Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and given himself an outside chance of a third straight drivers’ championship.
Hamilton pipped Mercedes teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg with a scintillating final lap of 1:38.755 at the Yas Marina circuit to be 0.303 seconds quicker than Rosberg who was subsequently around half a second quicker than Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo in third.
Rosberg leads the standings 12 points ahead of three-time champion Hamilton and would wrap up a first world title with a podium finish, even if Hamilton wins Sunday’s race.
Creating added interest is the fact that the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and teammate Max Verstappen (sixth) will start on the more durable super soft tyres, with Hamilton and Rosberg both on ultra softs.
Hamilton was understandably chuffed with his dominance of Rosberg in qualifying.
“[It’s been] a great weekend so far,” Hamilton said.
“It’s been strange coming here this weekend knowing it’s the last one with this great car.
“First sector, I knew I had pace so I didn’t overcook into turn one and on the rest of the lap I had it under control.”
Rosberg was less than thrilled with his Saturday showing, during which he consistently lost time to Hamilton in the the second and third sectors of the track.
“I was feeling good out there and had a good balance. As qualifying went on I was feeling better and better and got a good lap but in the end, not quite good enough,” Rosberg said ahead of a race that could see him emulate his father Keke, who won the drivers’ championship with Williams in 1982.
Ricciardo is hoping his different strategy might see Red Bull be able to mix it with the superior speed of the Mercedes duo on Sunday.
“Hopefully our different tyre strategy will put us in the fight tomorrow,” the Australian said.
“Third was the target today so we are happy.
“I was pretty slow starting the qualifying session but Q3, when it matters, I put in some good times.”
The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel are fourth and fifth on the grid, splitting the Red Bulls or Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
Felipe Massa rounds out the top ten in his Williams in his final grand prix and will start alongside the McLaren of Fernando Alonso.
Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button, also in his final race will start from 12th on the grid.