Nico Rosberg has outqualified Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton for the third race in a row, grabbing pole position for Sunday night’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
While the past five races held at the circuit have only seen the pole-winner claim victory once here, Rosberg’s advantage – almost four-tenths of a second – is far more important psychologically, having once again succeeded in rattling his teammate on Saturday.
While Hamilton had led the way in the opening two phases of qualifying, it was Rosberg who asserted his authority in Q3 when he set a rapid 1:40.480. A clearly flustered Hamilton couldn’t string a tidy lap together and finished 0.386 seconds adrift, and only just ahead of the Williams’ of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.
Red Bull Racing continued the Noah’s Ark theme in qualifying by locking out the third row, with Daniel Ricciardo finishing almost seven-tenths of a second clear of Ferrari-bound teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel’s replacement, Daniil Kvyat, signed off in his final race as a Toro Rosso with style by going seventh-fastest, while Jenson Button was eighth. The Englishman only just scraped into Q3 after McLaren bungled his fuel loads in Q2, which resulted in him being called into the pits for a late splash-n-dash before going on to clock the lap that would get him into the top-ten.
The Ferrari drivers had an uncharacteristically anonymous session, with Kimi Räikkönen taking just a single run to outpace Fernando Alonso in the Spaniard’s swansong outing for the Scuderia.
The Finn’s late Q2 effort was enough to bump the second McLaren of Kevin Magnussen out of the top ten; the Danish rookie shares the sixth row of the grid with the second Toro Rosso of Jean-Éric Vergne.
The two Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg once again failed to make the top-ten cut and locked out the seventh row of the grid ahead of Sauber’s Adrian Sutil, who narrowly outpaced the two Lotus’ and was predictably slowest of the fifteen Q2 runners.
Romain Grosjean just missed out on a Q2 slot and qualified sixteenth-fastest, but that’s academic in the context of the complex 20-place grid drop he will receive as a result of changing a multitude of power unit components. The Frenchman outpaced Pastor Maldonado – marking the first time Maldonado has been outqualified by a teammate here – and finished ahead of the two Caterhams in a Q1 session that didn’t produce any surprises or incidents.
Predictably, the reborn green machines rounded out the final row of the grid. Kamui Kobayashi continued to hold the upper hand over newcomer teammate Will Stevens, but the rookie driver impressed with a tidy run which took him to within six-tenths of a second of the Japanese driver.
2014 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Results:
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||1:40.480||13|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||1:40.866||+ 0.386||12|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||1:41.025||+ 0.545||18|
|4.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||1:41.119||+ 0.639||20|
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||1:41.267||+ 0.787||12|
|6.||Sebastian Vettel||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||1:41.893||+ 1.413||17|
|7.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||1:41.908||+ 1.428||18|
|8.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||1:41.964||+ 1.484||18|
|9.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||1:42.236||+ 1.756||15|
|10.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||1:42.866||+ 2.386||19|
|Q3 Cut-Off: 1:42.168||Time||Gap*||Laps|
|11.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||1:42.198||+ 1.278||13|
|12.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||1:42.207||+ 1.287||12|
|13.||Sergio Pérez||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||1:42.239||+ 1.319||15|
|14.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||1:42.384||+ 1.464||12|
|15.||Adrian Sutil||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||1:43.074||+ 2.154||14|
|Q2 Cut-Off: 1:42.746||Time||Gap**||Laps|
|16.||Romain Grosjean^||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||1:42.768||+ 1.561||8|
|17.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||1:42.819||+ 1.621||8|
|18.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||1:42.860||+ 1.653||8|
|19.||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||1:44.540||+ 3.333||7|
|20.||Will Stevens||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||1:45.095||+ 3.888||8|
* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:40.920 by Lewis Hamilton
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:41.207 by Lewis Hamilton
^ Grosjean qualified P16, awarded a 20-grid place penalty for taking on sixth power unit elements (the balance of the penalty to be served as a drive/through penalty).
Images via XPB Images