Valtteri Bottas scored the final pole position of the 2017 Formula 1 season Saturday in Abu Dhabi. He’ll be joined by teammate Lewis Hamilton on the front row to give Mercedes its fourth front-row lockout of the year.
The session was dominated by the silver arrows, as fans were treated to a straight pole shootout between drivers of the championship winning constructor. And for the second weekend in a row, Bottas came out on top.
“Today, things were really getting better and better for me during practice and also in qualifying,” said Bottas. “I just managed to find time here and there, and it was all under control and just felt really good in the car. The Q3 run one lap was really good, so that was enough for pole and I’m really happy.”
Having taken pole in Brazil, the Finn delivered a disappointing performance on race day, something he is keen to improve upon Sunday at the Yas Marina Circuit.
“I was so gutted in Brazil, being on pole and missing the win,” said Bottas, “so I have a clear target for tomorrow and I’m sure that the fans will support me.”
Often criticized for being somewhat less than gracious in defeat, newly crowned drivers‘ champion Hamilton was quick to heap praise on his teammate for his pole lap — a lap that showed an improvement of more than half a second from his earlier effort in Q2.
“What a lap,” said Hamilton. “I mean, he just had an incredible qualifying and congratulations to him. The last qualifying of the year, I gave it everything but I seem to have lost the pace going into qualifying. Valtteri did an exceptional job so I’m really, really happy for him.“
“I think, just overall, just little bits here and there. I was up out of turn one and then I lost it in turn five or six so, either way, it’s been an incredible year of qualifying and one I have really enjoyed.”
Qualifying in third place was Sebastian Vettel. The Ferrari has generally appeared not to have the pace of the Mercedes this weekend — fighting more with the Red Bulls than with its earlier championship rivals.
Vettel currently sits second in the championship standings and, even if Bottas turns his pole into a race victory, needs only to finish Sunday’s Grand Prix in ninth place to confirm his place as championship runner-up.
“I’m getting better. I think you always had the edge here in qualifying,” Vettel told his former teammate Mark Webber during his post qualifying interview. “I think it was a good session. Obviously, a bit of a shame to be that far back, but tomorrow we’ll see. Race pace I think we can be a bit closer but they have been very, very strong.
“Valtteri obviously had a mega-lap, so congratulations to him. We’ll see. It should be a fun race. Overtaking is not always straightforward but it is not impossible here, so let’s see.”
Kimi Räikkönen was again disappointing in qualifying, only managing fifth place — finding himself sandwiched between the Red Bull cars of Daniel Ricciardo (4th) and Max Verstappen (6th).
Felipe Massa rolled back the years in his final Formula 1 qualifying session to reach the top-10 shootout and set a time that was more than a second faster than teammate Lance Stroll, who qualified in 15th.
The final Grand Prix of the 2017 F1 season will be seen live on the NBC Sports Network starting at 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday.
Sebastian Vettel will start third and needs only to finish ninth or better to secure the runner-up spot in the drivers‘ standings.
2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:36.231
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.403 0.172
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:36.777 0.546
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:36.959 0.728
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:36.985 0.754
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:37.328 1.097
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:38.282 2.051
8 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.374 2.143
9 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:38.397 2.166
10 Felipe Massa Williams 1:38.550 2.319
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:38.636 2.405
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault 1:38.725 2.494
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:38.808 2.577
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:39.298 3.067
15 Lance Stroll Williams 1:39.646 3.415
16 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:39.516 3.285
17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:39.724 3.493
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:39.930 3.699
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:39.994 3.763
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:40.471 4.240
2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Qualifying