Yesterday, Saturday 31st October 2009, saw 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton get his 17th Formula 1 pole position in Abu Dhabi. That in itself is one for the record books, with this being the historic first Formula 1 race in Abu Dhabi. What makes this pole position stand out more than most is the margin of victory that Hamilton achieved.
Qualifying has been a very close run event this year, with mere hundreds of a second separating grid places and pole position often changing several times in the closing seconds of Q3. If I were to throw out a figure of 0.7 seconds you’d be forgiven for thinking that was maybe the time separating the top 10 drivers, but no, that was the margin that Lewis Hamilton beat out second place Sebastian Vettel to claim the pole position in today’s race.
Hamilton had been on form in the three practice sessions with a first and second fastest in the two Friday sessions and second only to champion-elect Jenson Button in Saturday’s 3rd practice. The course, with it’s many twists and turns, seems tailor made for the MP4-24 and even before this blistering qualifying performance the bookies had Lewis Hamilton as the clear favourite to be today’s winner.
With that ever-important KERS boost button, we could see Hamilton pull away from his rivals at the start and be a huge distance ahead when he comes in to make his first pit stop around the 17-20 lap mark, depending on what report you read. When the fuel weights were released it was impressive to see that Hamilton was carrying around the same weight as those around him and more in the case of drivers like Jenson Button. For some great graphical representations of various qualifying stats then I recommend everyone visit Making Up The Numbers – F1 viewed from the numbers perspective.
Heikki Kovalainen wasn’t so lucky and after being impressive himself in practice, being the man to beat Lewis Hamilton into 2nd place in Friday Practice 2, he made it through to Q2 only to have gearbox failure and qualify in 13th place. It didn’t end there, needing a replacement gearbox Kovalainen gets an automatic 5 place grid penalty and will start today’s race from 18th. He is in a great car to make up places but the nature and dustiness of the track may not allow much opportunity for overtaking. Heikki Kovalainen’s swan song at McLaren may not be the great race it could of and really should have been.
As was mentioned before, Sebastian Vettel qualified in 2nd and with Rubens Barrichello qualifying in 4th it would seem that 2nd place in the Drivers Championship is within reach for the young Red Bull driver. With Kimi Raikkonen qualifying in 12th and Giancarlo Fisichella in 20th, 3rd place in the constructors championship should be heading to McLaren.
Many are reporting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is Lewis Hamilton’s to lose, let’s hope he doesn’t.