The Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas has claimed his first ever back to back Pole Position in his career after he beat his team mate Lewis Hamilton, and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel in the final qualifying session of 2017.
Through the first two sessions the momentum looked to be well and truly swinging in favour of Hamilton, as the Brit looked to have the advantage over his Finnish team mate. But a sensational first lap in Q3, a 1:36.231, saw Bottas beat his team-mate by a tenth of a second to claim his fourth pole of the season as well as a new track record for the Yas Marinas circuit.
The two Mercedes did try to better their times on a second flying run, but neither could beat their initial time, with Hamilton even making a mistake into the final corner that ultimately cost him the chance of pole position. The team cannot be too upset though as this was their 50th front row lock out. Hamilton was quick to praise his team mate, knowing that Bottas had the match on him for the session.
“He had an incredible qualifying and congratulations to him,” said Hamilton. “Valtteri did an exceptional job.”
Despite previous thought that the battle for pole would be tight between the top three teams, Ferrari and Red Bull seemed to fall off of the pace of the to Mercedes in the end. Vettel had to settle for third in his Ferrari behind the two Mercedes more than half a second off the pace. The race tomorrow may not be straight forward for the Mercedes tomorrow though with Vettel ready to capitalise on any start line blunders from Bottas and Hamilton. As well as this the Ferrari and Red Bull had impressive race pace, meaning there could still be a fight for the win tomorrow.
The Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo beat Kimi Raikkonen to fourth in what had to be his lap of the session following a less than stellar start to the weekend. Even more encouragingly for the Australian, he out-qualified Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen by three tenths of a seconds. Verstappen will line up sixth for the start of the race tomorrow.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was best of the rest in seventh, qualifying ahead of both of the Force India’s. This result could be seen as critical tomorrow as Renault looks to close down Toro Rosso for sixth in the Constructors Championship, while attempting to stay ahead of the Has cars as well. Importantly for Renault, Hulkenberg was the only driver out of the six in question to reach the top ten.
The Williams of Felipe Massa also had an impressive qualifying session, his last ever in Formula 1. The popular Brazilian driver denied Fernando Alonso a shot in the top ten shootout in the final seconds of Q2. McLaren’s last Saturday with a Honda engine ended with neither driver in Q3.
McLaren were not the only team to suffer a disappointing qualifying session, as Toro Rosso suffered another blow in their bid to hold off Renault and Haas for sixth place in the championship. Brendon Hartley, who will serve yet another engine grid penalty, and Pierre Gasly were knocked out in Q1, along with both Saubers and the Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
With the Constructors Championship a key battleground for tomorrow, as well as certain battles to settle in the drivers, and in the case of Massa wanting to go out on a high, expect tomorrows race to be an interesting battle of the teams.
Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying Timesheet
1) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes: 1:36.231
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: + 0.172
3) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari: + 0.546
4) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull: + 0.728
5) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: + 0.754
6) Max Verstappen, Red Bull: + 1.097
7) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault: + 2.051
8) Sergio Perez, Force India: + 2.143
9) Esteban Ocon, Force India: + 2.166
10) Felipe Massa, Williams: + 2.319
Out in Q2
11) Fernando Alonso, McLaren: 1:38.636
12) Carlos Sainz, Renault: 1:38.725
13) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren: 1:38.808
14) Kevin Magnussen, Haas: 1:39.298
15) Lance Stroll, Williams: 1:39.646
Out in Q1
16) Romain Grosjean, Haas: 1:39.516
17) Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso: 1:39.724
18) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber: 1:39.930
19) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber: 1:39.994
20) Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso: 1:40.471 (Ten Place Engine Penalty To Be Taken)