Maldonado shines in Abu Dhabi twilight

Williams driver claims fourth in qualifying but will start third after Vettel is penalised.

Pastor Maldonado gave Williams cause to celebrate with a superb drive to fourth in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Venezuelan almost missed out on Q3, just sneaking into the final session in 10th place, but he made the most of the opportunity and after setting a solid if unspectacular time with his first Q3 run found a blistering turn of pace on his final flying lap to register a time of 1:41.226, just 0.015 seconds shy of the time set by third-placed Sebastian Vettel.

“We were on the limit in P10, but I saw the potential in the car.”
Pastor Maldonado

And things improved further for the Williams driver when Vettel was later penalised for a fuel irregularity in qualifying and demoted to the back of the grid, leaving Maldonado at the front of row for the start.

“It was a difficult session, especially in Q2 as we were on the limit in P10, but I saw the potential in the car,” said Maldonado afterwards. “We then found a great balance in Q3 and I'm happy that we are back to looking strong again.

“I think we showed throughout all the weekend that we are competitive and I did my best in qualifying. I'm really happy for the team, for myself, and I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow. Points are very important for us so I will be pushing to the maximum.”

Team-mate Bruno Senna had a more difficult afternoon, suffering technical issues and also being blocked by Sauber’s Sergio Pérez, a transgression that earned the Mexican a reprimand from the stewards.

“Bruno has found it a bit more difficult this weekend,” explained Chief Operations Engineer Mark Gillan. “His first run in qualifying was hampered by a car problem that was quickly fixed prior to his second run but unfortunately he didn't quite have the pace to transition into Q3, finishing 15th in what is a tight grid.”