Abu Dhabi GP qualifying: 6 things you need to know from the last quali of 2018
The season is very nearly over – here's what happened in the final Saturday session of the year
The drivers’ title and the constructors’ championship are both already done and dusted but the 2018 season is not over yet.
We’ve got one more race to go in Abu Dhabi. This is how they finished in qualifying today, plus everything you need to know ahead of the race:
1. Lewis is not slacking off
Usually Lewis Hamilton wins the title, then eases off a bit once it’s in the bag. Until this season he had never taken pole or a victory once he had the title won.
But in a season of records for Lewis, it seems that is one he is keen to change, having taken both pole and the win last time out in Brazil.
And today he sealed another pole in yet another session where no one else could touch him for raw pace.
It’s his 11th pole of the season, and the 83rd of his career, which is a remarkable record for a guy who still has plenty of years left in the sport.
2. Mercedes' dominance is scary
With Valtteri Bottas lining up second, this is the first time in F1 history that one team has taken five consecutive 1-2 grid slots at any specific race track.
And in 100 races of the hybrid era, this is Mercedes’ 84th pole position.
If that sounds like a damning statistic about the state of competition in F1 over the last five years, you may be right. Let us hope that Ferrari, Red Bull and the rest can take the fight to the Mercs in 2019.
3. Ferrari powerless
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen line up third and fourth on Sunday and a pretty resigned Vettel said that was the best they could do today.
No doubt the Ferrari engineers are already working around the clock to ensure they will be a bit closer next season.
4. Max misses out on a pole record
This race was the last chance for Max Verstappen to take the record for the youngest ever pole sitter.
He is still 17 days younger than Vettel was when he set the current record, but today Red Bull did not have the pace in qualifying to challenge for the front row.
And unusually, Max was also beaten by his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in quali, with the two of them in fifth and six.
So their Saturday speed was not there today, but Red Bull’s race pace is expected to be much better, so watch out for another charge up the field from Max and Danny on Sunday afternoon.
5. Hasta luego, but not goodbye…?
Fernando Alonso signed off his last(?) qualifying session by dragging his terrible McLaren up into Q2.
It’s clear he is still driving the nuts off that car and it still seems a shame that he is leaving the sport after this weekend.
However, his car – complete with special Fernando livery this weekend – has a little ‘hasta luego’ message on it. That translates basically to ‘see you later’, rather than a full goodbye. Is this really the last time we’ll see the Spaniard in F1…?
6. Vandoorne whitewash
Poor old Stoffel. Faster only than the two Williams, he qualified 18th for this race. And it completes a miserable record in 2018 – he has now been out qualified by his team-mate at every single race this year.
Someone with a more reliable memory than me will no doubt tell us the last time this happened, but either way it is a damning indictment for a driver who arrived with so much promise.
I can’t be the only one who still feels there is an excellent driver somewhere in there and, like his team-mate Alonso, I wonder if we’ll see him back in F1 at some stage with a different team.