Mercedes will go into Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with the upper hand after Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton locked out the front row in qualifying. It was a fourth career pole for Bottas and his second in a row.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was third fastest. Daniel Ricciardo made a late improvement in the Red Bull to beat Kimi Raikkonen to fourth place. As a result, the Finn will start the race from the third row alongside Max Verstappen.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Qualifying results
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:38.016s||1:37.583s||1:36.959s|
|6||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:38.021s||1:37.777s||1:37.328s|
|8||Sergio Pérez||Force India||1:38.601s||1:38.359s||1:38.374s|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1:38.896s||1:38.392s||1:38.397s|
|17||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||1:39.724s|
|20||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||1:40.471s|
Q1: Bottas and Hamilton in charge, Grosjean misses out
The final qualifying session of the season got underway at Yas Marina Circuit just when the final rays of the desert sun were grudgingly giving way to the dazzling floodlights. First in action was Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly, with the two Mercedes drivers and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel among those quick to join him. Everyone was straight onto ultrasofts from the start.
Lewis Hamilton quickly ascended to the top of the timesheets. His first run clocked in at 1:37.473s, a quarter of a second faster than his team mate Valtteri Bottas. Vettel was a further half second back in third, and he was soon bumped down a place when Kimi Raikkonen put in his opening bid.
In the meantime the two Mercedes continued to get faster, Bottas going top with a time of 1:37.356s which was 0.035s ahead of Hamilton's latest run. The two Ferraris also improved their times, Raikkonen and Vettel pulling clear of the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
The drop zone was now occupied by the two Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, and the Toro Rossos of Gasly and Brendon Hartley. The latter had little motivation to improve, given his ten place grid penalty for taking on a ninth MGU-H this weekend meaning a back row start was already in prospect.
The final elimination place was hotly contested between the Haas and Williams contingents. A last-gasp run put Lance Stroll into 15th place: "Oh God, that was everything!" he admitted over the team radio. He was just 0.013s ahead of Romain Grosjean, meaning the Frenchman collected the unwanted prize of sitting out the rest of qualifying.
Q2: Massa makes it through in his last-ever qualifying
Fresh from his success in Q1, Bottas was the first driver to set a flying lap time in the second round of qualifying. However he was swiftly removed from the top of the timing screens by Hamilton posting an impressive 1:36.742s.
The time put the Briton over two tenths ahead of Bottas and Vettel, with Raikkonen and Ricciardo almost half a second further back. Raikkonen was distinctly unhappy, feeling his lap had been foiled by a slow Force India.
No one felt secure enough to sit out the rest of the session in the garage, and all 15 cars came out for a second run. Hamilton failed to go faster after running wide, but Bottas closed the gap to 0.008s. Vettel, Raikkonen and Ricciardo all held station with Verstappen taking sixth ahead of Renault's Nico Hulkenberg. The two Force Indias also made it through to the final round.
In his final Formula 1 qualifying session, Felipe Massa dug deep and somehow managed to put his Williams into tenth place by 0.071s. That ejected the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne from Q3, along with Kevin Magnussen and Lance Stroll. Also eliminated was Carlos Sainz, who indicated that he'd suffered a loss of engine power in the Renault.
Q3: Bottas finds a little extra to hold off Hamilton
First blood in the final pole shoot-out of 2017 went to Bottas who logged a time of 1:36.231s, the fastest of the day so far. Hamilton wasn't able to keep pace with him and went second, 0.172s behind. It left him a lot to do with his sole remaining run to start Sunday's race at the front.
The Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen were almost half a second slower - and the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo were seven tenths further back still. Hulkenberg was in seventh but a whopping two seconds off the provisional pole time. He was followed by Ocon, Perez and Massa.
After a brief pause, all ten were back out on track for their final qualifying efforts. Bottas was unable to find any more speed and pitted, but Hamilton set a purple fast sector. However that took too much life out of his tyres, and the Mercedes started to squirm through the final corners. Hamilton's final time was not an improvement, meaning Bottas successfully claimed his second pole in a row.
Vettel held on to third place, but a late improvement from Ricciardo broke up the provisional all-Ferrari second row. Raikkonen was bumped down to fifth place meaning he will start alongside Verstappen. Hulkenberg couldn't improve on seventh, but Sergio Perez' final lap was enough to pip his team mate Esteban Ocon to eighth place.