Sebastian Vettel took yet another pole position and therby equals Nigal Mansell's 14 poles in a season. In the end he found a tenth to get ahead of both McLarens who put up an unseen challenge to pip Red Bull from pole position.
Right from the start of qualifying, the track is flourishing with action. Bruno Senna is the first in the queue of the pitlane, ahead of his teammate Vitaly Petrov. Both Renaults are on the harder tyre and are followed by a lot of other cars immediately.
Both Toro Rosso cars are also on track immediately, along with the Lotus cars. It doesn't take long though before all cars are on track. Just 5 minutes into Q1, only Barrichello has not run a lap. The Brazilian Williams driver had problems on Friday with his Cosworth engine while this morning FP3 didn't go exactly as planned either.
After 8 minutes, Vettel tops the times, ahead of Hamilton and Alonso. Most drivers though are running multiple laps on this tyre to get them in optimum working range as it takes a few laps to get them warmed up.
4 minutes and about 6 laps later, the top runners are still on track, running the same set of medium tyres as they started the session with. Times are still tumbling, with Hamilton now posting a best of 1:39.782, indicating that this medium tyre could last an extremely long part of the race.
A few minutes ahead of the end, it becomes clear that the soft tyre is a heap after than the harder compound. Paul Di Resta for instance found a massive 1.9s difference and moved up to 5th on his first lap on the yellow marked softer Pirelli.
The tumbling times required Massa to go out again, although he quickly decided to return to the track as it became clear Rubens Barrichello would not run in this session. Michael Schumacher however did have to give it another go and set a fastest time in S2, before deciding to pit as he was certain to go through to Q2, albeit with a 17th fastest time.
At the end of Q1, it becomes clear that Barrichello will start from the back of the grid tomorrow. Eliminated along with him are Kovalainen in 18th place, followed by Trulli, Glock, Ricciardo, D'Ambrosio and Liuzzi.
The start of Q2 is again very action filled and after 5 minutes the first stint of laps is nearly done. Hamilton by that time set the fastest lap, ahead of Vettel, Alonso, Button, Webber, Massa and Schumacher. Hamilton is just one tenth quicker than Vettel while Alonso and Button are closely matched, albeit half a second down on the first two.
Vettel went on to put in another flying lap on the same set of tyres but was halted by a red flag due to debris on the track. It appears that someone has taken a bollard down, leaving the bollard itself and the base in the middle of the track.
One the debris is cleared, the session gets underway again with Felipe Massa immediately taking to the track.
In the closing stages, Schumacher is under pressure but still on track. Sutil and Di Resta and moved ahead of him into P8 and P9. With Perez and Petrov both improving but not enough to make the cut, Schumacher can be relieved one minute later and just take his car to the pits.
This means Pérez, Petrov, Buemi, Senna, Alguersuari, Kobayashi and Maldonado are out. It also means that Maldonado will start from the last row on the grid after applying his ten place grid penalty. It will be sad to see both Williams cars starting from the very back of the grid.
In Q3, the McLarens are the first out on track. Everybody is on the softer option tyre, except for Nico Rosberg. The German is on the medium tyre, trying to do a long first stint during tomorrow's race.
Button is the first to set a time, quickly beaten by Lewis Hamilton. Alonso gets in behind them as he passes the finish line. After the top 6 finished their first laps, Hamilton is still ahead, 0.042s quicker than Vettel. Webber is third, ahead of Button, Alonso and Massa.
Rosberg returned to the pits after two laps without setting a time, as he has no hopes to beat anyone running on the quicker option tyres. Schumacher, Sutil and Di Resta have not come out of the box with only 3 minutes left in the session.
Button then improved a lot and topped the times, only to be jumped by Hamilton by a marginal 0.009s. Sebastian Vettel however was last on the track and still found another tenth, spoiling McLaren's hopes of securing a pole position here.
|7||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG||1:41.120||1:39.420||1:39.773||17|
|8||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG||1:42.605||1:40.554||1:40.662||18|
|9||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:40.595||1:40.205||1:40.768||17|
|10||15||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:41.064||1:40.414||-||15|
|24||11||Rubens Barrichello||Williams-Cosworth||No time||-||-||0|
(*) Pastor Maldonado will drop 10 places for the Abu Dhabi GP starting grid due to a penalty