The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position from his team mate Nico Rosberg in the title deciding race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
It’s being heralded as the “duel in the desert,” by fans and pundits of F1 alike. And as the sun set in Abu Dhabi, qualifying for the all-important championship deciding race got underway, with Hamilton and Rosberg seemingly going head to head for the honour of pole position. Hamilton appeared to have the edge over his team mate in the Free Practice sessions this weekend, in indeed going into Q3 he had topped every session in Qualifying. Ultimately, Hamilton was able to take pole by over three tenths of a second from Rosberg. It was Hamilton’s 12th pole position of the season and a record-breaking 20th for the Mercedes team. With the team only failing to secure pole in Monaco this season, having had pole at every other race this season.
Even though Hamilton is on pole Rosberg needn’t worry about being in 2nd for the start tomorrow, as all he must do is finish on the podium tomorrow to be crowned the 2016 Driver’s World Champion, even if Hamilton rounds off the season with a fourth consecutive victory.
However, it could not be the simple two-horse race everyone is predicting, as Red Bull have once again possibly provided the Mercedes team with a strategy headache. During Q2, Red Bull got through to Q3 on the slower but longer-lasting supersoft tyres. The result is they can go deeper into the race tomorrow than the Mercedes on the ultrasoft tyres.
Daniel Ricciardo is the best place red Bull to take advantage of this strategy, after qualifying 3rd just ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in 4th. The Finn pulled out an impressive lap to finish ahead of his team mate Sebastian Vettel in 5th for tomorrow, who has not looked as dialled into the track as Raikkonen has this weekend. Raikkonen’s defeat of Sebastian Vettel means he now ends the year 11-10 up on his Ferrari partner in their intra-team qualifying battle. A significant result for Raikkonen this season, and proof to Ferrari he was worth the gamble of another season there.
Max Verstappen had to settle for 6th in the end after a costly error on his final flying lap, he may not be in the best of positions to take advantage of his reverse strategy tomorrow. But he could prove a headache for Ferrari come the first round of pitstops. It was another good qualifying session for the Force India drivers, with Nico Hulkenberg finishing in 7th ahead of his team mate Sergio Perez in 8th. The team have all but wrapped up 4th in constructors from their rivals Williams this weekend, as it will take something miraculous for them to close the points deficit to them.
The McLaren of Fernando Alonso pulled out a great lap to qualify 9th ahead of his former team mate Felipe Massa. Massa, who is marking his last appearance in the sport, rounded off the top ten after beating his Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas for only the fourth time in 2016. While Jenson Button, who is likely to be retiring at the end of this race following a long career, was able to qualify his McLaren 12th for tomorrow in his swan song to Formula 1.
The main question on everyone’s lips now is simple, who will be the 2016 Formula 1 Drivers World Champion? Lewis Hamilton, or Nico Rosberg? We’ll find out after the duel tomorrow.
Abu Dhabi Qualifying Results
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:38.755
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, + 0.303
3. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 0.834
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 0.849
5. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, + 0.906
6. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, + 1.063
7. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, + 1.746
8. Sergio Perez, Force India, + 1.764
9. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, + 2.351
10. Felipe Massa, Williams, + 2.458
11. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:41.084
12. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:41.272
13. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:41.480
14. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:41.564
15. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:41.820
16. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 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
Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Racing Press Release.