Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from pole position after beating championship rival Nico Rosberg in qualifying by three tenths of a second. The drivers standings leader will start second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
The Mercedes drivers were on track early in Q1 and Hamilton laid down a heavy gauntlet by posting a superb lap of 1:39 487. Rosberg followed his team-mate across the line but with the German admitting over the radio that it wasn’t a good lap and that he had “made two mistakes” he ended up a full second behind Hamilton.
No one else could get close to the defending champion’s time, however. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came closest, the Finn finishing 0.851 adrift of Hamilton. Only two other drivers got to within a second of the Briton.
At the other end of the time sheet, Toro Rosso, which had been hampered by brake and tyre issues over the weekend, saw both its drivers eliminated in the first segment. Daniil Kvyat dropped out in P17, with team-mate Carlos Sainz eliminated in 21st place. Behind Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen, in his last race weekend for Renault, finished in P18 ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Manor’s Esteban Ocon. Behind Sainz, Marcus Ericsson was ruled our of Q2 in 22nd position.
Hamilton was quickly into the ascendancy in Q2 too. The Mercedes driver set the benchmark at 1:39.382. Rosberg could not match the time but got closer to his rival than in Q1 and with a time of 1:39.490 he finished 0.108 behind his rival.
This place went Raikkonen, who finished ahead of Verstappen, Vettel and Ricciardo.
As the final runs began, Fernando Alonso was the closest to a Q3 spot of those in the drop zone. And the McLaren driver found the extra reserve of pace he needed. His lap of 1:41.044 was good enough to earn him tenth spot behind Felipe Massa who is making his final grand prix appearance this weekend.
Alonso’ rise meant that Massa’s Williams tea-mate Valtteri Bottas was eliminated in P11 ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button, who is also set for the final grand prix of his career tomorrow. Eliminated in P13 was Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez with the Mexican finishing ahead of team-mate Romain Grosjean, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and Wehrlein.
Hamilton continued to set the pace in the early part of Q3, lapping in 1:39.013 to end the first runs 0.346 ahead of Rosberg who could only manage a lap of 1:39.359. Behind them Raikkonen was best of the rest ahead of Ricciardo, Verstappen and Vettel.
2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.487 1:39.382 1:38.755
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:40.511 1:39.490 1:39.058
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:41.002 1:40.429 1:39.589
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:40.338 1:39.629 1:39.604
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:40.341 1:40.034 1:39.661
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:40.424 1:39.903 1:39.818
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:41.000 1:40.709 1:40.501
8 Sergio Perez Force India 1:40.864 1:40.743 1:40.519
9 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:41.616 1:41.044 1:41.106
10 Felipe Massa Williams 1:41.157 1:40.858 1:41.213
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:41.192 1:41.084
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:41.158 1:41.272
13 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:41.639 1:41.480
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:41.467 1:41.564
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:41.775 1:41.820
16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:41.886 1:41.995
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:42.003
18 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:42.142
19 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:42.247
20 Esteban Ocon Manor 1:42.286
21 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:42.393
22 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:42.637