A funny old qualifying session ended with only one of the top drivers really having significant reason to cheer. Sebastian Vettel picked up where he left off in Abu Dhabi only this time he was eight tenths of a second clear of anyone else.
Hamilton will be happy that he's on the front row but can't be comfortable with a gap that big to P1, Webber failing to get anywhere even close to his team mate will worry him even more. Button was almost half a second down on his Mclaren team mate and although Alonso comfortably outpaced his team mate he starts in fifth, 1.4 seconds shy of Vettel and absolutely nowhere on qualifying pace.
The Ferrari in particular looked all at sea, under-steering throughout the lap and it doesn't appear to be able to get heat in the tyres on a short run. Whether this helps them over the long runs in terms of wear rates remains to be seen. Massa's inability to drive around a bad car was to the fore again. Petrov, Kobayashi and Buemi were all outstanding in making Q3 while Schumacher disappointed.
If the race runs to form, Vettel will have no challengers in cruising to his eleventh victory and kicking off his title defence in the best possible way. If this is a sign of things to come we could be in for a very long season! In the hope of some sort of spectacle there might be a drop of rain, or the Pirellis (which drivers are saying are quite different to those used in testing) will put a cat amongst the pigeons.
In truth it is difficult to look beyond the German for victory, but the scrap for the podium behind him ought to make for good watching.
Race prediction: 1. Vettel 2. Webber 3. Alonso
Hamilton's pace will be enough to live with the Red Bulls but have the Mclarens ironed out all their reliability issues? I think Alonso's race pace will be an improvement on qualifying. Webber will be a factor throughout and if Rosberg's talk early in the weekend of four or five pit stops proves correct we could be in for a treat.