Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Saturday news round-up

Heikki Kovalainen will start eighteenth in tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after McLaren were forced to make a gearbox change on his car.

The Finn’s session ended prematurely when he stopped out on circuit during Q2, and after close inspection it was decided that the McLaren transmission could not be repaired.

Meanwhile Kovalainen has revealed that he wants to follow in the footsteps of his fellow compatriot, Kimi Raikkonen, by being allowed to go rallying.

“In my next contract I will make sure that as well as formula one I am allowed to drive rallies,” he told the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

McLaren also welcomed its former team boss to Abu Dhabi, as Ron Dennis made a surprise visit to the pitlane. It is rumoured that the 62-year-old has returned from exile in light of Jean Todt’s election as FIA President, with old nemesis Max Mosley stepping down from the position.

Meanwhile the war of words between Adrian Sutil and Jarno Trulli continued on Saturday with the former claiming that he was fed up with the Toyota driver’s accusations.

“He will walk around with his pictures for a few weeks more and tell everybody, but… maybe I will draw a picture for him with a Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck or a Goofy or whatever. It’s done. I cannot listen to it anymore.” said the German after Trulli reportably arrived at Friday’s driver briefing armed with a laptop, photographs and sketches.

Finally Bernie Ecclestone has suggested that Nelson Piquet Jr may make a shock return to Formula One next season, partnering the newly-signed Bruno Senna at Campos Meta 1.

“It’d be good wouldn’t it, another good name,” Ecclestone is quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph. “That’s what’s being talked about actually.”

Winners and losers at end-of-term qualifying

Today’s qualifying session in the desert in Abu Dhabi was primarily remarkable for the competitive baptism of the Yas Marina track, a truly outstanding feat of engineering and construction. But Lewis Hamilton was the first star to shine, taking as he did the pole position that will stand him in extremely good stead to take his third win of the season tomorrow.

Hamilton had looked in control of a very rapid McLaren at this circuit throughout practice yesterday and this morning, and he continued the trend through the first and second sessions this afternoon. He did, in fact, wait for the very last lap of the very last session to show exactly what he was capable of – a lap of over six tenths quicker than his nearest rivals the Red Bulls. To cap it all, Hamilton is lighter than the Red Bulls, but not particularly light compared to his other immediate peers. It seems he is determined to send out a warning harbinger to the rest of the pack about what McLaren and he will do if they find themselves with a quick car next season.

Other winners include Jarno Trulli, who apparently is driving like a man wronged after his conflict with Adrian Sutil in Brazil, which rumbles on. Trulli – an acknowledged one-lap specialist – nevertheless produced a very fast lap to take sixth on the grid. It is even more creditable considering he is actually fairly heavy, and stands to do some damage to the leaders tomorrow if he can keep his nose out of trouble. He is, some suspect, driving for his F1 career – any sane racer would be driving out of his skin if he were faced with the possibility of NASCAR. His team-mate Kamui Kobayashi will be on a different strategy completely, starting as he does 15th and with buckets of petrol in the back of the car.

An honourable mention must go to Sebastien Buemi, as well. The Swiss is in a very respectable tenth on the grid, which again is made better by the presence of a large dollop of fuel onboard that Toro Rosso. He has done well this season, Buemi, although his efforts would look stellar next to Seb Bourdais and rookie Jaime Alguersuari.

First of the losers have to be Ferrari, with a struggling Raikkonen only 11th and a Giancarlo Fisichella – who is not impressing anyone at the moment – right at the back. Ferrari will be gutted that such a poor performance should come at this venue, where they are very much the guests of honour and for whom a theme park is being built. Raikkonen could be entertaining from this position, but only if the track yields what few Hermann Tilke creations have, overtaking. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

Fernando Alonso’s desire to go out on a high at Renault will surely have been thwarted with a 16th-placed grid spot. Both Renaults struggled throughout, with Seb Grosjean spinning a good few times, perhaps to get a better look at the scenery. Finally, both Force Indias will be disappointed to be at the back after strong practice times.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Post-qualifying car weights

Below is the weight of each car following qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Each driver is sorted by their qualifying position from today’s session.

Pos  Driver                             Weight (kg)
 1.  Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes        658.5
 2.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault        663.0
 3.  Webber       Red Bull-Renault        660.0
 4.  Barrichello  Brawn-Mercedes          655.0
 5.  Button       Brawn-Mercedes          657.0
 6.  Trulli       Toyota                  661.0
 7.  Kubica       BMW-Sauber              654.5
 8.  Heidfeld     BMW-Sauber              664.0
 9.  Rosberg      Williams-Toyota         665.0
10.  Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari      661.5
11.  Raikkonen    Ferrari                 692.0*
12.  Kobayashi    Toyota                  694.3*
13.  Kovalainen   McLaren-Mercedes        697.0*
14.  Nakajima     Williams-Toyota         704.0*
15.  Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari      696.5*
16.  Alonso       Renault                 708.3*
17.  Liuzzi       Force India-Mercedes    695.0*
18.  Sutil        Force India-Mercedes    696.0*
19.  Grosjean     Renault                 710.8*
20.  Fisichella   Ferrari                 692.5*

* Declared weight

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Post-qualifying Press Conference

The post-qualifying press conference for the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where an elated Lewis Hamilton took his fourth pole position in seven races, with the Red Bull’s of Sebastian Vettel in second and Mark Webber in third.

2009 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX
SATURDAY POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE October 31, 2009

DRIVERS:
1. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 1m40.948s
2. Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull), 1m41.615s
3. Mark WEBBER (Red Bull), 1m41.726s

TV UNILATERALS

Q: Lewis, your fourth pole in seven races. You have been on fire here all weekend in Abu Dhabi. Was it as easy as it looked?
Lewis HAMILTON:
Like I always say it is never easy but it definitely was as fun as it looked. The car has been I think probably the best it has been all year. It seems to really feel quite comfortable on this circuit. What they have done here is incredible and I think it is just a real pleasure to drive here and when you have definitely got the car beneath you it is just a great drive. That lap for me, we could have thought about going a bit longer, but I don t think we were particularly too aggressive but it was quite a smooth lap. It just kept getting better and better. I am very happy with it.

Q: Sebastian, you said coming into the weekend that you wanted to finish the year on a high. Second on the grid is a great way to start.
Sebastian VETTEL:
Yeah, it is. Just looking ahead both of us are a little bit surprised by the gap. Lewis has been strong all weekend and generally McLaren is very strong here and we could see already in Q1 and Q2 that it would be difficult to match them. But let s see later when we get the strategies. I think it was the maximum we could do, so very pleased so far. I think tomorrow we should have a good race. The car is working well here. It just seems that our KERS button which we have on the steering wheel is not working, so it is not an easy one but let s see tomorrow. I think we do have a good race pace. The car is getting better throughout the distance, so I am looking forward to tomorrow.

Q: Mark, two Red Bulls in the top three and the two Brawns just behind you. A great qualifying performance from you, but do you think you can hold the new champions behind you?
Mark WEBBER:
We hope so. The grid tonight is the story of the second part of the championship. Lewis has been here and there at a lot of venues, clearly they are very strong here and we will see when we get the weights, but also Seb and I are pushing as hard as we can. I enjoyed qualifying tonight and Brawn are there as well, so it is very much a message of how the second part of the championship has gone. I was pretty happy, considering when I did my lap within the session, as obviously other people can run after, so I was pretty happy.

Q: Lewis, new circuit, new country. Your feelings on this Yas Marina track and the job that they have done here to create it?
LH:
Coming here I had not really seen any pictures. I had seen perhaps a picture of the hotel or something, but the place is just stunning. They all said it would be a great event, but it is mind-blowing. What they have been able to create here is really fantastic and I expect more and more people will want to come here in the future. It is a great race to come to. I definitely will try to bring my family next time. It is a great country, it s a great part of the world. We came to Bahrain. I have been in Bahrain. I was there earlier in the week, then we came through to Dubai and then here. The weather has always been great. The people have been so respectful and so welcoming and I am sure we are going to put on a great show for everyone, so fingers crossed it is a great day tomorrow.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Lewis were you ever not going to be on pole? You have been dominant so much this weekend.
LH:
Anything could have happened. Clearly we have been very competitive all weekend and the car has felt great and I didn t have any particular doubts in my mind whether we could have done it. But it is still finding the gap, getting your tyres up to temperature, all these different things and it is easy to make mistakes but fortunately I didn t and put a really nice lap together. Very, very happy with it.

Q: What is suiting the car here particularly? The lack of slow corners, KERS worth four-tenths-of-a-second Heikki (Kovalainen) said yesterday.
LH:
Yep, it is the same at every race. You ask that question at every race. KERS, when you press that button, is worth four tenths pretty much everywhere. Three to four tenths. Here in qualifying it is around four-tenths, but obviously you have got to use it to optimise it and get the maximum from it but it works really well. The great thing is the car is working and feeling better than it has all year, so it is such a great feeling for me in the car and also for all the guys. What a great job they have done all year and what a great way to finish at least our practice session and our qualifying session and I want to go out and do the job tomorrow.

Q: What s the circuit going to be like to race on? A lot of people were worried that off line it might be dirty.
LH:
It is always dirty off line but it is not going to be somewhere like Montreal with all the bubbles off line. I don t think it will be a problem. I have been off line a couple of places and it wasn t too bad. The track surface, I mean we are always trying to improve other circuits saying the kerbs should be good here or we could improve the rumble strip here, but I can honestly say I think they have really done almost a perfect job at this track. They have really done a good job with the layout, with the track. It is very, very smooth. The kerbs are nice and in the right places and I think for the racing it looks very safe. I think there are quite a few opportunities to overtake, so it should be quite an exciting race, especially for the spectators here.

Q: How was the car on the option tyre?
LH:
For me the option and the prime are pretty much the same. Normally we see quite a big difference between them with obviously the option being a lot quicker and a little bit grippier. Here I generally find it is very, very close. There is a different kind of warm-up, different way of using them, but I preferred the prime. For me they just seemed to be a little bit more consistent throughout the lap but no doubt the track will get grippier, so who knows what tyre we will use tomorrow.

Q: Sebastian, what was the tyre choice like for you? Is it fairly simple?
SV:
Well, I think it was pretty much the same for everyone. It is difficult to point out how much there is between the tyres. I think you could see that we also favoured the prime. Overall, back to qualifying, I think it was the maximum we could do. Just a little bit surprised by the gap in the end. You know, seven tenths in qualifying is quite a big gap. Looking at the sectors, sector two I think, there are maybe a little bit too many straight lines for us, so we don t have the button. We do have it, but it doesn t work.

Q: Was there much difference as the natural light changed?
SV:
Well, it is a little bit, but you get used to it quite quickly, so you have to deal a little bit with the visor and use a darker one maybe to start and then a lighter one for the end as when the sun goes down it is a little bit darker. But it is not a big problem. I think they have done a very good job here, similar to Singapore. Even though the lights are further away I think they seem to be strong enough to make us see all the track.

Q: Mark, what about this McLaren performance? Do you think you can take the race to them tomorrow?
MW:
Easy. We are not stopping tomorrow. We don t do a pit stop. We just put the option on for the last lap and we jump them like that, so pretty straightforward.

Q: Sounds a great idea. What s the truth?
MW:
No, look, they did good job. No question about it. They are quick. I am a bit surprised by Lewis s time, both of us are, but we did our best. As I said before it is a reflection on the second part of the championship with Brawn sitting there as well behind us. These are the guys who have been there most of the season and here we are again, ready to go tomorrow. I enjoyed quali(fying) actually. As always you want a bit more out of it, but it was a good job by the team. We want to finish on a high and we have laid the foundations for a reasonable race tomorrow.

Q: Tell us your thoughts on the circuit, particularly for the race tomorrow?
MW:
It s a pretty good track. I would say the first sector is nice. It s always difficult to make a track with lots and lots of quick corners because obviously you need a lot of run-off, so I can understand it s easier in terms of space to have a lot more slower speed corners finishing the lap here. So the rhythm of the lap goes a little bit, especially in turns 11, 12, 13 all that section up there is a little bit Mickey Mouse, but it s unique in quite a lot of areas, I would say. Yeah, it s a pretty good track. For overtaking, there s obviously a very long straight, that s clear, but I think everyone s running pretty similar wing levels for their cars, so it s not like Interlagos or some other tracks where you maybe have a different opinion on end-of-straight speed. It s not going to be Interlagos, don t worry about that, but it might be better than Barcelona.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Sana Bagersh Abu Dhabi Tempo) What are each of you going to do between now and tomorrow s race, to prepare mentally or physically? Any specially rituals, any relaxation techniques?
SV:
Sleep. It s quite late already. I think everyone has his own way to get prepared. Obviously everyone is trying to get a good night s sleep, rest, then tomorrow. I don t know what the others do, if they have a dance or whatever. I think, for myself, dancing for rain would be pretty useless here, but yeah, just trying to go through. Obviously later we will know a little bit more about strategy and then just trying to prepare, to focus on the start and then seeing how the race goes.
LH: Yeah, same for me really. A little bit different to some of the other tracks. The climate change: it s so much hotter here, so the race will be very tough tomorrow, so you could perhaps focus on the preparation a little bit more in terms of the amount of rest you get, the fluids through the night, drinking plenty. I will probably have to make a pit stop during the night, because you ve just got to drink as much as you can for the race tomorrow. And then just good food, we re staying in town and I m just going to enjoy myself, make sure I enjoy the weather, might sit on the beach, just relaxing things. I ve got the girlfriend with me, so just relax.
MW: Yup, pretty similar: yeah, good sleep, good food and I get to the track as late possible tomorrow. No point in getting in too early. But generally the GP2 cars have been my wake-up call at the hotel, so I will sleep until they start up. But it s very easy for us, we re staying close here, so relax, there s no hassle with traffic like some other venues we have like Brazil or in Shanghai. We have a lot of tracks like that where there s a bit of a palaver getting to the track but here it s a lot more straightforward, so that helps our preparation.

Q: (Tomas Richter TV Nova) It looks like the most difficult corners are those before the hotel and turn one. The race will be long and hot; first of all do you agree and secondly do you expect some difficulties during the race?
MW:
Yeah, you re right, there are some difficult corners in the last sector, there s no question about it, it s easy to get in there a little bit deep and not hit the apex cleanly. Turn one, you re right, is the same. It s easy to get a little bit out of the track there but all the guys are fit these days, there should be no problems tomorrow night. It s a pretty long race but we ve had worse. There are a lot of straights you can relax on, so this track is not that physically demanding, it s just a bit warm.
SV: As Mark said, there are some difficult corners, not only turn one and 15, 16, 17. Turn one is still outstanding; it s quite quick and it s blind, so it s very easy to overshoot, to make a mistake at the entrance and you have a long straight following, obviously turn two, three, four which is flat, but whatever you lose there you pay the price for. 15, 16, 17 is easy to lose the car on the entrance and if you go wide it s very easy to go off-line and then it s quite dirty, like everywhere else, but you lose a lot of time easily. Let s see tomorrow. I think the start is the key, turn one, and then it will be interesting going down the long straight. Obviously I hope I will be ahead of Lewis or at least right on his back, and then have a good space. I hope that Mark and myself will have good space to whoever comes behind us.
LH: I don t particularly want to comment just on those corners. I think turn one is obviously very important for the beginning of the race but it s fairly straightforward. The great part of this track is that even though we do have a couple of high speed corners, maybe it will be tough to follow through two, three, four but it s not difficult to stay behind someone through five, six, seven, so that means you can be close to them and have a good chance of towing them down the back straight. Also braking into eight and nine, again it s easy to be quite close and then relatively easy to have another shot going down the other back straight. Clearly, then, it gets a bit tighter and a little bit harder to follow, but I think it should provide some good racing, being able to be a little bit closer than normal. You normally have the long flowing corners and you lose a little bit and then you have this long straight and you never really catch up. I hope I feel it s designed quite well.

Q: (Vajta Balazs Autosport Es Formula) For all three drivers: the last two or three days we ve basically heard only positive words about the track: how great it is, the facilities and everything else. I know it s also very hard to name negative aspects about yourself, but can you name or point out some negative points about the track?
MW:
We re paid lots of money to say good stuff, obviously. You know that we get backhanders to say that it s a great track, so we re not going to say anything negative. The deal is done before we all arrive, so 20 drivers, we get a backhander, easy from there! It s a great facility, it s a good track.
LH: (to the journalist) You should try and get in on it!
SV: I think probably the worst thing is that you get a wake-up call from the GP2 cars, if you re sleeping at the track. Other than that: similar. Just to sum it up as well, and what we all agreed on in the drivers briefing: we come to many new circuits, more and more and there are always bits and pieces which can be improved, but here everything is pretty much spot on: kerbs, everything.

Q: (Vajta Balazs Autosport Es Formula) But were you expecting a boring race because of the track layout?
SV:
No, I don t think so. As they said, you have a very long straight here and the key is that you don t have high speed corners leading onto that straight like in Shanghai. You have a tight corner leading onto the back straight, but it opens up and then it s difficult to follow other cars, whereas here you have the complex of five, six, seven which is quite low speed and then obviously the longer straight, leading into another low speed section, eight and nine, which gives you another chance if you ve used the tow and then stay close to whoever is in front for turn eleven. As we ve seen in the GP2 race and also the Porsche SuperCup race it should be a good race tomorrow. You are always smarter after a Grand Prix distance but it looks promising so far.

Red Bull drivers still hopeful of a strong Grand Prix

Although surprised by the pace of Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren, both Red Bull drivers were happy with their qualifying performance and hope for a strong Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel will line up second on the grid for tomorrow’s race, with his team-mate, Mark Webber one place behind in third.

Sebastian Vettel – 2nd: “I think both Mark and were surprised by the gap to Lewis. He’s been quick all weekend and the McLaren seems to be generally very strong here. We could see in Q1 and Q2 that it would be difficult to match their pace, so think this was the maximum we could do today. I’m very pleased so far, it should be a good race. The car is working well here; it just seems that our KERS button, which we have on the steering wheel, isn’t working! But, let’s see. think we have a good race pace and the car is getting better and better. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Mark Webber – 3rd: “A good day for the team – I’m happy to starting near the front of the grid and we have a good chance tomorrow for a strong result. I’m surprised Hamilton’s time, McLaren have done very good job, no question about it, it seems that this suits them. We’re going to have our cut out to beat Lewis tomorrow, but we’re going to give it our best shot. I think the KERS gives them good advantage but, even without that, clearly have a good car here. But, it’s long race and anything can happen.”

Christian Horner: Firstly, what fantastic venue. Dhabi has amazing job track is a brilliant addition to calendar. It good final qualifying session of both cars comfortably through in both drivers delivered really laps. Second third is a very team result. on pole by reasonable but we hope push him hard race tomorrow. should be a exciting finale season.”

Fabrice Lom, Renault, Principal Engineer Track Support: “A good team effort. Coming here, we didn’t think this track would suit us so well, so it’s a good result. Second and third is the best we could do today I think, especially when we see Hamilton’s pace – he’s very, very quick, so congratulations to him for his pole position. We’ll try to make life hard for him tomorrow and score the maximum number of points to end the season on a high.”

Raikkonen: Ferrari achieved its maximum pace

Kimi Raikkonen has admitted that the chances of Ferrari securing third position in the Constructors championship looks unlikely aftr the Finn was only good enough for eleventh on the grid.

After getting the most out of his car, Raikkonen is now banking on luck in tomorrow’s race.

Giancarlo Fisichella qualified last and later apologised to Ferrari for his poor pace since joining the team.

Kimi Raikkonen – 11th: “Today we got the most out of the car, but we did not have the necessary performance to make it into Q3. Already yesterday, we realized that it would be tough, so this result is definitely not a surprise. Tomorrow, we will try to do our best, but it’s certainly not going to be an easy race, even though we should definitely be more competitive in the race than in qualifying. What I can say is that eleventh place is better than tenth, given that I will start from the clean side of the track and can choose the ideal fuel load. It will be hard to get third in the Constructors’, because the McLaren is very competitive. We will have to try and get some points and hope for a bit of luck.”

Giancarlo Fisichella – 20th: “We knew it would be tough, but I don’t think we could have expected much more. In the first and second sectors I was reasonably competitive, but in the final one I had a lot of understeer. Tomorrow will be hard, but I know I can manage a strong pace: we will do our best to get a good result. I am disappointed not to have been able to do better in these races with Ferrari as it would be nice to reward the team that has had trust in me, by bringing them some points. It has not been easy adapting my driving style to a car that is particularly difficult to drive and at a time when, more and more, it felt the effects of the ending of its development programme.”

Chris Dyer: “Obviously, we are disappointed with this result, in both Giancarlo’s and Kimi’s case. The behaviour of the tyres was rather unusual, with the harder compound turning out to be the quickest. With Kimi, we used both types of tyre in Q1 to try and understand the situation, while with Giancarlo, we concentrated on the softs: unfortunately, we saw that the drivers who did not get to Q2 were precisely those who had done their best time on this tyre. In the second part of qualifying, Kimi did his best, but failed to make the cut to Q3 by a very small margin. We didn’t have enough speed to do it, which we need to do something about. I think we will witness an interesting race: the performance of the tyres will evolve still further and I think Kimi can possibly get a good result.”

Vibration halts Button’s charge

Jenson Button blamed a vibration in his brakes for only managing fifth on the grid for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The new World champion was aiming for the second row of the grid, but was ultimately beaten by his team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber.

Barrichello starts fourth for tomorrow’s race and claims that he will go flat out to beat Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ standings.

Rubens Barrichello – 4th: “It was a good qualifying session for us today and I’m quite happy with fourth position and what we have achieved. The car is still very competitive but the Red Bulls and McLarens seem to be ahead of us here. It’s been challenging to get the right set-up throughout the weekend as the sessions are taking place in very different track and ambient conditions. The car seems to improve towards the end of the day with the cooler temperatures so we can hope that the track comes towards us tomorrow. It’s very close with Sebastian for second position in the Championship and I’ll be going to be flat out for the best result.”

Jenson Button – 5th: “The car has felt good here all weekend and the first two sessions went well in qualifying today. Unfortunately in Q3 when we were running with high fuel and new tyres, I started to get massive vibrations every time that I hit the brakes which made the steering wheel shudder. With such a smooth circuit any kind of vibration just leads to understeer which made the car quite a handful to drive. It’s frustrating as we had the potential for a better performance today and should have been challenging for the first row behind Lewis. Hopefully we can solve the issue before the race and I’m looking forward to a good fight tomorrow.”

Ross Brawn: “We went into qualifying in pretty good shape this evening having confirmed some of our conclusions on the tyres during the practice session this afternoon. The qualifying hour went to plan in Q1 and Q2 although we struggled, like many others, with traffic and achieving clear laps when the tyres were at their best. Unfortunately in Q3, Jenson suffered with a significant vibration on his last set of tyres which we are now investigating and this compromised his performance. However fourth position on the grid for Rubens and fifth place for Jenson is a good result. We should be in reasonable shape for the race tomorrow and are looking forward to the challenge of finishing the season on a high.”

Rosberg aiming to protect championship positions

Nico Rosberg hopes to defend his position in the World drivers’ championship after qualifying ninth in Abu Dhabi.

The Williams driver is also wary of BMW Sauber’s threat to Williams in the Constructors tables and say he will do everything he can to make sure that they are not leapfrogged in what will be his final race for the Grove squad.

Kazuki Nakajima was fourteenth and hopes for some action in the opening lap of the Grand Prix to help his quest for points.

Nico Rosberg, 9th: The session went okay, I think ninth was around the best we could get out of today, we are definitely struggling on the open sections of this circuit, but points are definitely possible here and very important for us this weekend. From the fifth row and with a good strategy tomorrow, we can stay ahead of BMW in the constructors and I can hold seventh position ahead of Trulli in the drivers’ championship. It’s a good track, not easy and very hot but this is also the last race for me with Williams and I want to do the best for this great team.

Kazuki Nakajima, 14th: I’m a bit disappointed because I didn’t manage to put everything together in Q2, but there was still a reasonable gap to the first ten, so maybe I wouldn’t have made it into the final qualifying session anyway. The track demands that you are precise all the time and one mistake here is costly, which makes it pretty difficult. I don’t think it will be easy to overtake tomorrow, but because of the nature of sectors 1 and 2, we could have a pretty crazy first lap tomorrow, so I still believe anything is possible.

Rod Nelson, Chief Operations Engineer: It was a reasonably straightforward qualifying session, although we did expect the option tyre to come into its own in Q2, but this didn’t materialise, so we along with most other teams stayed on the prime tyre. We hoped that Nico had another couple of tenths in him to get among the BMWs just in front, but he starts from the clean side of the grid and he should have a competitive race. Kazuki was also looking competitive on what would have been his fastest lap at the end of the prime run in qualifying two but he ran a little wide in turn 14, got some dirt on his tyres and that unfortunately, was that.

Hamilton aims to win in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton says that he hopes to win tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to raise expectations within his McLaren team for next season.

The Briton was mighty throughout the session and recorded a pole lap nearly seven tenths of a session faster than anyone else.

However Hamilton’s pace could not be replicated by Heikki Kovalainen after the Finn suffered gearbox problems during the second segment of qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton – 1st: “My pole lap wasn’t too aggressive. I was very smooth, and it just kept getting better and better. KERS Hybrid and the engine have been fantastic all season – and today was no exception but it’s the chassis that has really come good lately and we’ve brought them all together this weekend to create the perfect package.

“Even more encouragingly, this is all a work-in-progress for next year and winning tomorrow would be a perfect way to end the season and raise our expectations for 2010. It should be an exciting race I just want to go out and do the job tomorrow.”

Heikki Kovalainen – 13th: “What a disappointing outcome to my qualifying. I got stuck in second gear during Q2 and that was it. I already had minor problems with the gearbox yesterday when it jumped out of gear, so it’s frustrating when you have a car you can easily take into Q3.

“But I’m looking at the positives: the balance of my car has been good throughout the entire weekend, and it’s been great to drive on this fantastic circuit. You can absolutely guarantee I’ll be giving it my all in the race tomorrow and I’ll be fighting from the first lap to the very last.”

Martin Whitmarsh – Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “Lewis did a brilliant job, demonstrating prodigious speed, to secure pole position in dominant fashion in Abu Dhabi this evening. We were relatively aggressive in terms of his fuel strategy, but we’ve certainly been more aggressive in a few other qualifying sessions this year and there’s therefore no doubt that his pace here is very genuine.

“Heikki, too, would have figured at or close to the front had he not been hampered by a gearbox problem not of his making, but you can be well sure that he’ll be pushing as hard as ever tomorrow to make good progress from his P13 grid slot.

“Tomorrow’s race will be an arduous one for drivers and team members alike hot and tiring but we’ll be aiming to end the season on a high by delivering a disciplined, focused and hopefully victorious performance, in an effort to secure third place in the 2009 Constructors’ World Championship.”

Norbert Haug – Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “What a great lap from Lewis. This was his fourth pole in the last seven grands prix since Valencia and certainly a very important one on this fantastic new race track here in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully we can continue in that direction tomorrow. Our race simulation laps showed yesterday that our speed is there.

“Sorry for Heikki who could not make it into Q3 due to a gearbox problem, but tomorrow is another day for him as well and he can still have a good finish in the points.

“The organisers and the hosts here did an unbelievable job to build up this very impressive venue another good reason why it would be very special to fight for a victory tomorrow at this inaugural GP of Abu Dhabi.”

Force India baffled by lack of grip

Force India experienced a disappointing Abu Dhabi qualifying session after both drivers failed to make it past Q1.

Tonio Liuzzi was seventeenth with his team-mate, Adrian Sutil one place behind.

Both drivers complained of a lack of grip which had previously not been a factor in practice.

Adrian Sutil – 18th: A very short session with a lot of problems. The car didn’t seem to have any grip at all, particularly on the rear, and there was just so much oversteer that I was just struggling to keep the car on the circuit. I’m obviously very disappointed and we need to figure out what happened. The focus will now be on the race; there’s still a long way to go and of course I will try my best to get a good result.

Tonio Liuzzi – 17th: I was pretty happy on the first run of Q1 as the car felt really good and I was confident that we had the pace to get through to Q2. But then after we changed the tyres for the second run we had a strange problem in that the grip was not there any more. It felt weird to drive with so much less grip compared to the run before. Usually the tracks improve as we run more but this was very strange. We should have been in Q2 so we have to understand how this happened – whether it was the tyres or the tyre pressures, we need to work on this now. For sure with a lot of fuel we showed a really good performance yesterday but starting so far back will not make it easy, although in Brazil we did show that we can get very close to the points from this position. It will be difficult but I think 10th will be possible tomorrow, but points are always the aim.

Dominic Harlow, chief race engineer: After our first runs in Q1 both drivers reported that their cars were reasonably balanced, but lacking a bit of grip compared to the earlier practice session today. It was then a strange situation as we ran a further set of option tyres with both cars and just couldn’t find enough grip to improve the performance enough for Q2. The car has been strong all weekend in race trim, plus there are some elements in this event that will add to the unpredictability tomorrow so we’ll do our utmost to finish the season with a strong race.