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Lewis Hamilton has commandingly clinched a second Abu Dhabi pole position, beating Mark Webber on Saturday evening. The feat marks Hamilton’s 25th career pole, with championship contenders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso third and seventh. Pastor Maldonado and Kimi Räikkönen both start inside the top five.
Track temperatures were down by as much as ten degrees as the sun set on Abu Dhabi for this uniquely twilight event. Hamilton’s first flying lap in Q1 may have featured an error, but his general weekend performance has been nothing short of exceptional. At the back of the field, times were extremely tight as Charles Pic managed to split the Caterham duo. Jean-Éric Vergne spun on a potentially better lap to cement his eighth early exit of the 2012 season.
Bruno Senna was a mover in Q2, managing to improve to 15th at the expense of Kamui Kobayashi. Behind, Daniel Ricciardo will line up on Row 8 alongside Toro Rosso team-mate Vergne. Paul di Resta will start 13th for Force India, having changed his chassis for the first time this year before struggling badly with traffic; sharing the seventh row will be Michael Schumacher, who admitted a mistake when adjusting KERS settings. The most disappointed faces were those of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez; both had the pace to make the top ten shootout, but a sudden improvement by Nico Rosberg confirmed their destinies.
Alonso’s evening was also one of frustration. In Q2 the Spaniard claimed that Webber had baulked him, even though television pictures appeared to show the Red Bull some distance in front of the Ferrari. After Q3, an investigation is taking place as Romain Grosjean was released in front of Alonso when exiting the pit lane; stewards, including former F1 driver Derek Warwick, will decide whether Lotus should receive a penalty. As Rosberg ended his session and dropped to seventh ahead of Felipe Massa and Grosjean, Alonso’s personal best effort of 1:41.582 was almost a full second off Hamilton’s pole position time.
There were changes aplenty over the last knockings. Maldonado jumped up to third for Williams, only to be knocked back as Webber improved to second. The Australian had out-qualified Vettel in both Q1 and Q2, with the status quo remaining as the Red Bulls were divided by less than one tenth. A solid performance for Räikkönen left Button scratching his head, as the Frome man is six tenths slower than his team-mate.
Throughout qualifying, no rival could get close to Hamilton who easily picks up his sixth pole position of 2012 and first since Singapore. He now sits a sole tenth in the all-time rankings, ahead of triple World Champion Nélson Piquet. In the Drivers’ Championship with three races to go, Vettel carries a 13-point advantage over Alonso, while Red Bull is on the verge of picking up a third straight constructors’ title. Following a brake problem in final practice, Vettel stopped on-track on the slow-down lap after qualifying.
Vettel sent to back of Abu Dhabi grid
Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix begins at 5pm local time (GMT +4) and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report
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