Lewis Hamilton took the 83rd pole position of his career as Mercedes locked-out the front row at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The first runs in Q3 saw the top six drivers in contention, with Hamilton fastest — despite a small mistake — but Max Verstappen only 0.294s adrift in sixth place. However, Mercedes stretched its legs on the final attempts, with Hamilton’s lap of 1m34.794s leaving him 0.162s clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas won in Abu Dhabi a year ago and was a threat throughout the session, but it was Hamilton’s final sector that made the difference in the final fight for pole.
Sebastian Vettel will start from third after finishing up 0.331s off Hamilton’s time, with an all-Ferrari second row being completed by Kimi Raikkonen who was half a second adrift.
Red Bull makes up row three but had been in the fight for pole until the final runs, with Daniel Ricciardo recovering from a stoppage in FP3 to set the fifth-fastest time, losing out to Raikkonen by just 0.036s. Max Verstappen will start from sixth ahead of Romain Grosjean and Charles Leclerc, with Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg ninth and 10th respectively.
There were a few nervous moments in Q2 but all the main protagonists progressed, although Verstappen had to rely on a late hypersoft tire run to do so while the rest of the top six will all start the race on ultrasofts. Ricciardo made it through by just 0.019s after aborting his final lap, with Carlos Sainz just missing out in P11.
Marcus Ericsson will start from 12th ahead of Kevin Magnussen — who made a small error by locking up at the Turn 7 hairpin — and Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso’s final qualifying session was always going to be a challenge given the pace of the McLaren, but he at least reached Q2 and will start his last grand prix from 15th on the grid.
Alonso’s main target was to escape Q1 and he did so with a good lap, while the former focus of his frustrations — Honda — had a disappointing session. Brendon Hartley dropped out in 16th place, one position ahead of Pierre Gasly as a power unit issue struck at the final corner. Gasly was set to advance but lost a big chunk of time as he couldn’t accelerate properly to the line, ending up 17th and needing to stop on track two corners later.
Stoffel Vandoorne’s final qualifying session before his move to Formula E yielded only 18th place and ensured he never outqualified Alonso this season, while Sergey Sirotkin got the better of Lance Stroll in their final race as Williams teammates by just 0.047s.