Lewis Hamilton has beaten his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by almost two-tenths of a second to take pole for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton put together a great final lap to secure his first pole position since Hockenheim in July.
Hamilton is looking to maintain Mercedes 100% record in the hybrid era, on Yas Island and secure his fourth win at the circuit. However, Bottas will not join him on the front row thanks to a grid penalty for an engine change. Max Verstappen was third fastest after Ferrari failed to start their final laps before the chequered flag.
Hamilton managed to shave a few hundredths off that time on the second run to post a 34.779, to consolidate his position at the top of the timesheets. Verstappen will start alongside the six-time champion, thanks to a back-of-the-grid penalty for power unit changes for Bottas.
This sets tomorrows race up for the rematch of the gripping fight between Hamilton and Verstappen, following the fight a fortnight ago in Brazil. Hamilton topped Q1, with Leclerc topping Q2, the six-times champion took provisional pole early on, before cementing his position on his second lap.
He said, “It’s been a while. It’s been a special car and it’s the last time I get to qualify in it so I’m glad to do it proud today.”
Bottas said, “As a team, it has been a really strong day, we’ve had good pace, it didn’t feel as good today as yesterday but I think Lewis made some good improvements.”
Verstappen added, “This is the best we can do. We all know that Mercedes is quite dominant here. Overall, pretty happy. It is good to start on the front row. Still, a lot of chances for the race and we will see what happens.”
Charles Leclerc blamed his teammate for backing him up as he tried to find clean air for his final run in Q3. He will start fourth, after going a tenth faster than Sebastian Vettel on his first run, the Monacan clearly annoyed with what happened in the closing moments of the session.
Team boss Mattia Binotto admitted the Scuderia “screwed up” as they attempted to maximise the ever-improving track conditions.
Ferrari is insisting that there will be no team orders between Leclerc and Vettel, following their collision while fighting for fourth at Interlagos. But, with nineteen points between them in the drivers they will both be looking for fourth in the drivers championship.
Alex Albon was the slowest of the top six teams, the Red Bull driver was nine-tenths off the pace. The British-Thai driver was over half a second ahead of his nearest challenger Lando Norris. The top six will start on medium-compound Pirellis, except for Vettel, who used softs to post his fastest Q2 time.
Norris won a very tight battle with engine supplier Renault to put his McLaren seventh. He was two hundredths faster than Daniel Ricciardo, who himself was just three hundredths ahead of the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz. Nico Hulkenberg could not deliver the same pace and was three tenths further back.
Sergio Perez was fastest of the drivers knocked out in Q2, he missed out on the final part of the session following Hulkenberg’s improvement. Also being pushed out was Pierre Gasly, thanks to Norris and Hulkenberg. Lance Stroll was thirteenth going three hundredths faster than Daniil Kvyat.
Haas’s Kevin Magnussen was a tenth slower than the Russian, who is being investigated by stewards for a potential unsafe release during Q1.
Romain Grosjean was quickest of those eliminated in Q1 in sixteenth place after being put into the elimination zone by Stroll at the end of the session. The Frenchman had a poor first sector after struggling to get is lap together, leaving him three tenths off.
Antonio Giovinazzi was seventeenth ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, both briefly lifted themselves out of the bottom five in the final flurry of laps before being shuffled back.
George Russell made sure of a clean sweep of Williams teammate Robert Kubica by taking nineteenth place, just over half-a-second ahead.