F1 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying result: Hamilton storms to pole ahead of the Duel in the Desert

PUBLISHED: 18:26 26 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:59 27 November 2016

Lewis Hamilton celebrates taking pole position in qualifying for the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix [Picture: Sean Ramsell]

Lewis Hamilton celebrates taking pole position in qualifying for the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix [Picture: Sean Ramsell]


Reigning Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will start the season's title decider from pole position after dominating qualifying for the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The 31-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire claimed his 61st career pole position today under the Yas Marina lights.

Hamilton clocked a time of 1m 38.755s in Q3 to take his third pole position at the Yas Marina Circuit and 12th of the 2016 season so far.

Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg completed a 14th Silver Arrows front row lockout of the season in P2 – his 60th front row start in Formula One.

The German world championship leader recorded a final flying lap of 1m 39.058s.

The Silver Arrows team has now taken 20 pole positions from 21 races in the 2016 season, which is a new all-time record.

Daniel Ricciardo was third in the provisional qualifying results for Red Bull with Kimi Raikkonen fourth for Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen will line-up on the third row of the starting grid in Abu Dhabi.

After dominating practice and qualifying, Stevenage-born racer Hamilton said: “It’s been an awesome weekend so far.

“It’s rare that you end almost every session on top, so I’m very, very happy, with that.

“It’s down to the hard work done by the mechanics and the engineers to get the car where I need it, so I’m grateful to them for that, as always.

“I felt so great out there tonight. It’s really sad that this is the last qualifying session we’re going to do in this car!

“It’s a dream for any driver to have something this good to drive. I’ve been doing my practice starts from the pole slot all weekend as I wasn’t planning on being anywhere else for tomorrow.

“I came here knowing that was a big part of what I needed this weekend and, now I’ve got that, I can focus on the race.”

Three-time world champion Hamilton added: “Getting away in front will be the next important step.

“You need a big pace delta to overtake here, so the start will be crucial.

“Tonight, though, I need to look at strategy and how things need to work for me to get the win.

“At the moment, my pace is that little bit better. But I can’t control what happens behind me.

“All I can do is focus on my own race. You never know what might get thrown into the mix, so I’m just hoping my car is as beautiful as it has been so far this weekend and aiming for the win.”

Both Mercedes drivers completed a single run in Q1 and Q2, and then two runs in Q3, using UltraSoft tyres throughout.

Rosberg, who won in Abu Dhabi last year, said: “I came here to be on pole, so I’m not ecstatic today. I was feeling good in the car today and put in some good laps at the end.

“But Lewis did a great job and was just a few tenths quicker. I’m still in a good position to win the race and I want to end the season on a high.

“There are a few opportunities tomorrow, so I look forward to an exciting battle.

“The Yas Marina Circuit is a great track and I’m feeling very good before the last race of the year.

“I am proud and happy about how this season has gone for me until now. Tonight I will relax a bit with Vivian and some friends and come back tomorrow in top shape.”

Hamilton’s team boss, Toto Wolff, was delighted to see both his drivers qualify on the front row for the season-deciding race.

The head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport said: “No matter what it looks like from the outside, a 1-2 lockout in qualifying is never easy to achieve.

“So it’s a great result for the team to see this car take the front row in its final ever race weekend before it heads to the museum.

“It was also a great driving demonstration from our boys this evening. Lewis was on his own level all the way through, setting the benchmark in Q1 and never headed after that.

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

• Start time: 17:00hrs local/13:00hrs GMT

• Race distance: 55 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/41 laps)

• Safety Car likelihood: Low. Statistically, there’s only a 40 per cent chance of a Safety Car, largely due to no Safety Car periods in either of the last two years.

• When to press record: The eyes of the sporting world will be on the world championship showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. It’s difficult to overtake in Abu Dhabi, so a good grid position is vital.

• Don’t put the kettle on… All of the cars in the top 10 made two pitstops last year, pitting on or around laps 10 and 30. Tyre degradation and wear are low at the Yas Marina Circuit, so expect more of the same this year

• Tyre choices: Ultrasoft/Supersoft/Soft, a combination that was last used at the Singapore Grand Prix.

“As for Nico, he did exactly what he needed to do tonight, and could perhaps have been a little bit closer without a couple of errors on his lap.

“But it sets up the perfect scenario for tomorrow’s race – and we have Red Bull running the alternative tyre strategy, too, which could add a little bit of spice to the race.

“They will be looking to put us under pressure with that move and we’ll see how things play out.

“As for us, we will be going racing just the same way as we have done all year.

Yas Marina Circuit stats

• 2015 winner: Nico Rosberg, 55 laps, 1:38:30.175

• 2015 pole position: Nico Rosberg, 1m40.237s

• 2015 fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton, 1m44.517s (lap 44)

• First race: 2009

• Circuit length: 5.554km/3.451 miles (7th longest of the season)

• Distance to Turn One: 300m/0.186 miles (longest of the season: Mexico, 800m/0.497 miles)

• Longest straight: 1.2km/0.746 miles, on the approach to the Turn Eight

• Top speed: 335km/h/208mph, on the approach to Turn Eight

• Pitlane length: 360m/0.224 miles, estimated time loss 22s

• Full throttle: 60 per cent

• DRS zones: Two, on the approach to Turns Eight and 11

• Key corner: Turn Seven, a non-descript left-hand hairpin. But for all its benign characteristics, the corner is crucial because the longest straight on the lap follows. You need a good exit to maximise what becomes the first DRS zone and one of the best overtaking opportunities on the lap

• Fastest corner: 260km/h (162mph), Turn Two

• Slowest corner: 72km/h (45mph), Turn Seven

• Major changes for 2016: None, except for maintenance work

• Fuel consumption: 1.81kg per lap, which is relatively high

• ERS demands: Medium. There are several slow corners around the lap where ERS deployment is crucial at the exit. But there are lots of braking zones around the lap in which to regain energy under braking

• Brake wear: High. There are 13 braking zones around the lap, which means 18 per cent of the lap is spent braking. Braking forces peak at 5.09g on the approach to Turn Eight

• Gear changes: 68 per lap/3,740 per race.

“The boys are free to race, like they always have been, and we will stay true to our values and principles that have served us so well in the past three seasons. It’s going to be a thrilling showdown to a fantastic season.”

After a “terrifically exciting” qualifying sessions, Mercedes director Paddy Lowe said: “We’re very conscious that the whole world is watching the duel between Nico and Lewis and we are delighted to have given them both the platform they needed to put on a great spectacle this evening.

“Qualifying is hugely important at this circuit and, for the race tomorrow, it could even make the difference between winning a Championship and just missing out.

“Fortunately, from a team perspective, everything went according to plan, with both drivers able to complete their laps without any issues.

“We saw incredible pace from both of them at the end to secure a front row lockout.

“Round one of the battle this weekend has gone to Lewis, so congratulations to him for putting his car in the best possible position with an extraordinary lap. He didn’t put a foot wrong all evening.”

Lowe added: “For Nico, Q1 didn’t go according to plan – but he pulled it back and was right on the pace when it mattered.

“We look forward to seeing how their battle unfolds tomorrow. Of course, this was the final qualifying session of the year, so we must be extremely proud to come away with such a result.

“Qualifying is the ultimate measure of the pace of a car, so congratulations to the team at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart for ending the season with such a large performance margin to the rest of the field.”

McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, posted a brilliant final lap in Q3 to line up ninth for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

His team-mate Jenson Button, who will start the final race of his Formula 1 career tomorrow, qualified in 12th place.

Alonso, who clocked 1m 41.106s, said: “I think we have to be happy today: it was definitely a good quali for us.

“The conditions are always difficult here, because you practice in hot conditions, then head into qualifying when the track conditions are much cooler.

“That means you need to anticipate what’s going to happen, and make set-up changes a little blindly as you don’t really know how the conditions are going to change.

“Happily, our car felt competitive, and making it into Q3 and finishing 9th in the final qualifying session of the season is extremely positive. We capitalised the performance of the car today and we got everything we possibly could out of it.

“There are no big threats from behind us in terms of the championship, and it’ll be hard tomorrow to finish higher than the position we’re already in, so let’s just enjoy this final race and hopefully finish on a high by scoring some good points.”

Button clocked 1m 41.272s in Q2 for 12th overall.

He said: “It was good fun out there this evening – I enjoyed it.

“As the track cooled down, we needed to balance the car up with more front-end grip, but didn’t have anything left in the car, so the resulting understeer cost me a little bit of time.

“To be fair, however, 12th position isn’t a bad place to be for tomorrow: we get to run new tyres.

“With these tyre regulations, it’s often better to start outside the top 10 in order to best free up the strategy for the race. And I’d definitely rather have a good race tomorrow than a good qualifying today.

“None of the compounds last for long around here, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow – points are definitely possible.”

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