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.
Abu Dhabi Qualifying Results
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m39.589s||0.834s|
|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|
|17||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m42.003s||3.248s|
|21||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m42.393s||3.638s|