Valtteri Bottas put in a superb performance under the floodlights at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit to claim the final pole position of the 2017 Formula 1 season, beating home teammate Lewis Hamilton.
It was the Finn’s fourth pole position of his Formula 1 career, and coming back-to-back with his Saturday effort in Brazil it will give him confidence at the end of a rather indifferent second half of his season.
Regularly outqualified by Hamilton and rarely able to hold a candle to him in the races in the back half of the season, Bottas has a point to prove. Winless since Austria, he has to cement the faith that Mercedes has put in him by extending his 2017 contract for a further season.
Put simply, Bottas must convert pole position into a win. After being beaten from pole by Sebastian Vettel at Interlagos a fortnight ago, the Finn will have an even tougher adversary alongside him in the form of his own teammate.
Hamilton is a smart racer, and having learned from the run-ins with his former teammates, the Briton cannot afford a repeat. The newly-crowned World Champion knows how important momentum is, however, and won’t want to end a dominant season without a serious tilt at the top step of the podium – even with his teammate in the way.
After qualifying, Hamilton admitted Bottas simple “did the better job”. The Finn showed the best of his form, holding his line to perfection through the tricky final sector where he held a crucial advantage over Hamilton, who ran fractionally wide at the final corner.
The Silver Arrows seemed to be in another gear on Saturday evening and left the rest of the field in their wake. Their closest challenger, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, was half a second off the pace. Fourth-placed Daniel Ricciardo did well to be two-tenths further adrift in his Red Bull Racing entry.
Kimi Räikkönen finished fifth-fastest in the second Ferrari, ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. A fine seventh place was claimed by Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, who managed to outpace the Force India Mercedes’ of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon. Felipe Massa ended his last Formula 1 qualifying session tenth-fastest in his Williams.
Perhaps flattering to deceive in qualifying, the two McLarens narrowly missed out on a Q3 berth. Fernando Alonso was eleventh-fastest and will start the best placed in the field who can run an alternate tyre strategy. His teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was thirteenth-fastest, with the pair split by the second Renault of Carlos Sainz Jr. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Lance Stroll (Williams) were the final two Q2 runners.
The two Saubers and Toro Rossos were not expected to make it beyond Q1 and so it proved with Pierre Gasly, Pascal Wehrlein, Marcus Ericsson and Brendon Hartley claiming the final four grid positions behind Haas’ Romain Grosjean. For Toro Rosso, this could all but guarantee the loss of sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship given they sit just four points ahead of Renault in the standings.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team