Abu Dhabi: Five-time Formula One Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton handed Mercedes their 101st pole position while teammate Valtteri Bottas took second spot as the Mercedes cars dominated once again at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday.
With track temperatures falling by a couple of degrees as the evening progressed, it was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen just nipping ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen to lock out the second row on the grid.
Saturday’s pole was a record-extending 83rd of Hamilton’s career and his 11th of a season that has already seen the Briton clinch his fifth world championship.
Hamilton now has the most pole positions here, with four. The Briton started from the front of the grid in 2009, 2012 and in 2016 — the only year the popular British driver managed to convert pole into a win. On both the other occasions he failed to finish. A brake problem ended his 2009 race after 20 laps, while a fuel pressure problem resulted in stoppage after 19 laps in 2012.
“I am always grateful to all the support I get here and it is the last time I am going to qualify in this car. It’s been a struggle with her [the car] at times, but I am eternally grateful to the mechanics for putting it all together. It has been much fun to push the car,” Hamilton said.
Bottas, who is yet to win a race this season, was in the running for pole after lapping best in Q2. But it was Hamilton who had the last say as his final lap of 1:34.794 proved to be the quickest leaving his teammate from Finland had to be content with a spot next to the Briton on the front grid. “Yes, I was going for the pole, but for now the front grid will do,” Bottas said.
“Our performance has been of a high level and I lost a bit of time coming into the ninth turn.”
Former world champion Vettel perhaps showed the steady improvement of the Ferraris as he took third position just ahead of teammate Raikkonen. “In Q1, things were quite tight, and then in Q2 Lewis [Hamilton] had a fantastic lap and that pretty much sealed it for him,” Vettel said.
“But I had a good one in Q3 and that was just enough for us to take another podium. I am looking quite confident for tomorrow [Sunday] as it’s a long race,” the German said.
Going into the final event of the 21-round season, the race is still open in the overall drivers’ standings as Bottas (237 points) is in a position to overhaul Raikkonen (251) for third overall. But Bottas’ current fourth spot is under threat from Red Bull’s Verstappen who has a win and a second place from the last two races putting the Dutchman just three points behind the Mercedes driver.
However, in the teams’ battle the closest contest is for P7, with Racing Point Force India on 48 points, just six ahead of Sauber.
Sunday will witness various activities at Yas starting at 11am, while main action will get under way with the drivers’ track parade at 3.30pm followed by the start of the final race of 55 laps at 5.10pm.