The final qualifying session of the 2015 Formula 1 season saw Mercedes once again lock out the front row, but the session at Yas Marina delivered a number of notable standout performers at both ends of the spectrum.
Who were the qualifying winners and losers in Abu Dhabi?
The last pole positions of the 2015 Formula 1 season went to Nico Rosberg, who claimed his sixth P1 start in a row. The German – who is aiming for three wins in a row – topped both his Q3 runs and ultimately finished the session with a time of 1:40.237.
The stars team of qualifying was Force India, which has shown incredible pace all weekend with both its cars. Nico Hülkenberg qualified a solid seventh-fastest, but the real hero was his Mexican teammate Sergio Pérez. Not regarded as a one-lap specialist by any means, Pérez backed up his fine practice speed with the fourth-fastest time to achieve his best starting position of his Formula 1 career.
Scuderia Toro Rosso youngster Carlos Sainz Jr had a fantastic qualifying session, beating his teammate Max Verstappen in the battle for the Q3 cut and ultimately grabbing tenth-fastest. The Spaniard won the intra-team qualifying battle with his younger teammate 8-7 in the final reckoning, although he still sits well behind Verstappen in racing terms, with the Dutch youngster leading 49 points to Sainz’s 18.
Credit too to Jenson Button, who qualified twelfth-fastest in his McLaren-Honda, equalling his best Saturday performance of the season on the streets of Monte Carlo.
Despite being the faster driver in the preceding Q1 and Q2 sessions, Rosberg’s teammate, the three-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, fell short when it counted and was over three-tenths of a second off Rosberg’s pole-winning time, which was a surprise. A front-row start is still nothing to be sneezed at, but when your last pole position came in September’s Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton certainly has reason to be disappointed with how own performances of late.
There was more bad luck for McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso, who suffered a puncture in Q1 that consigned him to his ninth Q1 elimination of the season.
By far the biggest shock of qualifying came from Sebastian Vettel, who failed to make it beyond Q1 after making a mistake on his last flying lap and aborting the effort. His sixteenth-placed result equals that of this year’s Canadian Grand Prix, the only other time this season where he has not qualified inside the top-ten.
Another driver who failed to make it beyond Q1 was Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who suffered an unspecified problem close to the end of the session that mired him on the second-last row of the grid. Teammate Felipe Nasr qualified fourteenth-fastest, winning their intra-team qualifying battle 10-9.
After outqualifying his Lotus teammate Pastor Maldonado all but once this season until Abu Dhabi, Romain Grosjean found himself beaten by the Venezuelan for just the second time through no fault of his own. His car developed an hydraulics problem in Q2, and despite hurried attempts to cure it, he later stopped out on the circuit before he could set a time.
Images via Sutton Motorsport Images and XPB Images