Sebastian Vettel could only manage second place on the grid for Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which allowed his teammate Mark Webber to claim the 13th pole of his career.
Despite this disadvantage, it's difficult to back anyone other than Vettel in a race that produced one of the best drives of his career last year. Twice relegated to the back of the field, the German sliced up the field to finish in third place and protect his Championship lead on the Yas Marina circuit.
He has already won this year's title, of course, but those expecting him to literally take his foot off the accelerator will likely be very disappointed.
|Date||Time (GMT)||Event||TV Schedule|
|Sunday, November 3||12:00||Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Live||Sky Sports F1/NBC Sports Network|
|Sunday, November 3||15:15||Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Paddock Live||Sky Sports F1|
|Sunday, November 3||19:00||Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Highlights||Sky Sports F1|
|1||M Webber||Australia||Red Bull|
|2||S Vettel||Germany||Red Bull|
|4||L Hamilton||Great Britain||Mercedes|
|10||D Ricciardo||Australia||Toro Rosso|
|12||P Di Resta||Great Britain||Force India|
|13||J Button||Great Britain||McLaren|
|14||J Vergne||France||Toro Rosso|
|18||A Sutil||Germany||Force India|
|19||G van der Garde||Netherlands||Caterham|
|22||M Chilton||Great Britain||Marussia|
Both the Red Bull drivers took their time emerging from the paddock, leaving it until midway through the session before starting their runs on the softest tyres.
As we have seen so often from this team, their cars immediately went fastest overall, with Webber beating Vettel by one tenth of a second. However, it was Lewis Hamilton who ended Q1 on top of the pile, with Vettel and Webber dropping down to 10th and 11th place.
By the end of Q2, Hamilton remained on top, but the two Red Bull drivers had jumped up to second and third. Vettel had just got the better of Webber on this occasion.
Qualifying - superb Webber beats Vettel to pole in Abu Dhabi: Mark Webber produced a brilliant performance in ... http://t.co/BblcaWMiFm— f1raceshow (@f1raceshow) November 2, 2013
This wasn't to last, however, as Q3 brought out the best in Webber and saw him post a lap of 1:39.957 to hold off a late challenge from his teammate.
Hamilton, meanwhile, nixed his own hopes of pole position by spinning out on his final run, dropping down to fourth in the process.
Nico Rosberg took third place for Mercedes and spoke to BBC Sport:
In general, I'm pleased with the result. Best of the rest is the target for this weekend. It's good to annoy Red Bull a bit in qualifying but they were quick again.
Our target is to get second in the constructors' championship and our main competitors Ferrari are well back which is great for us.
It's the first time that a driver other than Vettel or Hamilton has started on pole at Abu Dhabi, and Webber will look to make the most of it before he retires at the end of the season.
Webber's last victory came in the British Grand Prix in 2012, so he would no doubt love to stand on top of the podium once more before departing the sport.
The four years of the race have seen it won by Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton and Vettel, with the German emerging victorious in 2009 and 2010.
Sebastian Vettel is testing out his new Gold helmet today. 4 stars for his 4 titles & with a classic Roman IV on top pic.twitter.com/Ar4kIDjSj7— Fans of Seb Vettel (@FansOfSebVettel) November 2, 2013
Spectators will be hoping for a spectacle similar to last year's race, which saw numerous collisions, ambitious overtaking and two safety car appearances before the contest was finally decided.
The introduction of two DRS zones in 2011 has brought the excitement of the Yas Marina to the fore. Previous years have incurred criticism about a lack of overtaking opportunities, but last year's race really put an end to that.
The event will be spectacular, as always. The race has not always matched up.
With Vettel off pole, Hamilton having to battle back from fourth and Raikkonen in fifth, all previous winners face some overtaking if they are to keep others from the top spot.
The smart money says that it's again Vettel's race to lose, but it would be great to see Webber claim another victory before his retirement.