ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX – Qualifying results
Lewis Hamilton will start the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from his 12th pole position of the season, but Nico Rosberg remains well poised for his first F1 title after qualifying alongside his main rival on the front row.
The defending champion was in imperious form throughout qualifying, keeping his Mercedes team-mate at bay as the sun came down around the Yas Marina Circuit, building up to a dominant 1min 38.755secs lap in Q3 to secure pole.
Indeed, while Rosberg was often quicker than Hamilton over the first sector, the Briton was significantly better through sectors two and three, pulling out a comfortable margin of three tenths over the German at the chequered flag.
Regardless of Hamilton's advantage, Rosberg remains well placed coming into the finale knowing he needs just to finish where he starts to ensure he walks away with a maiden F1 world title.
He also commanded a sizeable half-second gain over third place man Daniel Ricciardo, though the Australian still represents a significant threat after Red Bull Racing attempted to throw a curve ball by qualifying him on super-soft tyres in Q2, ensuring he starts on the firmer of the compound selections.
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It is a tactic shared by his team-mate Max Verstappen too, but the Dutchman would make a mistake on his final flying lap to leave him in sixth behind the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Force India locks out the fourth row with Nico Hulkenberg starting his last race for Force India ahead of Sergio Perez, with Fernando Alonso ninth and Felipe Massa making a final Q3 appearance in 10th ahead of his F1 swansong for Williams.
Outside the top ten, Valtteri Bottas failed to join his Williams team-mate in Q3 after missing out in 11th by 0.040s, ahead of Jenson Button, who starts what many anticipate will be his final F1 race from 12th, his best qualifying result since Malaysia.
Haas forms row eight with Esteban Gutierrez ahead of team-mate Romain Grosjean, with Jolyon Palmer and Pascal Wehrlein – making Q2 for the sixth time this season in the Manor – in 15th and 16th positions.
Paying the price for limited track mileage prior to qualifying following its wheel rim failures in Friday practice, Toro Rosso failed to get either of its cars past Q1 with Daniil Kvyat squeezed out in 17th position, while Carlos Sainz lines up on the back row for his worst starting position of the season.
Between them, Kevin Magnussen was once more out-qualified by Palmer in 18th as he prepares for his final race with Renault, ahead of Felipe Nasr and Esteban Ocon. Marcus Ericsson will start 22nd and last.
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