Lewis Hamilton stormed to his eleventh pole of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It was also the 83rd pole position of his career. His teammate Valtteri Bottas took P2, locking out the front row once again for Mercedes AMG F1 team. Scuderia Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen took P3 and P4 respectively. Daniel Ricciardo outqualified teammate Max Verstappen to take P5 for an all Red Bull third row. Romain Grosjean of Haas F1 team was “best of the rest” at P7.
Lewis Hamilton seals the final pole of the season
Q1: Vettel tops as both Torro Rossos drop out
The first qualifying session at the beautiful Yas Marina Circuit started with air temperatures at 28 degrees C and track temperatures at 32 degrees C. Most cars started the session on the pink-striped hypersoft tyres. Raikkonen set the initial benchmark time of 1:37.010s. But Vettel surpassed it on his first hot lap. Vettel improved further on his next attempt to 1:36.775s which could not be surpassed by anybody else in Q1.
The surprise of the session was Pierre Gasly dropping out along with his teammate Brendon Hartley. Stoffel Vandoorne and Sergey Sirotkin, both probably on their last F1 qualifying session of their careers, also dropped off. Sirotkin’s teammate Lance Stroll finished last of all in his last qualifying for Williams before heading to Force India next season.
Q2: Hamilton tops as Alonso finishes P15 in his swansong
Most teams started the second qualifying session on the mid-range ultrasoft tyres. Hamilton, who was shaded by his teammate and Vettel both in Q1, came out with all guns blazing to record a mega lap of 1:35.693s. This time could not be surpassed by anyone else in Q2, even on hypersofts. Verstappen was in the dropzone after an uncharacteristically slow first run on ultrasofts. So, he had to come out on the hypersofts on his final Q2 run to scrape through to Q3. Whether this will compromise his race strategy tomorrow or prove a blessing in disguise, remains to be seen. Other top teams also experimented with hypersofts, only to abort the lap in the end so as not to start on them in the race.
Carlos Sainz of Renault was the surprise in the dropzone, as was Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso, in his last grand prix weekend of a remarkable career, finished just P15. Others in the dropzone were Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen.
Q3: Hamilton breaks lap record to grab pole
The final qualifying session started with all cars on the grippiest hypersoft tyres. Hamilton and Mercedes were looking to dominate the session, and so it proved in the end. Bottas might have nursed an ambition to get pole here like last year, but it didn’t come to fruition.
Hamilton set a lap record of 1:35.295s on his first run but didn’t rest there. He took a fresh set of hypersofts to put in another scorching lap of 1:34.794s, breaking his own lap record within minutes. Vettel & Bottas tried hard, but couldn’t match the 5 time world champion’s time. It proved to be an emotional final pole of the season for the champion as he embraced his car after the post-session interviews, which had helped him seal his fifth championship.
The Last Word
The twilight to night race at the Yas Marina Circuit is expected to be dominated by engine power. So the likely winner will be either from the Silver Arrows or the Prancing Horse stables. But, seeing Verstappen’s recent form and Ricciardo being pumped up for one last hurrah before leaving Red Bull, the team from Milton Keynes cannot be discounted. A safety car period can also be lurking in this night race, which might spice up the proceedings. Buckle up for some lively action on race day and some generous flow of emotions from drivers and fans alike!
Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying Result:
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