Pastor Maldonado was a consistent presence near the top of the timesheets in qualifying for the 2012 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi on Saturday afternoon, although he had a narrow escape when he came close to being eliminated at the end of Q2 after a flurry of late flying laps from his rivals.

"It was a difficult session, especially in Q2 as we were on the limit in P10," Maldonado said afterwards. "But I saw the potential in the car."

He survived, and went on to set the fourth fastest lap in the top ten pole shootout session that followed, meaning that he will start alongside Sebastian Vettel on the grid for Sunday's race at Yas Marina Circuit.

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"We then found a great balance in Q3 and I'm happy that we are back to looking strong again," Maldonado said. "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 looking forward to the race tomorrow. Points are very important for us so I will be pushing to the maximum," he added.

"Pastor has been very strong all weekend showing good race pace on Friday," said Williams' chief operations engineer Mark Gillan. "We worked hard on the qualifying balance throughout the weekend which ultimately paid off today with Pastor delivering an excellent fourth in Q3.

"Bruno has found it a bit more difficult this weekend," admitted Gillan of the fortunes of the team's other driver, Bruno Senna. " 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."

"I never want to be out of the top ten in qualifying but this weekend we have had a few problems, so that is how it is," said Senna. "We'll work hard tomorrow and will still be trying to get into the points. For sure it is a track with some overtaking opportunities with the DRS so hopefully we can make some use of that and use it to our advantage."

Senna was involved in an incident where it appeared that he was impeded by Sauber's Sergio Perez. The Mexican driver was later given a reprimand for his actions, but avoided any more serious sanctions.