Notebook – Abu Dhabi Qualifying

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Valtteri Bottas has beaten his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Finn was one tenth faster than his four times world champion teammate allowing him to beat Hamilton and take his fourth pole of the season.

It was a great fight between the Mercedes duo traded lap times in the closing moments of the session. But Bottas managed to pull it out of the bag in what turned into a fight between the two Mercedes as their main rivals where well behind on the final runs in Q3.

Pole Lap V. Bottas 01:36.231

We see Valtteri Bottas come out of the final corner goes to the outside as the crosses the start line, gets up to eighth gear before breaking about 100m before Turn One. Crosses the track gets close to the apex of the corner, runs to the outside. He builds speed as he enters Two stays around the 274kph through Three and four.

Big stop as he enters the chicane at five and six. Good entry and exit runs close to the inside before crossing the track to the outside on the way into the hairpin. Runs around the apex, and straight across the track to the outside. Builds speed in eighth gear opening the DRS on this long run to eight. He breaks about 125m before eight hits the apex as he does at nine. Goes to the inside opening up the car through the kink at ten, breaks into eleven.

Takes the corner at 98kph in third gear, then through twelve and thirteen. Through the ninety degree, fourteen runs to the outside then builds the speed as he goes through fifteen and sixteen before a huge breaking point for seventeen. Good through the ninety degree corner, as he does the same for eighteen and nineteen then to the outside before back to the inside for twenty. Good through twenty one going to the outside and across the line with a 01:36.231

After qualifying, Bottas said it was important now to convert that into the win. He said “I was so gutted in Brazil missing the win from pole. I have a clear target for tomorrow and I’m sure the fans will support me. I managed to put it all pretty much together in the first run of Q3, That was a really good lap and in the end it was good enough for pole. But tomorrow is the big day, so there’s no point getting too excited today. Today is today but tomorrow is the day.”

Hamilton’s error

Well, Bottas pulled the two tenths out of the bag in the slower third sector to beat Hamilton. The four times world champion looked strong in his final run until he made a mistake in the final corner, he I believe ran a little wide on exit.

He said “I think at the end I was a tenth and a half up out of Turn 1 and then I lost it somewhere else in the rest of the lap. Nonetheless it was fun to be out there challenging, the last qualifying of the year, finally it’s done and we can just get on with the race tomorrow. It’s a very hard track to overtake, there are a couple of opportunities but I’ll give it everything I’ve got that’s for sure.”

Bigger gap than expected

Sebastian Vettel has been surprised by how big the gap is to Mercedes. Yesterday lunchtime it was about one-tenth between Ferrari and Mercedes, but in qualifying, that went up to half a second.

Vettel said “”Yesterday and this morning I was quite confident that Lewis, in particular, was very quick, like in FP3, and [we] should get more in the direction of yesterday but it was more the other way around.”

“Mercedes in general were very quick, Valtteri put in a mega lap so the gap was bigger than I expected. For tomorrow though I think the gap will shrink, I hope so anyway, then we will see what we can do. But for tonight we’d love to be closer.”

Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen was seven tenths off saying he struggled to get consistency with the tyres. That left the Finn over half a second of Vettel and saw him lose fourth place in the closing moments to Daniel Ricciardo.

Raikkonen said “I think the car was very good but it was tricky to make the tyres work consistently. It was a good feeling with the car but the tyres were some corners very good and then a bit too snappy and hard to make them work well.”

Asked where in particular the tyres had been a problem, Raikkonen replied: “It gave good grip but it just snapped a little bit and there was oversteer on the last lap and oversteer in [Turn] 11 on the exit that compromised the next few corners. I felt there was a lot of speed but I couldn’t really use it.”

Get elbows out

Daniel Ricciardo says he wants to fight with Ferrari for the final podium spot in the race. Ricciardo out-qualified his championship rival Kimi Raikkonen who he is seven points ahead of, however he starts alongside Vettel.

Ricciardo says he was happy with his pace. He added ““I thought we had the pace [for the second row] and I would have been disappointed if we couldn’t show it. I really thought if I put a good lap together we could sneak ahead of at least one Ferrari.

“Seb had a bit too much, but I was happy to get Kimi. Nice way to close out the year, hasn’t been the perfect year in terms of qualifying, in terms of what I expect from myself, but it was nice to finish with a good lap.”

The nightmare continues…

It was another nightmare session for Toro Rosso as both cars dropped out in Q1 as they looked for a strong result this weekend as they look to fight for sixth place in the constructor’s championship. After the session which was a disaster, Pierre Gasly said “I think today was good, compared to Brendan [Hartley], I managed to do a good lap so this is the only positive, but that’s not the target”.”

This weekend we need to keep the sixth position and at the moment it’s out of our hands, really, because we don’t have the pace to fight. It’s a bit annoying to look at things without being able to really have an impact on it.”

Hartley says he was disappointed by his own performance and he added that there was a number of changes to his car because of the grid penalty, meaning they struggled with single lap performance. Adding “We didn’t have a lot to lose so we’ve been also throwing a lot of changes at the car, because we knew we had a 10-place grid penalty.”

“So we’ve been desperate to find some performance somewhere. Didn’t work out in qualifying, I didn’t get a lap together at all. A bit disappointed personally, I didn’t do a good job.”

Race preview

Tomorrow’s race should be a three horse race between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. All three teams have nothing really to lose as they have been evenly matched all weekend, the long run pace saw all three of the top teams lap in the 1:43’s so we could have a close fight.

But, I feel if Bottas can get away on the first few laps and bid that lead in the first two sectors I think he can win this race. Red Bull are a threat to Ferrari in that final sector and we have seen them be a little flustered when under pressure from Red Bull.





Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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