The grid took to the Abu Dhabi Yas Marina Circuit for the last qualifying session of the 2016 season, and it was Lewis Hamilton who came out fastest of them all. He beat teammate Nico Rosberg, who will start beside the Brit on the front row, and Daniel Ricciardo who rounded off the top three.
Hamilton had topped the timesheet in all three of the qualifying sessions, with Rosberg losing a couple of tenths in the second sector consistently. In Q3, Hamilton had a three-tenth advantage as the pair headed out for their final flying laps. Rosberg gained a tenth in the first sector but ultimately it was not enough as Hamilton broke into the 1m38s with his fastest time of 1:38.775. Rosberg was three-tenths back with a 1:39.058.
Rosberg just needs to finish on the podium to become the 2016 World Champion. If Hamilton finishes fourth or lower it does not matter where Rosberg finishes; he will become the Champion.
In the closing stages of Q3 Ricciardo jumped ahead of Kimi Raikkonen for third with a 0.015-second improvement on the Finn’s time. Raikkonen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel finished fifth after suffering a gearbox failure during Friday’s FP2. The gearbox was a previously used one so Vettel incurred no penalty swapping for a new one.
Max Verstappen will start sixth in tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Both of the Red Bull drivers got through Q2 on the super-soft tyres and will be the only ones in the top ten starting the race on these instead of the purple-walled ultra-soft tyres.
The Force India duo have looked strong all week and confirmed that by locking out row four. Nico Hulkenberg will start ahead of Sergio Perez in the German’s last race for the Silverstone-based team.
An impressive improvement of around half a second at the end of Q2 saw Fernando Alonso knock Valtteri Bottas out of the top ten and progress to Q3 by 0.040 seconds. The Spaniard managed to get a tenth advantage on Felipe Massa to take ninth. Massa rounded off the top ten for his final Grand Prix.
The other driver in their final Formula One race this weekend, Jenson Button, qualified his McLaren 12th behind Bottas. He lost two-tenths to his teammate Alonso in his final run and claimed he picked up some understeer in the cooling conditions.
Esteban Guttierrez beat his teammate Romain Grosjean to 13th on the grid in his final outing for the Haas team. The duo was split by just under a tenth of a second to lock out row seven. Jolyon Palmer has Pascal Wehrlein for company on row eight as the pair were the final two to get through to Q2.
Toro Rosso’s weekend continued to be a painful one as neither of the 2015 Ferrari engine-running cars could make it out of Q1. The team lost most of FP2 as they were forced to pit the cars under the FIA’s ruling once Daniil Kvyat had had another rear tyre blow out. The team completed safety checks and alterations to the cars to prevent the tyres blowing out anymore but this potentially has had a knock on effect to the car’s performance. Kvyat starts 17th on the grid, his time having been 3.2 seconds off of Hamilton’s fastest lap whilst his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. has to settle for 21st, 3.6 seconds off the pace.
Renault sent out an apology to Kevin Magnussen when the Dane failed to go faster on his second Q1 run and had to take 18th on the grid. Felipe Nasr was 19th after complaining of an ERS issue as he exited Turn 14. Esteban Ocon was not able to match the performance of his teammate and took P20 for Manor and Marcus Ericsson – recently resigned to Sauber for 2017 – takes the last slot on the grid. The Swede apologised to the team when he locked up under braking at Turn 17 and removed the possibility of improving his final lap time.
Renault apologised to Kevin Magnussen after he failed to go quicker on his final Q1 run and wound up 18th, ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, who complained of an ERS problem exiting Turn 14.
Esteban Ocon was 20th in the second Manor, after a slow first sector, while the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson qualified last, the Swede apologising to the team for locking up under braking for Turn 17 and ruining his final flying lap in Q1.