Nico Rosberg took his eleventh pole position of the season as he beat his Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team-mate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton in an exciting qualifying session in Abu Dhabi.
Rosberg needs to win the race on Sunday and hope that something happens to Hamilton that stops the Briton finishing second, and a few cars are within touching distance of the Mercedes duo.
The German’s lap of 1:40.480s was enough to beat his British team-mate by 0.386s, while the Williams Martini Racing duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were closer behind than anyone expected in third and fourth.
Bottas was only 0.545s adrift in third, while Massa was 0.094s further back in fourth after both drivers split the Mercedes duo during the second part of qualifying.
After the two Mercedes and the two Williams came the two Infiniti Red Bull Racing machines, with Daniel Ricciardo out-qualifying Sebastian Vettel by 0.626s, while Vettel’s 2015 replacement within the team Daniil Kvyat seventh for Scuderia Toro Rosso just 0.015s behind Vettel.
McLaren’s Jenson Button will start what could be his final grand prix from eighth, while Scuderia Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso completed the top ten.
The second of McLaren of Kevin Magnussen missed out on Q3 by just 0.030s, with Jean-Eric Vergne qualifying twelfth in the second Toro Rosso, ahead of the two Sahara Force India drivers of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.
Sauber driver Adrian Sutil pulled a good lap out in Q1 to knock out the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, who will start last after his grid penalty for an engine change and will be forced to serve a drive-through penalty early in the race.
Esteban Gutierrez will start sixteenth in the second Sauber ahead of Pastor Maldonado, with Kamui Kobayashi and Will Stevens eighteenth and nineteenth for Caterham, half a second apart.
Abu Dhabi Qualifying Times
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:42.204||1:41.692||1:41.267|
|6||1||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:42.495||1:42.147||1:41.893|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||1:42.654||1:42.239|
|14||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||1:42.444||1:42.384|