Qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was always going to be intense as it is the final race of the Formula 1 season and the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were gunning for pole with the former needing it more than the latter.
As the sun set and the lights came on at the Yas Marina Circuit, Q1 started with Lewis Hamilton sitting atop the time sheet and his teammate resting 5th with a brace of Ferrari and a rogue Red Bull ahead of him. All safely through to Q2. On the outside looking in was both Toro Rosso cars of Sainz and Kvyat as well as both Sauber’s of Ericsson and Nasr. All were joined by Kevin Magnussen’s Renault while his teammate, Jolyon Palmer, managed to make it through to Q2.
Track temps were reducing as the sun set and there were a few drivers struggling for grip on the front and back of their cars including Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Even Nico Rosberg was struggling to ge the power down at the apex and out onto the straights.
The session started with Lewis Hamilton out first for his initial run and the 3-time champ was not pressing the tires too hard on the out lap as he seemed to still manage to get heat in the rubber as well as discovered some new race lines through turn 11 that helped his quick times. Hamilton came out on the UltraSoft tire compounds but Red Bull chose to set their Q2 times on the SuperSoft compounds.
The Red Bull of Danile Ricciardo was not quite comfortable with their SuperSoft tire strategy and came out late in the session with the UltraSoft choice (which is, basically, the SuperSoft from last season). The radio message to Red Bull driver, Daniel Ricciardo, seemed to indicate the team were running late on UltraSoft’s to simply cover any potential fast laps that may eliminate them.
Fernando Alonso took his McLaren into Q3 while his teammate and retiring 2009 champion, Jenson Button, was eliminated in the session.
With the sun completely set and Nico Rosberg setting the fastest speed in Q2, the drivers were all set to claim pole position. Lewis Hamilton, just as the previous sessions, was keen to get underway first for a clear track and go for pole with the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg right behind him on the out lap.
After their first runs, Lewis was on provisional pole position with Nico just behind him in second. The Ferrari’s were split by both Red Bulls in third through sixth. The Ferrari duo were tied 10 to 10 in qualifying and Kimi Raikkonen’s provisional third place was a good omen heading into their final runs.
Lewis pressed a little harder on his final out lap, unlike the previous sessions, and he was looking to be on pole like he’s been in the last three races. Lewis scored his 61st pole position and fourth in a row with a 1m38.755s lap.
Rosberg slotted second just three tenths behind Hamilton and the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo completed the top three beating both Ferrari’s and his teammate, Max Verstappen, who slotted sixth behind the two red cars from Italy.
Lewis will relish the pole position and Nico said it just wasn’t possible to equal Hamilton’s time but the points-leader did what he needed to do and that’s keep it on the island and start on the front row.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m38.755s -
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m39.058s 0.303s
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m39.589s 0.834s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m39.604s 0.849s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m39.661s 0.906s
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m39.818s 1.063s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m40.501s 1.746s
8 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m40.519s 1.764s
9 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1m41.106s 2.351s
10 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m41.213s 2.458s
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m41.084s 2.329s
12 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1m41.272s 2.517s
13 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1m41.480s 2.725s
14 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m41.564s 2.809s
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m41.820s 3.065s
16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1m41.995s 3.240s
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m42.003s 3.248s
18 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1m42.142s 3.387s
19 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1m42.247s 3.492s
20 Esteban Ocon Manor/Mercedes 1m42.286s 3.531s
21 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m42.393s 3.638s
22 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m42.637s 3.882s