Mark Webber (1:39.957) won pole for the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating out Sebastian Vettel in a massive final lap during Q3. They make it a Red Bull front row, with a Mercedes row two. Nico Rosberg qualified third, with a spinning Lewis Hamilton unable to complete his final lap. He would not have bested Webber’s time, in any case, with his first two sectors already off the Australian’s pace. Hamilton would later attribute his spin to something breaking on his Mercedes. Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez, and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten qualifiers. It is Webber’s thirteenth career pole.

Q1 saw earlier running that usual, with many drivers straight out onto the track. Neither Vettel nor Webber did so, waiting until a few minutes remained to set super fast times on soft tyres. Only eight tenths separated second fastest in Q1 (Felipe Massa) from the first driver (Esteban Gutierrez) of the knockout zone. Alonso dropped out in Q2, pushing hard to keep a handle on his Ferrari, but unable to best Massa and move up to fight for Q3. Button was also disappointed as his McLaren did not improve on the weekend while other cars did. A number of drivers put all four wheels outside the white lines on the exit of the final turn, and race direction had given them a talk. Still, much like in India, it appeared that no action would be taken.

Grosjean (1:44.241) led Friday’s practice session, setting his fast time at the end of the ninety minute session. Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, and Rosberg completed the fastest five, with Raikkonen sixth, Button eighth, Alonso twelfth, and Massa seventeenth. Despite Grosjean’s surprise late pace, Friday continued as usual, as practices go. Hamilton had led after the mid-session fast times, after beating out Vettel. The four time champion caused some tension with his crew, locking up as he entered the pit box, and forcing them to scramble out of the way.

That bobble did not seem to deter Vettel, who took the lead (1:41.335) in the afternoon session. Multiple drivers spun and slid around the track as the light faded to darkness. Grosjean suffered a brake failure, and both Button and di Resta had punctures. Button managed to make a joke of it, telling McLaren his supposedly punctured tyre looked just like the other in his mirrors, “black and round.” Webber, Hamilton, Raikkonen, and Rosberg completed the fastest five at the end of the day Friday.

Vettel (1:41.349) and Webber again led the final practice, with Hamilton, Rosberg, and Grosjean rounding out the fastest five. Button was a surprisingly quick sixth fastest, with Alonso and Massa languishing down in eleventh and fourteenth, respectively. Bianchi damaged his Marussia in the barriers after a spin at T1. He would change gearboxes between sessions and suffer a five place grid penalty. Hamilton also had a wiggle at the end of the lap, but continued on damage free. He had sat second fastest until Webber beat him by only nine thousandths.

Di Resta led the way to start the twenty minutes of Q1, with Hulkenberg right behind. Sutil, Bianchi, and Chilton quickly followed. A good number of drivers were straight out for the first quali session, with well over half the field on track within the first two minutes. At that point, only Red Bull and Ferrari cars remained in the garage. Massa joined the fray soon enough, but Vettel, Webber, and Alonso remained in the air conditioning.

Di Resta set the first time, lapping slowly, only to have Vergne, Chilton, and Sutil all go faster. After most had posted their first timed lap, Rosberg (1:42.567) led Hamilton, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Button, Vergne, Gutierrez, di Resta, Maldonado, and Sutil were the fastest ten, just over six minutes into the session. Meanwhile, Hamilton indicated that he needed to change his helmet or visor between sessions. Alonso’s first lap put him third fastest, nearly seven tenths off Rosberg’s pace. He would nearly immediately drop as the track continued to evolve and Perez, Vergne, and Ricciardo all went faster.

At halfway, Vettel and Webber remained in the garage. Rosberg still led Hamilton, Perez, Hulkenberg, and Raikkonen as the fastest five. At the same time, Grosjean, Pic, Chilton, Bianchi, and the Red Bulls were in the knockout zone. Maldonado and Massa were then fifteenth and sixteenth. Drivers returned to their garages for fresh tyres and setup changes around halfway, though a number continued to lap.

With just over seven minutes to go, the Red Bulls left the garage on soft tyres. Hamilton (1:42.231) had gained time on his teammate, posting the fastest lap of the session to that point. Vettel went straight to the top, only for Webber (1:41.568) to best him by just under a tenth. With four minutes to go, Maldonado, Massa, Grosjean, Pic, Chilton, and Bianchi were in the knockout zone. Hamilton, Rosberg, Button, Alonso, Perez, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, and Vergne then rounded out the top ten.

Raikkonen went fastest of all on his own set of softs, with Hulkenberg splitting the Bulls. As he dropped down the order, Red Bull told Vettel to set himself op for a second lap. He returned to the garage, as did Webber. The track got faster, with Grosjean up to second fastest. Hamilton had dropped down to twelfth with a minute to go. Button was then fourteenth, Alonso fifteenth. Massa was nineteenth. Alonso looked set to move up, and did to second. Rosberg had just moved up to that position. Button went tenth fastest.

Massa was fully down in the knockout zone, only to go fastest of all. In the final seconds after the flag, Maldonado was on the bubble, but went third fastest. Hamilton was eighteenth, but managed to haul himself up to fastest of all. In the end, Hamilton (1:40.6933) led Massa, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Alonso, Rosberg, Grosjean, Webber, Hulkenberg, and di Resta as the top ten. Vettel was eleventh, Button fourteenth.

Knocked Out in Q1:
17. Esteban Gutierrez
18. Adrian Sutil
19. Giedo van der Garde
20. Jules Bianchi
21. Charles Pic
22. Max Chilton

di Resta led the way out for the fifteen minutes of Q2, again the first man onto the track. Webber did not wait around, as fewer drivers got right out onto the evolving track. Both Red Bull drivers joined on the same set of soft tyres they had just used in Q1. Four minutes into Q2, only Perez and Bottas remained in the garage.

Di Resta’s (1:41.147) first time was two tenths faster than his fastest time in the first session. Hulkenberg soon bested it, with Button third fastest. Webber slotted into second with ten minutes remaining in the session. The order continued to change as the first times were posted. Rosberg (1:40.473) took the early lead, a half second faster than Raikkonen in second. Quickly, both Hamilton and Vettel bested Raikkonen.

At halfway, Rosberg led Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Massa, Grosjean, Webber, Vergne, and di Resta. Alonso, Ricciardo, Maldonado, Bottas, Button, and Perez were in the knockout zone with neither McLaren driver yet to set a time. Perez’s first put him eighth fastest. Most drivers were back in the garage with six minutes remaining, though Rosberg had been called to the weighbridge.

Only Grosjean, Alonso, Maldonado, and di Resta were lapping with four minutes to go. Webber in fifth would be going back out, as he complained of understeer on the cooling circuit. According to radio transmissions, he would receive “three clicks” on the front wing for one timed lap.

Everyone but Rosberg and Vettel were back out with two minutes to go. Vergne, Alonso, Ricciardo, Maldonado, Bottas, and Button were then in the knockout zone. Alonso managed the fastest first sector, but lost tons of time in the second and even more in the third as he backed off to save the tyres. Webber looked set to move up from sixth. Maldonado did not improve from eleventh with one more lap to set. Hamilton gave up on his lap, as Webber moved up to third on a slow final sector.

Ricciardo moved up to fourth, then dropped a bit down the order. Alonso was sixteenth, even as teammate Massa moved up to tenth. Alonso could not best Massa, managing only eleventh fastest on a pushing but not good enough lap. In the end, Rosberg (1:40.473) led Hamilton, Webber, Vettel, Perez, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Raikkonen, and Massa on to the fight for pole in Q3.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Fernando Alonso
12. Paul di Resta
13. Jenson Button
14. Jean-Eric Vergne
15. Pastor Maldonado
16. Valtteri Bottas

A small queue formed to start off the ten minutes of Q3, with all drivers but Massa and Perez out within the first minute of the session. Perez set only two sector times, then returned to the garage. Massa had remained there. Hulkenberg set the first time nearly four minutes into the session. His time was well off the pace from Q2. Hamilton (1:40.501) took the early lead, only to have Rosberg, then Vettel better him.

After the first laps, Vettel (1:40.091) led Rosberg, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Webber, Grosjean, and Hulkenberg. Ricciardo also aborted his lap. Grosjean had complained of a vibration at the rear on his Lotus. Hamilton caught the kerbing on his first fast lap, sparking the undercarriage of his Mercedes in the dimming twilight. Grosjean had the vibrating rear of his Lotus step out on him as well. The team told him he “took the paint off the concrete in the garage, so that’s the vibration.” Hamilton was also complaining of a strange sensation.

Everyone returned to their garages after a single run, waiting until three minutes remained to rejoin the track. Hulkenberg did so first. Each driver had time for just one lap after the flag. Webber was the first fastest through the first sector, then fastest again through the second. He jumped from fifth to provisional pole. Vettel had improved on Rosberg, who could not do better than third. Vettel could not best his teammate. Hamilton spun at T14 in the final sector, bringing out the yellow flags. He remained fourth, his Mercedes undamaged in the spin, to start next to teammate Rosberg who was third fastest.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:

  Driver Team Time Laps
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:39.957 17
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:40.075 12
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:40.419 18
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:40.501 19
5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:40.542 20
6. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:40.576 21
7. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:40.997 21
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:41.015 18
9. Sergio Perez McLaren 1:41.068 20
10. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:41.111 21
11. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:41.093 15
12. Paul di Resta Force India 1:41.133 19
13. Jenson Button McLaren 1:41.200 15
14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:41.279 15
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:41.395 16
16. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:41.447 14
17. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:41.999 8
18. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:42.051 10
19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:43.252 10
20. Jules Bianchi* Marussia 1:43.398 7
21. Charles Pic Caterham 1:43.528 10
22. Max Chilton Marussia 1:44.198 8

*five place grid penalty for gearbox change

  • tom

    It shapes up to be an interesting race. I think the two Mercedes cars were capable of more (in theory, if you add up their best sector times, they could have easily taken pole), but both drivers made an error in their crucial lap. We will have to see how they will do in the race. Traditionally, Mercedes have been going backwards during the race, but this time, they seem to be very strong on the prime tires. But to bet against Red Bull would of course be foolish.

    Webber had a perfect lap which was great to see. I predict a fierce battle between him and Vettel. With both championships sealed, they won’t hesitate to fight each other on the track. Webber wants to leave Red Bull in style while Vettel wants to break more records.

    Hülkenberg again with an exceptional performance and given that this track isn’t particularly known for being easy to pass other cars on, he might well be a deciding factor on the track as well as potentially finishing high up in the points.

    The Lotus cars are known for their moderate tire usage, so they will be focused on gaining positions during the race and of course Ferrari is also known for being much better on Sundays than on Saturdays, so they will have similar ambitions, while McLaren wants to continue their improved race form.

    All in all this should be interesting, even if Red Bull should dominate this race once again.

    • tom

      So apparently Hamilton didn’t make an error but suffered from a suspension failure.

      Which makes me wonder something. If anyone who has a grasp of the rules could clarify this for my, I’d be grateful. What would happen if a driver sets the fastest lap on a certain set of tires and then afterwards spins and destroys that very set of tires. Would he still have to start on those tires, or could he change them. And what would happen if he had to change them because he suffered a puncture for example, would he then get a grid penalty.
      On the one hand, punishing a driver, or forcing him to start on destroyed tires seems unfair, especially if it wast his fault, on the other hand if he wouldn’t be punished, that could attract a lot of fake spins on in-laps so that the drivers could then go on to start on fresh tires.

  • Rapierman

    After qualifying, Raikkonen was DQ’ed from qualifying after his car failed inspection on the floor deflection test. He’ll start from the back of the grid.