Hamilton wins pole in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton beats Rosberg for pole
Lewis Hamilton beats Rosberg for pole

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg made it look easy in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi GP on Saturday. When you drive a superior Aldo Costa designed Mercedes car things just come easy. Hamilton's lap of 1m38.755s beat Rosberg by 0.303 sec. Everyone else are essentially out to lunch.

Daniel Ricciardo came closest for Red Bull with a lap of 1m39.589s.

Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top-5. Max Verstappen will start 6th for Red Bull.

It was the 61st career pole for Hamilton and 12th of the 2016 season.

Notably, Verstappen and team mate Ricciardo are the only top-ten runners who will start Sunday's race on the more durable supersoft tire.

The Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez took seventh and eighth, with McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Williams' Felipe Massa completing the top ten.

Williams' Valtteri Bottas was the biggest scalp of Q2, the Finn finishing in 11th place, ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button, Haas's Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean, Renault's Jolyon Palmer and Manor's Pascal Wehrlein.

Eliminated in Q1 were Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat, Renault's Kevin Magnussen, Sauber's Felipe Nasr, Manor's Esteban Ocon, Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz and Sauber's Marcus Ericsson.

Q1 saw Hamilton obliterate everyone with a superb lap of 1m 39.487s, to which Rosberg’s reply was a modest 1m 40.511s which was eventually only good enough for fifth as Raikkonen and Vettel maintained Ferrari’s FP3 performance with 1m 40.338s and 1m 40.341s. As Verstappen took fourth with 1m 40.424s, Ricciardo struggled to eighth on 1m 41.002s.

Rosberg could not touch Hamilton's time. No one could touch the Mercedes cars.
Rosberg could not touch Hamilton's time. No one could touch the Mercedes cars.

Further back, Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein jumped into Q2 with 1m 41.886s, leaving Daniil Kvyat as the first faller for Toro Rosso on 1m 42.003, ahead of Renault’s Kevin Magnussen on 1m 42.142s, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr on 1m 42.247s, Esteban Ocon in the second Manor on 1m 42.286s, Carlos Sainz in the second Toro Rosso on 1m 42.393s and Marcus Ericsson in the second Sauber on 1m 42.637s.

Hamilton dominated Q2 with 1m 39.382s, but Rosberg was second with a much more convincing 1m 39.490s from Raikkonen on 1m 39.629s and Verstappen, on 1m 39.903s. Red Bull alone ran the supersofts instead of the ultrasofts, meaning they will start on the longer-lasting – but slower – rubber.

As Alonso took 10th, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas led those who failed to get through, with 1m 41.084s, just 0.40s off the Spaniard’s time. McLaren’s Jenson Button improved to 1m 41.272s but it was not enough to get him into Q3 for the last time, as Esteban Gutierrez again out-qualified Haas team mate Romain Grosjean, 1m 41.490s to 1m 41.564s. Jolyon Palmer was 15th on 1m 41.820s for Renault, as Wehrlein completed the group with 1m 41.995s.

Hamilton again nailed it on the first runs in Q3 with a lap of 1m 39.013s against Rosberg’s 1m 39.359s, and he maintained that on the second runs with a stunning 1m 38.755s which left Rosberg gasping just a little, even though he too improved, to 1m 39.058s.

Behind them, Ricciardo displaced Raikkonen for third on their second runs; the Australian improved to 1m 39.589s and the Finn also improved, to 1m 39.604s, but not enough to stay ahead.

Verstappen was on for improvement too, but ran off the road in Turn 11. That let Vettel up to fifth with 1m 39.661s, as the Dutchman had to rely on his first run time of 1m 39.818s.

Behind them, Hulkenberg took seventh for Force India with 1m 40.501s from team mate Perez on 1m 40.519s. Alonso underlined McLaren’s improvements with ninth on 1m 41.106s, and Massa will start his final Grand Prix 10th, after lapping his Williams in 1m 41.213s.

Thus the provisional grid lines up: Hamilton, Rosberg; Ricciardo, Raikkonen; Vettel, Verstappen; Hulkenberg, Perez; Alonso, Massa; Bottas, Button; Gutierrez, Grosjean; Palmer, Wehrlein; Kvyat, Magnussen; Nasr, Ocon; Sainz, Ericsson.

Rosberg may have a 12-point advantage heading into Sunday's title-deciding race, but for now the momentum is with Hamilton – it was his first pole at Yas Marina against the German since they became team mates, his 12th of the season and his 61st overall.

Hamilton waves to crowd
Hamilton waves to crowd

Lewis Hamilton
It's been an awesome weekend so far. It's rare that you end almost every session on top, so I'm very, very happy, with that. It's down to the hard work done by the mechanics and the engineers to get the car where I need it, so I'm grateful to them for that, as always. I felt so great out there tonight. It's really sad that this is the last Qualifying session we're going to do in this car! It's a dream for any driver to have something this good to drive. I've been doing my practice starts from the pole slot all weekend as I wasn't planning on being anywhere else for tomorrow. I came here knowing that was a big part of what I needed this weekend and, now I've got that, I can focus on the race. Getting away in front will be the next important step. You need a big pace delta to overtake here, so the start will be crucial. Tonight, though, I need to look at strategy and how things need to work for me to get the win. At the moment, my pace is that little bit better. But I can't control what happens behind me. All I can do is focus on my own race. You never know what might get thrown into the mix, so I'm just hoping my car is as beautiful as it has been so far this weekend and aiming for the win.

Nico Rosberg
I came here to be on pole, so I'm not ecstatic today. I was feeling good in the car today and put in some good laps at the end. But Lewis did a great job and was just a few tenths quicker. I'm still in a good position to win the race and I want to end the season on a high. There are a few opportunities tomorrow, so I look forward to an exciting battle. The Yas Marina Circuit is a great track and I'm feeling very good before the last race of the year. I am proud and happy about how this season has gone for me until now. Tonight I will relax a bit with Vivian and some friends and come back tomorrow in top shape.

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
No matter what it looks like from the outside, a 1-2 lockout in qualifying is never easy to achieve. So it's a great result for the team to see this car take the front row in its final ever race weekend before it heads to the museum. It was also a great driving demonstration from our boys this evening. Lewis was on his own level all the way through, setting the benchmark in Q1 and never headed after that. As for Nico, he did exactly what he needed to do tonight, and could perhaps have been a little bit closer without a couple of errors on his lap. But it sets up the perfect scenario for tomorrow's race – and we have Red Bull running the alternative tire strategy, too, which could add a little bit of spice to the race. They will be looking to put us under pressure with that move and we'll see how things play out. As for us, we will be going racing just the same way as we have done all year. The boys are free to race, like they always have been, and we will stay true to our values and principles that have served us so well in the past three seasons. It's going to be a thrilling showdown to a fantastic season.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
A terrifically exciting session! We're very conscious that the whole world is watching the duel between Nico and Lewis and we are delighted to have given them both the platform they needed to put on a great spectacle this evening. Qualifying is hugely important at this circuit and, for the race tomorrow, it could even make the difference between winning a Championship and just missing out. Fortunately, from a team perspective, everything went according to plan, with both drivers able to complete their laps without any issues. We saw incredible pace from both of them at the end to secure a front row lockout. Round one of the battle this weekend has gone to Lewis, so congratulations to him for putting his car in the best possible position with an extraordinary lap. He didn't put a foot wrong all evening. For Nico, Q1 didn't go according to plan – but he pulled it back and was right on the pace when it mattered. We look forward to seeing how their battle unfolds tomorrow. Of course, this was the final Qualifying session of the year, so we must be extremely proud to come away with such a result. Qualifying is the ultimate measure of the pace of a car, so congratulations to the team at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart for ending the season with such a large performance margin to the rest of the field.

Daniel Ricciardo
I’m definitely pleased I got the third place I was after. It feels really good. This morning was hard, I did a run quite early and I was nearly a second off Max so it didn’t look good on paper but the track warmed up so much that we didn’t really know what to expect coming into quali. Q1 was a little bit slow but then I picked it up and Q3 was solid enough so I was happy. We’ll see about the strategy. It’s just nice to do something different to Mercedes. We know on the same equipment they’re probably going to be quicker so we feel it should make us go a little bit longer at the start and then perhaps we can bring the race back to us towards the end when our tires might be a bit different. For tomorrow of course I wish I was in their position, obviously they’ve both got a little bit more pressure than us this weekend, which I’m kind of envious about. But if the win is there for me tomorrow then I’ll go for it and there will be no holding back. You always have this level of respect as they’re fighting for the title, but if they leave the door open and I think I can pass, then I won’t make it easy for them and let them sail into the sunset.

Max Verstappen
I’m pretty disappointed with sixth today. Qualifying up until Q3 went very well, we had no issues and didn’t touch the car. In my last run I was pushing hard and a few tenths up but I locked up into turn 11, if not for that I feel I would have been around P3. It was a bit unfortunate as my pace was there and the car felt good. It would have been great to be a bit higher on the grid as the tire strategy means that by starting on the supersoft we need a really strong start and to be careful with the cars behind. We should be able to stay out a bit longer, the tire seems to work well in the higher temperatures so this suits the start of the race. The pace has been there all weekend so I am definitely aiming to go forward tomorrow and work my way to the guys up front. I will put today behind me and focus on having a strong race and closing the season with another successful result.

Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Principal: “A great final lap by Daniel to find that half a tenth to move himself ahead of Kimi to get the best seat for tomorrow’s start. It was a shame for Max because he was up on his lap but when he arrived at turn 11 he just lost the front axle and therefore the time that he had found was gone. Nonetheless starting third and sixth on the grid here for what’s bound to be an exciting start tomorrow is not a bad place to be. Strategically we’ve chosen to start on the supersoft tire believing it to be a little bit more robust than the ultrasoft which again brings another dimension to the race. Hopefully if we can get a good start then we should be in good shape with those tires."

Pirelli Tire Report

There was a high degree of track evolution on the Yas Marina circuit, especially during the FP1 session. This meant that a number of drivers set faster times on a harder compound compared to the softer ones that they ran previously, as conditions improved. However, by the late afternoon – when FP2 was run, at a similar time to qualifying and the race – track conditions had stabilised, meaning that representative times were set on each compound.

The FP2 session was held from 17:00, with track temperatures falling throughout the session by three degrees, and more than 10 degrees compared to FP1. As expected, the ultrasoft proved to be ultimately quickest, setting the fastest time of the day with Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes: 1m40.861s, more than a second quicker than last year’s FP2 time (set on supersoft).

The smooth nature of the surface and the varying track conditions meant that the speed differentials between the different compounds was reasonably small, compared to other tracks. So far, around 0.8 seconds separate the supersoft from the ultrasoft. Teams completed both race and qualifying simulations, with the top two Mercedes separated by just 0.079s.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “As we expected, wear and degradation is reasonably high on the softest compounds, due to the high longitudinal acceleration and braking demands of this track. However, the pattern depends very much on the state of the track, which has been changing all day due to normal evolution and also falling temperatures in FP2. As a result, drivers are chasing a moving target when it comes to defining set-up and strategy, which adds an extra element to the challenge imposed by the championship finale. Already we have seen some of the run plans today influenced by the pre-event tire choices from each driver, giving an insight into individual strategies."





Soft New



Ultrasoft new



Ultrasoft new



Ultrasoft new



Soft new



Ultrasoft new
























28 laps







Tire statistics of the day:




kms driven *




sets used overall **




highest number of laps **




* The above number gives the total amount of kilometres driven in FP1 and FP2 today, all drivers combined.
** Per compound, all drivers combined.

Minimum prescribed tire pressures: 21.5 psi (fronts) 20 psi (rears)


1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes/Mercedes 1:39.487 1:39.382 1:38.755 12
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes/Mercedes 1:40.511 1:39.490 1:39.058 12
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing/TAG Heuer 1:41.002 1:40.429 1:39.589 17
4 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari/Ferrari 1:40.338 1:39.629 1:39.604 14
5 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari/Ferrari 1:40.341 1:40.034 1:39.661 14
6 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing/TAG Heuer 1:40.424 1:39.903 1:39.818 13
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1:41.000 1:40.709 1:40.501 12
8 11 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1:40.864 1:40.743 1:40.519 12
9 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1:41.616 1:41.044 1:41.106 17
10 19 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1:41.157 1:40.858 1:41.213 15
11 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1:41.192 1:41.084 9
12 22 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1:41.158 1:41.272 14
13 21 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1:41.639 1:41.480 16
14 8 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1:41.467 1:41.564 15
15 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault/Renault 1:41.775 1:41.820 14
16 94 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1:41.886 1:41.995 14
17 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1:42.003 9
18 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault/Renault 1:42.142 6
19 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1:42.247 8
20 31 Esteban Ocon Manor/Mercedes 1:42.286 8
21 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1:42.393 9
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1:42.637 8

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