Nico Rosberg is on pole position for the all important championship showdown between himself and team-mate Lewis Hamilton in tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton looked to have the edge in the first two qualifying sessions, but a lock-up on his first run in the top 10 shoot-out evaporated his momentum and allowed Rosberg to steal pole position. Williams looked as though they could threaten Mercedes after Q2, but their challenge faded. They will start from the third row of the grid.
Conditions were perfect as the sun began to set over the Yas Marina circuit. Mercedes had taken 11 front row lock-outs over the course of the season with all but 1 pole position going to either Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton. Would either of the championship hopefuls take the final pole position or the season and gain the advantage heading into the race tomorrow.
Toro Rosso headed out straight away on the faster tyres as they knew that they were in danger of being eliminated. With the return of Caterham, the slowest 5 drivers from 16th to 20th would be eliminated in Q1, with 11th to 15th falling in the second session.
First blood at the front went to Lewis Hamilton as he went a tenth quicker than Rosberg on their first runs. Rosberg had spoiled Hamilton’s chance of taking the fastest time in every practice session after beating him by 3 tenths of a second earlier on in FP3.
With 7 minutes to go, all the drivers had set a lap-time except Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull. They finally set lap-times, electing to not do a run on the slower compound and instead bolt on super-soft tyres. They came through with Ricciardo 3rd and Vettel 5th. This meant that heading into the final few minutes that both Ferrari’s were in the drop-out zone with Perez, Kobayashi and Stevens.
Both Scuderia cars had put on the faster tyres and were on track. Raikkonen lifted himself out of the bottom 5 to go into 5th, with Alonso down in 11th before being pushed down to 13th. Now the two Saubers were in danger along with Pastor Maldonado, with Romain Grosjean on the cusp of elimination should his team-mate improve, which he did. Maldonado went a few tenths faster to go 15th and push Grosjean down, before Gutierrez then came through and kicked him back down. Sutil then improved to put his team-mate Esteban back into the bottom 15 and seal a position in Q2.
F1 débutante Will Stevens was within half a second of team-mate Kamui Kobayashi after a decent first qualifying. He would later explain on the radio that he could have gone a second quicker than his time, which would have put him ahead of Kamui. “I was nearly a second up going into turn 17 but I lost the rear and lost all the time I’d gained,” he said to his engineer, “The rear is a limitation.”
Grosjean was unable to lift himself out of the bottom 15 and subsequently settled for 16th. But after a 6th engine change, he will have a 20 place grid penalty. Due to the fact that he can only go back 4 of those places, he will have to serve further penalties during the race to compensate.
Out in Q1:
The first 2 minutes of the second session of qualifying saw no wheel turned. It was Sergio Perez who emerged onto the track first for Force India, followed shortly by the rest of the drivers. Perez and Hulkenberg were the first to set times, with Hulkenberg trailing his team-mate by 8 tenths of a second. Raikkonen was next through as he split the pair, with Massa following soon after to go to the top.
The two Mercedes cars set their first times next, Hamilton jumped up to the top, 6 tenths clear of Massa. Rosberg was next but was 13 seconds slower than his team-mate thanks to an off track excursion on his first lap at the 2nd chicane. His second lap was more than enough to get him out of the elimination zone, but it was half a second slower than Lewis and only a hundredth quicker than Bottas, who had jumped ahead of his team-mate by a tenth.
With the first runs done, 13 out of 15 drivers had set a time, with the two McLaren’s electing to wait until the end of the session to do one run. Button had been out on track earlier on, but was called in before he could set a time as they needed to top him up with fuel. Both drivers needed a good qualifying performance as they were fighting for their race seats next season and were also fighting in the season qualifying head-to-head. Magnussen’s first lap put him in 8th, with Button coming through soon after to go 3 tenths quicker in P6. This put Kevin down to P9 and in danger of elimination. Raikkonen and Kvyat managed to improve and push Magnussen into the drop-out zone, with the McLaren driver having no answer to their improvements. He would join Vergne, both Force India drivers and Sutil in elimination.
Right at the last moment, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas both went P2 and P3 behind Lewis Hamilton, pushing Rosberg down into 4th. Could we have a fight on for pole position, or at the very least, is Rosberg in trouble heading into a critical top 10 shoot-out.
Out of Q2:
|12||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’42.207|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’42.239|
|14||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1’42.384|
With Rosberg seemingly on the back-foot against team-mate Lewis Hamilton and also under pressure from the Williams duo of Massa and Bottas, who would be on pole for the final, double points Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.
Vettel came through first to se t a lap, with Bottas following him through to go a 8 tenths faster. Massa came next in the second Williams to go 2 tenths quicker. Nico Rosberg was the first Mercedes to set a lap as he went to the top with a 1:40.697. Lewis Hamilton was not far behind him but he locked up into the final corner, this put him 2nd fastest but 3 tenths down. However he had been faster than his team-mate on that lap until that point.
Only one qualifying was left for the drivers for the season. Rosberg was out first ahead of his team-mate Hamilton, with Lewis hoping to make an error free lap in order to challenge Nico for pole position. All 10 drivers were on track for the final minute of running, with Hamilton the last man in the queue. Nico Rosberg was up by a few hundredths on his first sector, with Bottas tracking 1 tenth quicker than the provisional pole in the sector. Rosberg was tracking the same amount, with Hamilton 2 tenths down in sector 1.
Bottas crossed the line first to go P3, unable to take his first pole position in F1. Rosberg went 2 tenths faster to put all the pressure on Hamilton. Hamilton was unable to make up the time in the final 2 sectors and ended up 3 tenths down on his team-mate. Rosberg had secured his 11th pole position of the year for the Grand Prix that he needs to finish ahead of his team-mate in to have a chance at winning the world championship.
Williams once again locked-out the 2nd row, with Bottas just ahead of Massa. They had both matched the Mercedes in the first and second sectors, but were crucially losing time in the final, street circuit-esque sector. Team-mates continued to come two-by-two as Ricciardo and Vettel took the 3rd row of the grid. Sebastian was 7 tenths down on his team-mate in his final qualifying session for Red Bull. Daniil Kvyat, Vettel’s replacement for 2015, was just 1 hundredth of a second slower than him in 7th place. Jenson Button beat his team-mate in qualifying for the 10th time, meaning that he has won the head-to-head against him. Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso complete the top 10 in a disappointing session for Ferrari, with Alonso 2.3 seconds off the pace after running wide at turn 1 on his lap.
2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix grid:
|Row 1||1. Nico Rosberg 1’40.480
|2. Lewis Hamilton 1’40.866
|Row 2||3. Valtteri Bottas 1’41.025
|4. Felipe Massa 1’41.119
|Row 3||5. Daniel Ricciardo 1’41.267
|6. Sebastian Vettel 1’41.893
|Row 4||7. Daniil Kvyat 1’41.908
|8. Jenson Button 1’41.964
|Row 5||9. Kimi Raikkonen 1’42.236
|10. Fernando Alonso 1’42.866
|Row 6||11. Kevin Magnussen 1’42.198
|12. Jean-Eric Vergne 1’42.207
|Row 7||13. Sergio Perez 1’42.239
|14. Nico Hulkenberg 1’42.384
|Row 8||15. Adrian Sutil 1’43.074
|16. Esteban Gutierrez 1’42.819
|Row 9||17. Pastor Maldonado 1’42.860
|18. Kamui Kobayashi 1’44.540
|Row 10||19. Will Stevens 1’45.095
|20. Romain Grosjean* 1’42.768
*20 place grid penalty for Grosjean due to an engine change.
Pole-sitter, Nico Rosberg: “It’s only one step, a very small step. This weekend is about the championship, not about pole position. It would have been great if there was a Williams in between us, but that can always happen tomorrow.”
Second on the grid, Lewis Hamilton: “I generally didn’t have the best of laps but I enjoyed the qualifying session. Tomorrow is going to be a special day.”
So the stage is set for the 2014 Formula One world championship to be decided in the double points Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tomorrow. Rosberg needs to finish in the top 5 to have a chance of beating Lewis, with Hamilton needing to be in 2nd if Rosberg wins the race. Will Hamilton claim a second world championship, or will Rosberg emulate his father and join the list of Formula One champions? Find out tomorrow for the epic conclusion to a thrilling season.