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Mark Webber takes pole position at Abu Dhabi GP

November 2, 2013

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Mark Webber beat Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel’s time at the end of qualifying Saturday to take pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The veteran Australian is competing in his final season in Formula One and still looking for his first win of 2013. He aims to end Vettel’s run of six straight race wins on Sunday.

The 37-year-old Webber got his second pole from the past three races and 13th of his career.

“Good day and it puts in a good position for tomorrow,” said Webber, who clocked 1 minute, 39.957 seconds. Vettel timed 1:40.075.

“It was a good lap on a track that, in the past, hasn’t been super invigorating for me in terms of layout but we certainly enjoyed qualifying today,” Webber said. “I knew I had to work on certain sections of the track which Sebastian had already been doing a good job there, so I needed to match him and keep the areas where I was still doing well.”

Vettel, who has already clinched his fourth straight F1 title, had taken pole in four of the past five races.

“I did what I could today but it wasn’t enough. That’s why I apologized to the team. I messed up a bit on turn 1, it’s a tricky corner,” Vettel said. “I think it’s a great result for the team, first of all.”

Mercedes starts on the second row, with Nico Rosberg ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who spun his car in the closing seconds.

“Nico and Lewis looked very strong, especially in Q2,” Vettel said. “We found some extra speed in Q3, so congratulations to Mark. He deserved to be on pole, no mistakes.”

It proved a disappointing afternoon for Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who failed to make Q3 for the first time this season and starts from 11th on the grid.

Mercedes is battling with Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ championship behind Red Bull, which has already won the title.

Mercedes leads Ferrari by 313-309 points, with Lotus back in fourth with 285.

“Third place, best of the rest, which is our target for this weekend,” Rosberg said. “The constructors’ is what counts for us. So that’s a very good result for us.”

But Mercedes will have to assess what happened to Hamilton’s car.

“Something broke at the rear,” Hamilton told his team as he stood looking at the car, shaking his head in frustration.

Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen qualified in fifth spot ahead of Sauber’s Niko Hulkenberg and Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean — who has finished third in his past three races.

Alonso didn’t sound too disappointed after his latest setback in a frustrating season.

“All weekend we haven’t been so quick and in qualifying we were not so fast,” Alonso said. “Also my laps were not so clean and I lost a couple of tenths. Maybe it is better to start in this position tomorrow.”

Alonso left it late to go out in Q2 and failed to make the cut in 11th, while Massa just scraped through Q2 in 10th and will start the race from eighth on the grid.

In fact, Alonso’s qualifying form has been so bad that he has not even made the second row since qualifying third for the Bahrain GP in April. Massa, meanwhile, has made the top three only once, qualifying in second spot for the Malaysian GP a month earlier.

Because qualifying and the race itself are held at twilight, when the track is considerably cooler at sunset, only a limited amount of useful data could be gained from early afternoon practice runs, when the daily temperature peaked.

Ferrari struggled on the twisty circuit, just as it did on Friday, with Fernando Alonso down in 11th and Felipe Massa placing 14th in the final practice run.

The design of the 3.44-mile track, with its long, sharp turns and hairpin bends, exposes the lack of traction on the Ferraris, an ongoing problem this season and last. Neither Ferrari driver finished higher than eighth over the three practice runs.

“Hopefully there is more in the car. We are in a position that’s not normal for us,” Alonso said. “We are struggling a little bit more this weekend, but to be fighting for Q3 is not good enough for Ferrari.”

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