Lewis Hamilton has put himself in the best possible position for tomorrow’s championship deciding race by securing his third pole position in Abu Dhabi, beating team mate Nico Rosberg and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.
After setting an opening lap of 1:39.013 Q3, Hamilton returned to the track for his final run to improve by over three-tenths of a second to a 1:38.755, easing himself ahead of championship leader Rosberg.
Both Red Bull Racing cars spent the majority of qualifying trailing the Ferraris until Ricciardo registered a brilliant last lap to elevate himself to third position, albeit over eight-tenths of a second adrift the Mercedes pair.
Kimi Raikkonen led his team mate Sebastian Vettel to fourth position, while an off on his final lap saw Max Verstappen settle for sixth position ahead of the Force India pair of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso was ninth for McLaren-Honda while Felipe Massa completed the top 10.
Hamilton began his qualifying with a stern statement towards his team mate, clearing Rosberg’s best effort by over a second as the championship leader admitted to making two mistakes on his initial flying lap in Q1.
The Briton was quick out to the circuit once Q2 began, setting a banker lap on the ultra-soft tyre of a 1:39.383 which saw him clear Rosberg again by a tenth of a second.
The two Ferrari drivers, who were the best of the rest in Q1, remained at the top of the order just behind the Silver Arrows, as Raikkonen managed to get within 0.247 seconds of Hamilton’s best effort.
Red Bull opted to steer clear from the rest of the pack in Q2, with Ricciardo and Verstappen running the super soft tyre rather than the ultra-softs, which will see both drivers start tomorrow’s race on the more durable tyre with an alternate strategy. Verstappen was quickest of the two, who was half a second off the pace on the slower of the compounds.
In his final Grand Prix, Massa out-qualified his team mate Valtteri Bottas who failed to make the Q3 cut as the Finn was knocked out of qualifying and will line up in 11th position. Having made the final session in qualifying, Massa only completed the one run in Q3 and qualified behind former team mate Alonso in 10th.
Jenson Button, the other driver bidding farewell to Formula 1, failed to qualify in the top 10 and will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 12th position, as his team mate Fernando Alonso edged his way into Q3 and will line up on tomorrow’s grind in 9th position.
Esteban Gutierrez out-qualified his team mate Romain Grosjean by one position in his final race for Haas in 13th, while Jolyon Palmer and Pascal Wehrlein were over three-tenths behind in 15th and 16th position respectively.
Wehrlein escaped the drop zone again for Manor in Q1, registering a late lap after the chequered flag had fallen to promote himself to 16th position and sending Daniil Kvyat to an early exit in qualifying.
Along with Kvyat, fellow Toro Rosso team mate Carlos Sainz also failed to make it out of Q1 as the Spaniard qualified in 20th position, with the lack of running in practice due to an issue with tyres deflating having an effect with qualifying preparations.
The two Toro Rosso drivers were joined by Kevin Magnussen, Felipe Nasr, Esteban Ocon and Marcus Ericsson in the Q1 drop zone.
Image via XPB Images