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Sunday, Feb 14th

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Motorsport

HRT optimistic despite being bottom of the pile in Abu Dhabi

The HRT Formula 1 Team put up a brave face after a poor qualifying session in Abu Dhabi where their cars finished dead last, in 23rd and 24th positions. The team believes that the optimization of the aero package introduced recently, added to new engine air intake and an improved set-up of the car, will enable Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan to improve their performance at the wheel of the F112 in the race tomorrow and cut down the gap to the team's direct rivals. De la Rosa pipped Karthikeyan to finish qualifying in 23rd place.

The team though is confident ahead of the 55-lap race tomorrow after setting competitive times and the data showing low tyre degradation in the free practice session and is hopeful of retaining the reliability it had lost by getting both cars across the finish line.

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Hamilton dominates Abu Dhabi Qualifying to take comfortable pole, Vettel to start from pitlane

lewis_hamilton_abudahbiLewis Hamilton took qualifying honours for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with his second pole position at the Yas Marina circuit this evening. The McLaren driver was utterly dominant and left his rivals trailing in his wake by some margin. Red Bull Racing, who have been qualifying kings in recent races were second and third, with Mark Webber beating championship leader Sebastian Vettel to line up on the front row. Vettel did not have the cleanest of sessions with a couple of mistakes early on and was unhappy with his ultimate lap.

He will however be relatively content as his main championship rival Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari had pace enough only for 7th place on the grid.

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Ferrari focus on new part testing, sacrifice pace in Friday Practice at Abu Dhabi

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For the second time this year, after September's Singapore Grand Prix, everyone gets to enjoy the beautiful sight of Formula 1 cars artificially lit by floodlight here at Yas Marina. Unlike at Marina Bay, here we are not tackling a night race, but what has been dubbed a twilight race, as the action starts in bright sunshine and progresses into darkness during the second free session.

The lighting gives everything an unreal feel, rather like watching a computer game, but there is nothing unreal about the work going on in the Scuderia Ferrari garage, all of it taking place in very hot and difficult working conditions for the mechanics. As the Maranello squad strives to improve the performance of the F2012 for these final three races, more new parts have been making the trip from Italy to Abu Dhabi. These need to be evaluated thoroughly before deciding whether or not to run them for qualifying and the race and that means one thing – plenty of laps. Today, Felipe Massa completed 57, which is two more than Sunday's race distance while Fernando Alonso did 52 on his way to seventh place by the end of the day, one spot higher up the FP2 timesheet than his team-mate.

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Lotus find their groove in Abu Dhabi Free Practice

Romain Grosjean went fifth fastest and Kimi Räikkönen set the sixth quickest time – with just 0.032secs separating them – at the end of Friday’s two practice sessions at the Yas Marina Circuit this afternoon. The team evaluated new chassis wings and an exhaust update. Both cars ran reliably throughout the two 90 minute practice sessions.

Kimi:“We were good on Friday in India and we’ve been strong again here in Abu Dhabi today. We tried a few new parts on the car in both sessions and we have some things to go through before tomorrow. Our lap times seem to be pretty okay so far; hopefully we can find a little bit more pace for tomorrow in practice and then again for the qualifying session.”

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Another tough Friday for Force India at Abu Dhabi GP

All three Sahara Force India drivers were in action today during free practice at Yas Marina ahead of this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It was another day of midfield running for the Force India team with reserve driver Jules Bianchi and Paul di Resta getting 56 laps between them in the second car, and both men going 15th quickest in their respective runs, while Nico Hulkenberg ran right through the day and was 12th quickest in the morning and 13th quickest in the afternoon.

With Force India making little progress in their performance over the weekend in recent races, it appears that team could be left with another outing where they might find both drivers missing out on Q3 tomorrow, and struggle to battle to get into the points on Sunday.

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HRT struggle for competitiveness at Abu Dhabi GP Free Practice

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix got underway today at the spectacular Yas Marina Circuit with the first free practice sessions. In the morning, Ma Qing Hua stepped into the F112 once again and accompanied Pedro de la Rosa for the third time this season in FP1. The Chinese driver's programme consisted of engine mapping tests and basic set-up of the car to round it off with a longer run where he was able to get more out of the car. Pedro de la Rosa dedicated the entire day to working on the set-up of his car besides testing different configurations to evaluate the cooling of the brakes and both tyre compounds. His teammate, Narain Karthikeyan, who returned in the afternoon session, only had 90 minutes to adapt to an, until today, unknown track but still had no trouble in completing his programme with both tyres.

Here's what the drivers had to say after their run...

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Fernando Alonso: "We never give up"

Last Sunday, Fernando Alonso drove one of the best races of his career to finish second in India, and the Spaniard declared he was still confident that he could win the Drivers' championship this year.

Today in the Yas Marina paddock, he was asked where that confidence came from. "I think we believe and we trust in the team and the job we do," he began. "We have shown that we never give up and know how to fight until the end. When things become stressful and difficult, we can still give 100% and the team has a lot of experience fighting for world championships. Everyone is very motivated and in India we saw some good signs in terms of pace compared to Red Bull, even if we need a couple more tenths, especially on Saturday. On top of that, we have some updates here and there will be some more in the USA. The season has had its ups and downs and we have seen four consecutive "ups" for Red Bull, so we think it has to go down sooner or later!"

As far as this weekend is concerned, the Ferrari man is relying on a combination of factors to get a good result. "We have tried to prepare for this race better than ever," he revealed. "We have some new parts that we will be checking tomorrow. We don't think we will close the gap to Red Bull completely, with only five days between India and Abu Dhabi. There is no magic part in Formula 1 but we are trying to put them under pressure after they had four very easy races. We want to be close enough to them to capitalise on anything they do not do perfectly, while we need to be perfect for these next three race weekends. Mechanical failure is always in the air, not just for them, but also for us. We have to make sure we have a very strong car, so that we can do all three last races with no mechanical problems. We know that Red Bull can be a bit more fragile, like Webber's KERS failure in India, so we need to push them and be on the limit, because if it had been Vettel who had the problem, no one would have noticed because he was ten seconds in front."

Inevitably, the topic of the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was raised, when Fernando looked set to take the title at what was the final round, but fell at the last hurdle, stuck behind a slower car. "We are not thinking about the race here in 2010 when we lost the championship: we want to win the championship at the last race this year in Brazil. Thanks to KERS and DRS we should not have a repeat of the situation in 2010 that lost me the title when I was stuck for too long behind another car. In the last two years we have seen that these elements have produced exciting racing with plenty of overtaking."

Finally, it was time for Fernando to rubbish the idea raised in the media that he and the team's Technical Director had fallen out. "An argument with Pat Fry after the race in India? A nice invention from someone in the Italian media. It was quite creative to be honest! Now or later, I will speak to him to see how he invented this. We know and it's a fact that we are slower than Red Bull: we all agree, me the team, our fans, everyone knows. We are very united in our efforts to fix this situation."

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