Lewis Hamilton has beaten his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by a tenth of a second to take pole position for tomorrow’s final race of the season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The five-times looked very strong in the middle sector to pull out a few tenths over his teammate.
It looked as if Bottas had the edge over his teammate in the final few moments of Q3 before the Englishman improved his time in the middle sector to push the Finn off pole by a tenth. Mercedes continued there strong performance in Abu Dhabi with a fifth consecutive front row lock out.
Hamilton’s former title rival Sebastian Vettel put his Ferrari third fastest, but the German was unable to get close enough in the final moments of the session. Vettel admitted that an error may have cost him a place on the front row.
Vettel was a tenth up and on course to split both the Mercedes before he lost a lot of time in the final sector. Vettel admitted he could have lost half a tenth on his final run, at that time he was a tenth faster than Hamilton.
Hamilton said “It’s been such a journey this year. So many trials and tribulations along the way and it’s been a real privilege working with these guys.”
“The team have done a really good job this weekend getting the car in the right window and it was quite close in the end. What a great way to end the season with a one-two qualifying session.”
Vettel said “No surprise [by Mercedes pace]. They looked very competitive all weekend. Qualifying was a bit up and down. We tried everything and gave it everything we have. It’s a long lap so there’s a lot of lap time to be found if everything works out.”
“I was happy in our session and happy. I would have liked to get in the front row but it’s not the case. I said to the guys tomorrow we will fight as hard as we can, anything can happen.”
Kimi Raikkonen retained fourth in his final outing for Ferrari, the Finn came under pressure from the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian was three hundredths off the Finn, as they enter their final races for Red Bull and Ferrari, respectively.
Max Verstappen struggled on his final run in Q3 and was slowest of the top six, the Dutchman complained that his tyres were overheating. It was on the whole a messy session, Verstappen’s Ultrasoft run went wrong leaving him tenth midway through Q2. He was forced onto Hypersofts improving into Q3 but leaves him on the back foot for the race.
Haas’s Romain Grosjean was best of the rest in seventh, out-qualifying the Sauber of Charles Leclerc. It was a strong session by both drivers who gained the most from the Ferrari power unit, with them starting ahead of the Force India of Esteban Ocon and the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.
The German failed to improve on his final run in Q3, he had gone eighth fastest but starts ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard was running tenth, before his former teammate, Verstappen improved on his final run in Q2.
Sainz finished the session eleventh, a tenth of a second faster than the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson. Mistakes by both Haas’s Kevin Magnussen and Force India’s Sergio Perez half a second off their respective teammates. The Dane thirteenth and the Mexican fourteenth.
Fernando Alonso will start his final race from fifteenth, a result which was expected given McLaren’s performance this season. But the Spaniard out qualified Stoffel Vandoorne, the second time he has beaten a team-mate in every qualifying session of the season.
Alonso told Sky Sports “We’ve been very competitive this weekend and were pessimistic for Q1 without chances and we somehow managed to go to Q2 and that’s good. My priories are to finish the race to see the chequered flag. If we can be in the points that will be in the dream, we are five places away now.”
One of the surprise early casualty, given his recent performance, was Pierre Gasly, on his final run in Q1 smoke started to pour out of his Toro Rosso exhaust. He finished seventeen behind team-mate Brendon Hartley as both Honda-powered cars exited early.
Both cars were running above the cutoff, before improvements by Magnussen, Ericsson and Perez despite both improving on their final laps. Hartley complained of a lack of entry stability.
Stoffel Vandoorne will start his final race eighteenth ahead of both the Williams’s, with Sergey Sirotkin four hundredths faster than teammate Lance Stroll.