A Super Saturday for Nico Rosberg saw the German pip Hamilton to the fastest lap in the final free practice and qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg found no limit at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he dropped the benchmark time and again. Rosberg kicked the day off with the fastest time for the final practice session, before Hamilton looked to end his pole-streak. A late qualifying flyer from Lewis however was not enough to stop his team-mate from claiming his sixth pole in a row as Vettel dropped out in Q1.
When the final race meet of the 2015 Formula One season kicked off, title-winning Hamilton took the early edge with the fastest time in FP1.
Come the evening however, Rosberg flipped the deficit to go fastest overall, but only by a slender margin. This slender gap would then be extended in the final practice session as Rosberg posted the then fastest lap of the weekend so far.
While Hamilton may have had to settle for second best in FP2 and FP3, the 2015 World Champ clearly wanted to leave his mark on the day in qualifying as he posted the top time in Q1 and Q2. Both times edging further away from Rosberg by a few more hundredths.
In contrast, the final part of qualifying saw Hamilton start off with a struggle as he posted a scruffy lap time that left him three tenths off provisional pole. A provisional pole held by Rosberg.
Come the second runs, Hamilton improved his initial time to knock Rosberg off the top spot. But Nico was still out on track.
As Hamilton began his crawl back to the pits, Rosberg pushed hard for the line as he looked to claim his sixth successive pole position. And with ease swept over the line to take pole 0.377 seconds ahead of Hamilton’s lap time. A lap that saw Lewis put all four wheels over the track limit.
With a lap time of 1:40.237, Rosberg had done more than enough to claim pole around the Yas Marina Circuit and take his sixth pole in a row. Not only is that his now personal best run and match the streaks of some of F1’s all time greats, pole today moves Nico onto 22 poles in his Formula One career and is his seventh of the 2015 season.
As for Hamilton his provisional Q3 lap, albeit a scruffy lap, was still enough to secure him another front row start to begin tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi GP from second on the grid. The same slot he began in last year before going on to take the win.
Like Rosberg, Hamilton set a new personal best for himself in his qualifying result. Lining up on the front row tomorrow will be his 18th time of the season from the 19 races and is his 90th overall front row start in his career.
But the day was not just about Mercedes and their drivers, there were 18 others all highlighting their skill behind the wheel. One of those drivers was Sergio Perez as he ran high in the order throughout the day, posting the fourth best time in FP3 and the fourth best time in qualifying.
The Force India driver even had a spell in third during Q3 after blitzing his first run but was denied his best Formula One starting position by Kimi Raikkonen’s second run.
For Ferrari qualifying was a session of highs, with Kimi taking third at the death, and a day of lows with Vettel only able to finish in 16th.
Back in Q1, the German had struggled from the off to set a competitive time and was forced to make a second run. The team however judged Vettel safe to pit and save his tyres but a miscalculation saw Sebastian eliminated in the first stage.
Vettel was joined out in Q1 by Fernando Alonso who also suffered late drama with the McLaren driver suffering a puncture on his final lap. Button in the other McLaren meanwhile utilised Vettel’s situation to claim a Q2 slot, where he finished 12th.
Alonso was not alone in suffering a fault that was not down to human error in qualifying. Other victims at the circuit were Marcus Ericsson as his Sauber developed a technical problem in Q1 and Lotus’s Romain Grosjean in Q2.
The second stage of qualifying treated spectators to a duel of the Toro Rosso’s as the young drivers looked to gain the final piece of qualifying bragging rights for the year. In the end the accolade went to the Sainz camp as Carlos piped Verstappen by just 0.041 seconds.
After struggling with finding the right set up all weekend, Williams were able to muster two top-ten positions with Bottas claiming sixth and Massa eighth.
The Force India of Hulkenberg split the Williams duo in seventh, while Red Bull claimed a third row slot with Ricciardo and fifth row with Kvyat.
On his return to F1, with Rossi returning to GP2 for the weekend, Roberto Merhi could only qualify in last place. Manor rival Will Stevens beat the returning Spaniard by more than a second in the fight for 19th.
|15||Grosjean||No time set|