Abu Dhabi: As the artificial lights slowly took centrestage ahead of the seamless transition from day to night at the desert track of Yas Marina Circuit, Lewis Hamilton started from where he had left in the practices at the season’s final F1 Grand Prix.
The Briton, who topped both practices, stayed on course of his mission to pip Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to the Formula title by clocking the fastest time 1:38.755sec for pole in the final race of the F1 calendar today.
Rosberg is leading by 12 points heading into the weekend and if he finishes on the podium, the championship is his, even if Hamilton goes on to win.
The German, who will also be starting from the front-row, was four tenths further back of Hamilton with his best time of 1:39.058.
Daniel Ricciardo improved late on to third, with both the Red Bulls making it through to Q3 by using the super-soft tyre in Q2.
“It’s been a great weekend so far. Coming to this weekend, realising that this is going to be the last in this car, turns to be an incredible one. It has been such a privilege driving the car.
“Today, I got the car in a real sweet spot — perfect position for tomorrow! The engineers and mechanics have done a great job,” said an elated Hamilton, who in the process also became the first driver to take three pole positions at Yas Marina Circuit, a feat he accomplished with the second-fastest pole-winning time in Abu Dhabi after Sebastian Vettel’s 1:38.481 for Red Bull back in 2011.
It was also the Briton’s 12 pole of the season and 61st of his career.
Rosberg, despite missing out on his third consecutive Abu Dhabi pole, was upbeat: “I’ve come here to try and take pole and win the race, so not ecstatic, but Lewis did a great job and I couldn’t do that time. But there’s still opportunities tomorrow … for sure I will go for the win.”
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, who aborted his last lap. The Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were next up.
Hamilton was straight away on the task at hand and he was well clear of the rest of the pack. He was very much making the most of the ultra- soft-tyres and his time was straight away 1.5s faster than last year’s Q1 time.
Rosberg could not match his teammate, or even break into the 1:39s, as he went second on 1:40.511s. The German was just over 1s down on Hamilton but the latter was in no mood to step the foot off the pedal. After a flying first lap of Q2 he posted a 1:39.382s.
Rosberg couldn’t match Hamilton’s time and missed out on the top spot on a 1:39.490s. However, this time he was much closer, just a tenth down on his teammate. It was now to the crucial Q3 and here too, Hamilton scored over Rosberg further bettering his timing.
Fernando Alonso managed to come in ninth after a late effort, while Felipe Massa had to settle for 10th in his last ever F1 qualifying session.
Williams Valtteri Bottas dropped out of qualifying in Q2 but then came back and settled for the 11th. Jenson Button, who could be competing in his final F1 race this weekend, was 12th, ahead of the Haas duo of Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean. And Renualt’s Jolyon Palmer will start 15th ahead of Pascal Wehrlein of Manor. Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Nasr were 18th and 19th, with Esteban Ocon in 20th and Marcus Ericsson propping up the order in 22nd after a mistake on his final lap.
Toro Rosso struggled yet again, Kvyat was 17th fastest while Sainz will start tomorrow’s grand prix from the back row in 21st.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes)
Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes)
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull)
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari)
Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari)
Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull)
Nico H|lkenberg (GER/Force India)
Sergio Perez (MEX/Force India)
Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren)
Felipe Massa (BRA/Williams)
Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Williams)
Jenson Button (GBR/McLaren)
Esteban Gutierrez (MEX/Haas)
Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas)
Jolyon Palmer (GBR/Renault)
Pascal Wehrlein (GER/Manor)
Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Toro Rosso)
Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Renault)
Felipe Nasr (BRA/Sauber-Ferrari)
Estiban Ocon (FRA/Manor-Mercedes)
Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Toro Rosso)
Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber)