Valtteri Bottas will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the front of the grid after the Finn beat Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just under two tenths of a second to claim his fourth career pole position. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel will start third ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who delivered a superb final flying lap to climb from sixth place after the first runs of Q3.
In Q1, four-time champion Hamilton was one of the first on track and he quickly grabbed top spot with a lap of 1:37.473. He was eclipsed, however by Mercedes team-mate Bottas who edged ahead with a lap of 1:37.356 as Hamilton improved marginally in P2. Kimi Räikkönen took third for Ferrari ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo fifth ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen.
Sergio Perez took seventh for Force India ahead of McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. Behind them Renault’s Carlos Sainz was 10th ahead of the second Force India of Esteban Ocon. As the final runs began the top 11 stayed garage bound.
At the other end of the spectrum, the men in the drop zone ahead of the final runs were Williams’ Lance Stroll in P16 followed by the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson and the Toro Rossos of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley.
And following the chequered flag only Stroll managed to escape the cut. The Williams driver’s lap of 1:39.503 elevated him to 15th place with Haas’ Romain Grosjean eliminated by just over a hundredth of a second in P16 ahead of Gasly, Wehrlein, Ericsson and Hartley.
In Q2 it was Hamilton who set the pace. Bottas was the first to cross the line but traffic in Q3 saw the Finn set a time of 1:36.977. Hamilton was following and when he crossed the line he took P1 with a time of 1:36.742. Vettel slotted into P3 ahead of Räikkönen and Ricciardo with Hulkenberg seventh ahead of Verstappen.
In the final runs the top five positions remained the same but Verstappen found an improvement to edge ahead of Hulkenberg, while behind the Dutchman, Perez, Ocon and Williams’ Felipe Massa, contesting his final F1 qualifying session before retirement made it through in 10th place.
The Brazilian’s time of 1:38.565 meant that he slipped through just seven hundredths of a second ahead of former Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso who was eliminated in 11th place ahead of Sainz, Vandoorne, Magnussen and Stroll.
While Mercedes clearly had the upper hand, it was not Hamilton who set the pace in the first runs of Q3 but Bottas. The Finn extracted the maximum from himself and his car to post a time of 1:36.231. It was a benchmark Hamilton failed to match in either his first or final run and thus Bottas took his fourth career pole position ahead of the 2017 champion. Vettel took third place, over half a second down on Bottas.
It was Ricciardo, though, who made the biggest improvement in the session. The Australian’s first run left him in sixth place, two hundredths of a second behind team-mate Verstappen and complaining about the tyres he had run on his first flyer.
Ricciardo was the last man out of the garage in the final runs but he made the lap count improving by more than seven tenths of a second to jump to fourth place with a lap of 1:36.959.
Räikkönen was left with fifth place ahead of Verstappen, while Hulkenberg took seventh place for Renault. Perez qualified eighth ahead of team-mate Ocon and Felipe Massa qualified for his final grand prix in 10th place.
2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:36.231
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.403 0.172
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:36.777 0.546
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:36.959 0.728
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:36.985 0.754
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:37.328 1.097
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:38.282 2.051
8 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.374 2.143
9 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:38.397 2.166
10 Felipe Massa Williams 1:38.550 2.319
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:38.636 2.405
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault 1:38.725 2.494
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:38.808 2.577
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:39.298 3.067
15 Lance Stroll Williams 1:39.646 3.415
16 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:39.516 3.285
17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:39.724 3.493
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:39.930 3.699
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:39.994 3.763
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:40.471 4.240