As the sun set over Abu Dhabi, Nico Rosberg blistered around the Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island to secure pole position for tomorrow’s Grand Prix. Rosberg topped the time sheet 0.386 seconds faster than his team-mate and championship rival, Hamilton, but the pole position man has only ever won once in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Friday was Hamilton’s day with the Briton topping both practice sessions, even if the gap between the Silver Arrows at the top was marginal. Then come Saturday in the final practice session of the year, Nico Rosberg romped clear of Lewis to finish on the top spot with slight breathing space between them.
That fastest lap from Nico in FP3 may have given him a psychological edge going into qualifying but all was still to play for come 5pm at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Straight from the off drivers were making their way out of the pit lane and onto the track, with Will Stevens and Sergio Perez leading the field.
Being the first men on the track Sergio Perez and Will Stevens posted the first qualifying times of the day, but both were pushed down the order rapidly as more times hit the board.
As Perez’s early 1:43:856 was pushed down the board, other drivers were flying. Most had opted for the soft compound for their first runs, but Mercedes hit the track on the supersoft option tyres straight from the off.
With the option compound of tyre fitted both Mercedes rocketed around the track faster than anyone allowing Hamilton to top the time sheet with a 1:41:207, one tenth faster than Rosberg. Hamilton’s table topping lap even came despite a lock up, whilst Bottas slotted into third a full second down on Nico.
As the first stage of qualifying ticked by, the order at the front remained the same given the tyre choices. But once other drivers switched onto the supersoft tyres and the Red Bulls joined the pack, the table was moving once more.
Red Bull had set in the garage with both drivers longer than anyone else and joined the action midway through the session on the supersoft tyres.
For Vettel his first timed lap moved him up to fourth place, but his 1:42:495 was soon knocked down the order when his Aussie team-mate posted a 1:42:495 for third place.
But the times were still crumbling down as the track conditions improved, and Alonso was the first man to improve. However his Ferrari remained off the pace and could only move into P10 as Raikkonen moved into P5.
Unlike Fernando, Jenson Button moved into third place in his McLaren before being pipped by 3 hundredths of a second by Kevin Magnussen.
Not so soon after that, the chequered flag was waving to bring Q1 to an end with Grosjean, Gutierrez, Maldonado, Kobayashi and Stevens eliminated from qualifying. Despite being Will Stevens’ first race in Formula One, he ended qualifying just half a second down to his experienced Japanese team-mate.
Five minutes later, and Q2 was underway. Once again Sergio Perez hit the track from the green light and once again posted the first lap time. This time Sergio posted a 1:42.467, which was two tenths faster than his Q1 time but he needed more as Q2 progressed.
With Perez’s time far from flying, Masa took the reins at posted the first real flying lap. A 1:41.575 saw the Brazilian move into P1 as Rosberg struggled to stay on track at turn nine after out-braking himself. But Hamilton wanted P1 back and stormed six tenths clear with his first timed lap.
Over Nico’s next lap he set a purple first sector but ended the lap half a second down on Lewis, and within range of Bottas matching his time. Up until now the gap between Mercedes and the field had been comfortable but this was the first sign of Williams as challengers.
When all drivers returned to the garages mid way through Q2, all but McLaren had posted a lap time. Unfortunately for Button this was due to the team under-fuelling his car. But it was more unfortunate for Magnussen as it left the two with just one lap each to post a time and Kevin found himself knocked out of qualifying.
As the last laps were carried out with the chequered flag waving the times in the drop zone started to plummet with drivers aiming for a Q3 slot.
Both Mercedes and Ricciardo remained in their garages as others attacked the track, and this was the perfect chance for the Williams duo to move ahead of Rosberg. Which they did with Massa going purple in the first sector and Bottas in the middle to go P2 and P3.
Hamilton ended Q2 on top, but others remained searching for time to beat the drop. For Magnussen, his time fell down the order as Button moved into sixth and Raikkonen scrapped into the top ten at the death.
Raikkonen’s survival at the death came at the cost of Magnussen who was joined out of qualifying by Jean-Eric Vergne, Sergio Perez, Hulkenberg and Sutil. Leaving the Mercedes’, Red Bull’s, Williams’, Ferrari’s, Button and Kvyat to compete in Q3.
Which was engaged with Bottas taking to the track. Valtteri was swiftly joined by Massa and the rest of the top 10 field minus Raikkonen as Ferrari’s Finn sat out the first runs.
Being the first man out in Q3 left Bottas the job of setting the first time but Massa managed to better his team-mates time with a 1:41.119.
But as you would expect, a clean lap by Rosberg resulted in the title contender obliterating the order at the top to get his Mercedes in P1. Nico’s time was also the first of the day to break into the 1:40’s which even Lewis was unable to manage with his first run.
Once all but Raikkonen had posted their provisional Q3 time they returned to the pits with Rosberg leading from Hamilton, Massa, Bottas, Ricciardo, Vettel, Button, Alonso, Kvyat and Raikkonen.
As the session began to approach its end, all drivers hit the track once more in search of a faster lap. This time it was the Red Bulls at the front of the pack but neither were able to hook up a lap that could challenge the front order.
Over at Williams it was a different story with Bottas flying from the off. The Finn went purple through sector one, purple through sector but through the final sector fell away and came across the line just shy of Lewis’ provisional lap time. For Massa, he was also unable to challenge after failing to improve on his earlier time.
As for the Silver Arrows, Rosberg found a smidge of time in the first sector, belted a purple middle sector and improved on his overall lap time across the line. But Hamilton was struggling to attack and locked up at the hairpin, loosing time and loosing the chance to challenge for pole.
Meaning for the final Formula One Grand Prix of 2014, Nico Rosberg has secured pole position ahead of his title rival, who ended the session in second and securing another Mercedes one-two on the grid.
Williams are set to start the race in third and fourth place, but if Nico is to win the championship he will be hoping one of those two can get ahead of Lewis early on.
The third row of the grid was meant to consist of the two Red Bull’s, with Kvyat & Button on the row behind and the two Ferrari’s rounding off the top 10 in Alonso’s final race with the team. But after qualifying had ended, the Stewards began an investigation into the two Red Bull’s for having flexi front wings and found them both guilty meaning they were excluded from qualifying.
Back towards the rear of the grid, as Grosjean only secured 16th in qualifying he will start tomorrow’s race in 20th place and will have to serve a drive through penalty during the Grand Prix after the team were forced to change his internal combustion engine, TC and MGU-H ahead of FP3.
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:42.204||1:41.692||1:41.267||12|
|6||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:42.495||1:42.147||1:41.893||17|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:42.654||1:42.239||15|
|14||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:42.444||1:42.384||12|
|Q1 107% Time||1:48.291|