg made mistakes in Q2, as Hamilton looked serene and Williams challenged, but when it really mattered Rosberg did the business and it was Hamilton who failed to get the lap together. It was Rosberg’s 11th pole of the season. It was also the first time since Ford-Cosworth in 1969 that the same engine manufacturer has taken pole position for every race in a season.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 41.025s, P3

Felipe Massa, 1m 41.119s, P4

The Williams duo flew in qualifying, both men showing almost sufficient pace to challenge Mercedes. Bottas played second fiddle to Massa until Q3, when he got it all together. Massa admitted that he failed to keep ahead after locking up on his second run.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 41.267s, P5, will start P20

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 41.893s, P6, will start P19

Ricciardo was very happy with his and the car’s performance in qualifying and believed he’d be able to fight with Williams in the race, whereas Vettel was unhappy with grip levels and subsequent changes to try and improve the situation. After qualifying, however, Red Bull were found guilty by the stewards of having front wings that flexed too much, hence they were put to the back of the grid.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 41.908s, P7, will start P5

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 42.207s, P12, will start P10

Kvyat was very happy with seventh fastest lap, especially as he was so close to Vettel, but though he made progress Vergne said that his STR9 was still very difficult to drive. The team have quite high hopes of competitive midfield race performance, however.

McLaren

Jenson Button, 1m 41.964s, P8, will start P6

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 42.198s, P11, will start P9

Button was astonished to be told that he had to abort his first Q2 run because his car needed refuelling, but got the job done well on his second. Through into Q3, he then just missed sixth place by a few hundredths of a second. Magnussen, in the aerodynamically updated MP4-29, thought he should have been there too, but said he lacked grip and also hit traffic at a crucial point.

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 42.236s, P9, will start P7

Fernando Alonso, 1m 42.866s, P10, will start P8

Alonso said he wasn’t surprised to struggle in qualifying, after losing time in FP2 and then having an engine change after FP3 prevented him from doing several key tests associated with both qualifying and race performance. He expects to struggle tomorrow, too, in his final race for Ferrari. Raikkonen said that though he made improvements to his car for qualifying, it was still a handful round Yas Marina.

Force India

Sergio Perez, 1m 42.239s, P13, will start P11

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 42.384s, P14, will start P12

Both drivers said they knew that qualifying would be tough, and so it proved, but they expect to have pretty strong race pace and to be able to fight for a good helping of points.

Sauber

Adrian Sutil, 1m 43.074s, P15, will start P13

Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 42.819s, P17, will start P14

As usual, Sauber’s C33 lacked ultimate pace. Gutierrez just missed out on Q2, but despite the setbacks he’d encountered, particularly losing FP1 while Fong drove his car, Sutil made it through.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 42.768s, P16, will start P18

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 42.860s, P18, will start P15

Lotus expected to struggle because of the nature of the Yas Marina Circuit and the E22’s shortcomings, and that’s what happened. To make matters worse, Grosjean will either start from the penultimate row of the grid or the pit lane because of a 20-place penalty for using a sixth Renault engine, and on top of that will also have to serve a drive-through penalty in the race.

Caterham

Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 44.540s, P19, will start P16

Will Stevens, 1m 45.095s, P20, will start P17

Kobayashi was quite satisfied with the way that things went on Caterham’s return to active duty, while new boy Stevens matched his first and second sector times on his best lap before a mistake in Turn 17 cost him a chunk of time. Nevertheless, the Briton made a good impression during a confident debut, especially when you took into account valuable track time lost in FP1 when a mechanic had accidentally triggered the onboard fire extinguisher.