Pirelli have brought the medium compound (white sidewalls) and the soft compound (yellow sidewalls) to Abu Dhabi which they are hoping will work best on the smooth and fast surface.
Lewis Hamilton feels comfortable around the track: "I love driving here. The surroundings and the atmosphere makes it what it is."
Looks like another gorgeous day at Yas Marina, although the sun is starting to set, and that makes the track temperature super important.
Tweet from @Marussia_F1Team: For Qualifying then, because we were quite happy, we have made no significant changes other than to prepare the car for the cooler temps
Lewis Hamilton stands in the garage, studying a laptop before he puts his helmet on. Jenson Button, meanwhile, is already being strapped into the car.
Vettel is shrugging himself into his race suit, headphones firmly on his ears. He's probably listening to Big Bad Wolf.
Qualifying session 1 begins.
Kobayashi leads Grosjean out of the pitlane, through the tunnel and out onto track. They're quickly joined by many more!
Pole position last year was 1:38.481 set by none other than Sebastian Vettel.
The sun is already starting to cast shadows across the circuit, and we've only just got started.
Kobayashi is off on his first timed lap, but Maldonado is already faster through the first sector behind him.
Kamui has a small lockup as he winds his way through the final sector, and crosses the line with a 1:43.939. As expected, Maldonado tops him immediately.
All cars are now out on track except for Hamilton, Rosberg and the two Red Bull drivers.
As I type, Hamilton exits the garage and heads out for his first lap of the afternoon.
Fernando Alonso jumps up to P1 with a 1:42.574, but Maldonado is already on another hot lap.
Just the two Red Bull drivers remain in the garage, with twelve minutes left on the clock.
Maldonado heads straight back to P1, and then goes for a quick pit stop. Meanwhile, Hamilton has a big lockup and runs wide, ruining the lap he was on.
A very slow first lap from Nico Rosberg, way down in the 1:57s, but he improves up to 10th place with a 1:43. Much better.
So, if you discount the Red Bulls who have only just left the garage, the drop zone features the usual suspects and... Lewis Hamilton.
Paul di Resta is on the radio complaining about the amount of traffic out there, and how impossible it is to get a clear lap. He's currently 14th.
Hamilton is on a flyer now, it's a 1:41.497 that puts him up to P1.
Ron Dennis is watching on in the McLaren garage, arms folded, no trace of any emotion on his face.
The drop zone looks more normal now, Caterham, HRT, Marussia and Jean-Éric Vergne.
Replays show Sebastian Vettel bounced off the wall at turn 19, just a Monaco-style kiss. It didn't stop him moving up to 13th, just behind Webber in 12th.
Hamilton is sitting in the pitlane, presumably happy with his time. Vettel improves to fourth, but he's almost a second off the McLaren's time.
The Ferraris have found a bit of pace, Alonso sits second, just half a second off Hamilton. Massa is less than a tenth behind his teammate.
Vettel's radio informs him that his lap is good enough, so it's up to him whether he goes for another.
Now it is just the top four drivers in the pitlane, with everyone else still out lapping. Hamilton, Alonso, Massa and Button all happy with their times.
There's a reasonable gap that Vergne would have to make up to improve, but if he did, Kobayashi would be in trouble - the Sauber driver currently sitting 17th.
Yellow flags as Vergne spins off.
Track is clear.
The Toro Rosso driver had a good first sector, but was really fighting the car for the rest of the lap. He hit the kerbs and spun off, but got the car moving again in time for another lap.
Team radio to Vergne: "The tyres are okay, JEV, try to push for one more lap."
Qualifying session 1 ends.
Vergne doesn't manage to improve on his lap. Pic improved to pop up over Kovalainen, but the Caterham driver snatched the position back. Pic now splits the Caterham duo.
Race Control: Incident involving Pérez and Senna will be investigated after qualifying.
We didn't see that incident, it must be some kind of blocking issue.
|18||JE Vergne||Toro Rosso|
|23||P De la Rosa||HRT|
Fastest three in that session were Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber.
Comment from Pat W: "Caterham and Marussia only covered by half a second, that fight has got close again."
It's not quite night time, but we don't get to use this very much!
Qualifying session 2 begins.
Paul di Resta and Sergio Pérez head out on track in the first thirty seconds, both on soft tyres.
Two minutes gone and we now have all the cars out on track barring Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hülkenberg.
Tweet from @Pirelli_Media: "So only Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus and Perez used just the white medium in Q1. Everybody else needed the yellow soft. #F1"
Pérez pops the first laptime in - a 1:42.313, as Paul di Resta opts out of his lap and returns to the pitlane. Vettel also leaves the garage, leaving just Hulk as the only driver not to emerge yet.
One Force India in, the other one heads out. Meanwhile, Pastor Maldonado jumps up to P1, and then both the Lotus drivers beat him to it.
Ten times on the board now. Hamilton has returned to P1 with a 1:41.366, Webber two tenths behind him.
Vettel crosses the line to begin his flying lap.
Replays show Vettel fighting the car in places, jumping over the kerbs and losing his way a little. Not smooth sailing for the German, at any rate.
Alonso posts the second fastest time, but as he heads down the home straight, he waves a hand in frustration.
It's second for Vettel with a 1:41.511, still two tenths off Hamilton.
Team radio to Alonso: "We saw that, we saw that. Stay calm."
Saw what though? I didn't see it!
Comment from Lukeh: Maybe Andrea got excited because he saw the hotel go red
Hamilton improves his pace yet again, we're now on 1:40.901.
The drop zone currently features Rosberg, Schumacher, Pérez, Senna, Kobayashi, Ricciardo and Di Resta.
It's 11th for Di Resta on his first lap. With his teammate 10th, it's not a safe session for Force India so far.
The top six drivers are all back in the pitlane, the rest still fighting for the last three minutes.
Maldonado is on a flyer again, a personal best in the first sector but not so good in the second. He's currently 9th.
Now it is just the top four drivers who are happy with the times. Both Lotus cars are on a lap again.
Tweet from @TheFifthDriver: Darkness has officially fallen over Yas Marina; the biggest permanent lighting system in the world has taken over.
Di Resta crosses the line and it's still not enough to move him into the top ten. He has time for another lap but the pace doesn't look like it is there.
Qualifying session 2 ends.
|11||N Hülkenberg||Force India|
|13||P Di Resta||Force India|
|17||D Ricciardo||Toro Rosso|
Fastest three in that session were Hamilton, Webber and Vettel.
Both Felipe Massa and Jenson Button were close to the front line though, finishing that session 8th and 9th respectively.
Kobayashi climbs from the car and looks bitterly disappointed. Di Resta looks more like he was expecting nothing less.
|Force India||Qualified Ahead|
|Paul Di Resta||8|
Replays of the last bit of Alonso's lap don't make it any clearer why he's annoyed at Webber. The Red Bull driver was a good way in front of him.
Räikkönen heads out to the end of the pitlane, eager to get the session underway.
Qualifying session 3 begins.
The rest of the drivers head out, the McLaren boys following each other on track.
Just Massa and Maldonado wait it out for now.
It's getting properly dark over the circuit now, the floodlights are doing all the work. Track temperature remains at 30°C though.
Tweet from @InsideFerrari: So this time Fernando is in the same situation as his main opponents in terms of tyres: two new sets of Options available.
Maldonado heads out, leaving Massa on his own in the pitlane. Nine cars heading towards their first times of the session.
Kimi crosses the line first, a 1:41.756. That won't be P1 for long.
Grosjean slips in behind his teammate as Alonso tops them both. Rosberg moves to second, as Hamilton crosses the line with a 1:40.630.
Button and Webber slot into position behind. Hamilton has over half a second to P2.
Vettel improves the time on second place, 1:41.093. Still off Hamilton's pace for now.
Meanwhile, Maldonado returned to the garage without setting a time, and Massa has emerged from the pit lane for his own attempt.
Massa locks up as he heads round on to one of the looong straights. That won't help his time.
Eight drivers have returned to the pitlane for a quick stop before the final shootout for pole. Massa and Maldonado are making the most of the quiet.
Räikkönen heads out first again, followed by Webber, Alonso and Grosjean.
Massa moves up to sixth as the rest of the contenders head back out on track. Rosberg is out of the car, though, he won't try another lap.
Rosberg currently fifth, but he'll likely be knocked down by the end.
Just over a minute remaining.
Maldonado's first lap is third, just behind Hamilton and Vettel. Not bad for Williams there!
Qualifying session 3 ends.
So, Kimi improves to fifth from ninth place.
Webber sits fourth and he jumps up to second.
Alonso is sixth and doesn't look set to improve. He remains sixth.
Vettel sits third and he remains third as well!
Button moves up to sixth, pushing Alonso down a place.
Hamilton doen't bother finishing his lap because he knows he has pole position in the bag.
|2||M Webber||Red Bull|
|3||S Vettel||Red Bull|
Vettel has stopped out on track, and he's sitting on the car not looking very happy at all.
The medical car was dispatched to pick Vettel up, Hamilton and Webber are waiting for him to pose for their top three photo!
Interview with Christian Horner: "It was a positive qualifying. We knew McLaren would be fast. It was a good lap from Lewis, we just need to make sure we convert these grid positions into a good performance in the race."
He won't be drawn on why Vettel stopped though, there was a "request from the engine rack" but he doesn't know (or won't say) what it is yet.
Interview with Jenson Button: "Not very good. All weekend the car's been good, I've been happy. But in qualifying, didn't have any lap time, or too much lap time. If I knew what it was, we would have sorted it out. Obviously the car is quick, Lewis is on pole by quite a bit. It's a lot of lap time, and I don't know where that's gone."
Interview with Pastor Maldonado: "I think we showed all through the weekend we were very competitive and consistent in different conditions. I did my best in quali, the car was there, very happy for the team and for myself as well. We're back again and looking forward to the race tomorrow.
"I mean, we need to look at ourselves. Points will be very important for us, I will push the maximum and we'll see. I think we have a strong pace, very competitive like the top teams. We're going to be very competitive tomorrow."
Press Conference Quotes - Lewis Hamilton: "Very excited. First time for a long time to be ahead of the Red Bulls, not to see the tail of them at the start of the race. I know that's going to be very tough in the race, as they have great race pace. I hope we'll be strong enough to fight them.
"The team have done a fantastic job all weekend, the car has felt beautiful all weekend. I don't know why the car works so well here, we've not really made any improvements to the car since the last race. I guess it just suits the track, and the guys are still massively focused and I hope that tomorrow is a good day for us."
Press Conference Quotes - Mark Webber: "First of all credit to Lewis and McLaren for the great car this weekend. They bumped us off the front row, first time in a while where they had momentum 6-8 weeks ago, then we had a good run so credit where it's due.
"I think it was a pretty smooth qualifying session for both Seb and I, we did what we could and we're still a long way up the grid. I think it went well, we've got a little bit of friendly fire going on that we need to tidy up. The quality of the team is exceptional, we know what we need to improve on to help both championships on."
Press Conference Quotes - Sebastian Vettel: "I don't know why I had to stop, I was asked to stop, I think probably some problem. It shouldn't be something major. This morning wasn't ideal not being able to run, we didn't get the answers we were hoping for. This afternoon we were settling in quite well and the pace was there.
"As Mark touched on, McLaren and Lewis are pretty quick, they were out of reach today. Not entirely happy with my qualifying, the last part was quite tricky for me, I think I should have been a little bit quicker, whether there would have been enough to beat Mark is on another sheet of paper but all in all I think we can be quite happy. Race pace should be good tomorrow, it's a long race here, a lot of things can happen. Looking forward to tomorrow."
And that about wraps things up for qualifying in Abu Dhabi. We've got a great grid to spice things up tomorrow - the first few laps should be fascinating.
Hopefully the track can deliver a decent race, it has not been known for that previously, but as both championships are coming down to the wire, there's a lot at stake.
Thanks for joining me today, and do hurry on back tomorrow for marvellous race coverage too. I'll see you then!
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