Pirelli are bringing the medium and soft compounds this weekend, the same selection we saw last time in India. The tyres were a huge part of the strategy at the Buddh track, with the gap between the two compounds huge. They'll likely be closer this weekend, though, particularly as the twilight hours bring the temperatures down.
|Free Practice 1||R Grosjean||1:44.241|
|Free Practice 2||S Vettel||1:41.335|
|Free Practice 3||S Vettel||1:41.349|
There's a lot of attention on Vettel, but Lewis Hamilton has traditionally gone very well in Abu Dhabi. He secured pole position last year, with a 1:40.630.
There's a lot of shots this weekend of Nico Rosberg doing keepy-uppys in the paddock. Not sure why his football skills need displaying this weekend, but he's enjoying the kick about.
Putting the final touches on the Williams ahead of qualifying, via @dickiestanford.
Here's an inter-team qualifying battle worth watching - Alonso has been pretty strong all season, but Felipe Massa has topped him for the last few races. Alonso has looked to be struggling this weekend as well.
Breaking news, Jules Bianchi is set to get a five place grid drop after qualifying today. The Marussia driver hit the barriers during final practice today, and now faces a gearbox change.
Team radio to Pic: "Track temperature has dropped the ten degrees were expected."
Qualifying session 1 begins.
Paul di Resta heads out first, but the pack soon follows him - ten cars on track after just a minute or so.
Now we have 19 cars on track, with just Vettel, Webber and Alonso remaining in the garage to await better track conditions.
Paul di Resta sets the first time of the session, a relatively slow 1:52.651. Even Chilton manages to knock a few seconds off that time!
Tyres are making the difference though. Chilton is already on the softer compound. Vergne, on the medium tyres pushes the benchmark to 1:43.442.
The Mercedes pair cross the line for their first laps - medium tyres on - P1 and P2, Rosberg ahead.
There's a lot of talk about drivers staying inside the track limits, and particularly at the final corner here. It's not clear how strict the stewards will be about it though.
Fernando Alonso has emerged for his first lap, the two Red Bulls remaining in the garage.
Team radio from Lewis Hamilton: "After this session, I need to change my visor. Or change my helmet, please."
Tweet from @F1onNBCSports: Ferrari have struggled so far this weekend, but Fernando Alonso goes third-fastest with his first timed lap, six-tenths down on Rosberg.
Rosberg currently leads with a 1:42.567, Hamilton is just six thousandths of a second behind.
In the drop zone, if you assume the Red Bulls will scrape through, Grosjean, Pic, Van der Garde, Bottas, Chilton and Bianchi.
Replays show Button running wide off track, Grosjean and Pérez also struggling to keep the car under control.
Meanwhile, the sun is starting to set, and at various points around the track, it's going to get right in your eyes. I hate that.
Button gets control of his McLaren and sets the third fastest time of the session. Pérez tucks in behind him in fourth.
Vettel and Webber emerge, blinking into the setting sun, just as a lot of the field return to the pit lane.
We're getting little replay montages here, as first Pastor Maldonado runs wide off track both before and after a particular corner. Felipe Massa also has to wrestle the steering wheel to stay on line.
The Red Bull drivers have both put on the soft tyres for their first, and likely only, stint.
Ted News: Lotus have learnt from last week's qualifying disaster, and put both their drivers on the quicker tyres.
Grosjean is still in the drop zone though, he needs to get a good lap in quickly.
Vettel's first lap time is a 1:41.683 for P1, but then Webber rounds the final corner and beats his teammate by a tenth.
Grosjean receives specific instructions regarding upshifting at certain corners, via @Lotus_F1Team.
Felipe Massa is also sitting in the drop zone, having run the medium compounds so far. He's bolted on the softer tyres now, so he, like Grosjean, just has to put in a sensible lap now.
Just over two minutes left on the clock, Webber and Vettel come back into the pit lane from third and fifth. The rest of the field are all out on track.
Grosjean crosses the line for second place, that'll do the trick!
Fellow Lotus driver Kimi Räikkönen has posted an even faster time, the P1 time now 1:41.276.
The drop zone now features Pérez, Van der Garde, Massa, Pic, Chilton and Bianchi.
Pérez improves and drops Alonso into the drop zone. Serious trouble for Ferrari but not for long - Fernando improves to second. Phew!
Felipe Massa does one better and posts the fastest time of the session.
Qualifying session 1 ends.
Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil drop into the drop zone.
Drivers seem to be going from the drop zone to the top of the times, as Lewis pops in a P1 time to haul himself out.
|18||A Sutil||Force India|
|19||G van der Garde||Caterham|
Bianchi will drop to the back of the field, of course. Sutil lines up directly behind Gutiérrez, the Force India/Sauber battle close as ever!
The fastest three in that session were Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen.
Tweet from @clubforce: Sadly, Adrian was unlucky with his lap on soft tyres - 1:42.051 puts him in P18 and out of the rest of qualifying.
|Force India||Qualified Ahead|
|P di Resta||10|
Qualifying session 2 begins.
It's Paul di Resta exiting the pit lane first again, trundling through the tunnel and up out onto the track.
Nico Hülkenberg heads out for his first lap, and others soon follow. Soft tyres are the rubber of choice at the moment.
With four minutes gone, all drivers are out on track bar Sergio Pérez.
Paul di Resta sets the first lap time of the session, a 1:41.477.
Tweet from @InsideFerrari: Time to go for the 1st run of Q2 - Used Softs for both drivers
Hülkenberg jumps ahead of Di Resta, Button settles behind. Mark Webber crosses the line for his first lap of the session and can only manage second.
Kimi Räikkönen sets the fastest time of the session so far - 1:40.971. But the Mercedes pair are on a charge.
Rosberg knocks almost half a second off Kimi's benchmark.
Both Williams drivers get through to Q2, via @WilliamsF1Team.
Vettel crosses the line for third place, as Hamilton again moves to within inches of his teammate. Four thousandths between the two.
With all drivers having set a time, the drop zone features: Di Resta, Alonso, Ricciardo, Maldonado, Bottas and Button.
The Mercedes crew are running/pushing Rosberg all the way down the pit lane, the car having a quick trip to the weighbridge. Ooh, that looks like a long way to jog.
Five minutes left on the clock and the track falls silent as most cars return to the pit lane.
Both Williams drivers are out on track, Maldonado is currently 14th with Bottas in 15th.
The top four are in the garage, Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel and Räikkönen. The rest are all out on track, battling to stay in the qualifying fight.
Button currently sits 16th and last of the runners. Pérez is just in the top ten, only a tenth of a second between him and eleventh place.
Team radio to Hamilton: "Okay, Lewis, we're just going to send you round and abort at the last minute. We'll let you know."
He and Räïkkönen do both come back out on track, with just Rosberg 1st and Vettel 3rd staying confident in the garage.
Qualifying session 2 ends.
Final laps on for the drivers then. The Williams pair crossed the line but couldn't make it into the top ten - they had enough time to go again though.
Button improves to tenth, but that might not be enough. Webber moves up to third.
Hamilton pits without finishing that lap.
Button does drop back into the bottom six, as Paul di Resta also fails to get through.
Alonso was down to 16th, he hustled that car round the track but could only manage 11th. That's the first time he's not made it into Q3 this year. Massa slips into tenth.
|12||P di Resta||Force India|
|14||JE Vergne||Toro Rosso|
Massa qualifies ahead of his teammate once again, fifth time in a row.
Meanwhile, Button gets on the radio baffled as to how they went from sixth fastest in practice this morning, to 13th in qualifying.
The fastest three in that session were Rosberg, Hamilton and Webber.
Tweet from @MercedesAMGF1: Track temp has now stabilised at 34C. Let's see what we can do in the next session...
Tweet from @virtualstatman: The last time Fernando Alonso @alo_oficial failed to reach Q3, he won the race (Valencia 2012) #F1
Qualifying session 3 begins.
Crofty fact: Three of the four runnings of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, only one pole-sitter has managed to get to the end of the race.
There was a bit of a traffic jam at the end of the pit lane there, and nine cars are out early. Felipe Massa remains in the garage.
The lights are starting to make a real difference as the sun dips behind the horizon and darkness sets in.
Mark Webber sweeps past his slightly slower teammate Vettel to get ahead on track. First time that's happened this season!
Interview with Jenson Button: "It's obviously a lot cooler, and we're maxed out on the front wing. We just don't have anything else we can do on the car to help the front end... I don't know, quite frustrating because this morning was really good."
Hamilton's Mercedes throws up some sparks as he runs wide and scrapes over the surface.
Nico Hülkenberg sets the first time of the session, with a 1:41.379. Hamilton beats it, and Rosberg tops them all.
Webber settles into third, as Vettel jumps to P1 with a 1:40.091. That's pretty fast, and three tenths ahead of Rosberg.
Seven times on the board, with Ricciardo and Pérez back in the pit lane, and no sign of Massa yet.
All drivers return to the pit lane except for Romain Grosjean, currently sitting in sixth place.
View of the floodlit track from the grandstands, via @Antonela.
Ten drivers hit the track, with just about two minutes on the clock.
Webber posts the fastest time in the first sector. And the second. Can he top his teammate's time?
Qualifying session 3 ends.
Webber crosses the line for P1, a 1:39.957.
Yellow flags as Lewis Hamilton has spun.
Vettel could finish his lap, he'd already passed the yellow flag area - but he couldn't match Webber's time, and remained in second place.
Hamilton's Mercedes is beached on the blue tarmac. He's out of the car, looking forlornly at the equipment, as it gently smokes.
Pole position for Mark Webber with a time of 1:39.957.
|1||M Webber||Red Bull|
|2||S Vettel||Red Bull|
|10||D Ricciardo||Toro Rosso|
Tweet from @PirelliSport: Soft tyres all the way in Q3 too. Webber fastest with a superb 1.39.957s. Congratulations to the Australian for a great lap!
It's not, perhaps, the result Vettel would have wanted but he'll be comforted that Webber isn't known for his great race starts.
Hamilton's spin was unfortunate, but Mercedes lock out the second row so have plenty of opportunity to make up positions in the race.
Alonso has a lot of work to do, and he doesn't seem to have the car under him or the motivation to do it.
I'll be back this time tomorrow to cover every lap of the race, I hope you'll join me then as we cross off the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from our 2013 list!
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