F1 Abu Dhabi: Hamilton Secures Final Pole Position of 2019 at Yas Marina

by Paul Hensby

Lewis Hamilton secured his first pole position since the German Grand Prix in July as Mercedes AMG Motorsport dominated Qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday.

Hamilton broke the track record with a time of 1:34.779 with his second run in the final segment of Qualifying, with only he and team-mate Valtteri Bottas getting underneath the 1:35s bracket, the Finn ending just under two-tenths of a second down on the six-time World Champion.

Unfortunately for Bottas, he will start the race from the back of the grid after not one but two new power units this weekend, meaning Max Verstappen will join Hamilton on the front row when lights go out on Sunday evening.

Verstappen was on course to improve his time during his second run but ran wide exiting the final turn, losing the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver enough time to leave him third fastest, but he at least was fast enough on his first run to finish ahead of the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers.

Much like they did throughout free practice, Ferrari once again struggled in the final sector, but they also suffered with timing on the track as Charles Leclerc’s session was brought to a premature end by failing to make it to the start of his final flying lap before the chequered flag fell.  Luckily for the Monegasque, his first lap was enough to see him qualify fourth, 0.120 seconds ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel was lucky to avoid damage in the first segment as he suffered a wild spin exiting the final turn on his first flying lap.  The German was able to recover and get through to Q2 without any further drama, but it was a worrying moment for someone who has already been in the barriers this weekend having hit the turn nineteen wall on Friday.

Despite complaining at the beginning of Q2 about being the first car on track, Alexander Albon was able to put the second Red Bull onto the third row of the grid, although the Thai driver ended more than three-tenths of a second down on fifth-placed Vettel and over half a second down on team-mate Verstappen.

Lando Norris set an excellent final lap to secure seventh and best of the rest, with the Briton ending the session 0.020 seconds ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the leading of the Renault F1 Team machines.  By out-qualifying Carlos Sainz Jr., Norris also ensured he won the inter-team Qualifying battle at the McLaren F1 Team for the season, the rookie out-qualifying the Spaniard by eleven races to ten.

Sainz will start ninth, ending just 0.023 seconds behind his team-mate at the end of the day, while Nico Hülkenberg’s final Qualifying session for Renault ended with a Q3 appearance.  Hülkenberg, who will be replaced by Esteban Ocon for 2020 and now finds himself out of a drive for next season, was the slowest of everyone in Q3, more than two-tenths of a second down from the trio ahead of him.

The top three celebrate after Qualifying in Abu Dhabi – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Sergio Perez was the first of those to drop out in Q2, with the Mexican almost two-tenths down on Hülkenberg in the leading of the Racing Point F1 Team cars.  However, he led a group of four drivers separated by less than a tenth of a second, with Pierre Gasly, a podium finisher last time out in Brazil ending twelfth for Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Their respectively team-mates, Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat, were next up in thirteenth and fourteenth, while Kevin Magnussen, who optimistically attempted a run at the start of the session on the medium tyres, ended at the bottom of the session, four-tenths of a second behind after a second run on the soft tyres in the leading of the Haas F1 Team machines.

Five drivers managed to get through the session on the medium tyres and will start the race on that compound on Sunday, with Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen and Albon doing enough on their first run while Leclerc joined by setting the best time of the session after switching from the soft to the medium for his second run.

Despite Qualifying second, Valtteri Bottas will start at the rear of the field on Sunday – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

The first segment saw the elimination of Romain Grosjean, who had been forced to revert to a different specification of floor package after his incident with Bottas on Friday, with the Frenchman being joined on the side-lines by the two Alfa Romeo Racing drivers, Antonio Giovinazzi ahead of Kimi Räikkönen.

Grosjean was inside the top ten in both Friday sessions but the change of floor has hurt his performance, with Stroll denying him a position in Q2 with a last gasp lap that pushed the Haas driver into the bottom five.

Giovinazzi was 0.063 seconds down on Grosjean in seventeenth, with the Italian’s final Qualifying session of his first full-time season seeing him out-qualify team-mate Räikkönen by almost three-tenths of a second. 

At the back of the grid were the two Williams Racing drivers, with George Russell ending the year without being beaten by team-mate Robert Kubica in any Qualifying session throughout 2019.  Kubica ended more than six-tenths of a second down on his team-mate in what is set to be his final Qualifying session in Formula 1, at least for the time being, with the Pole being replaced at Williams by Canadian Nicholas Latifi in 2020.

Yas Marina Circuit Qualifying Result

144Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport1:34.779
277Valtteri BottasFINMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport1:34.973
333Max VerstappenNEDAston Martin Red Bull Racing1:35.139
416Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1:35.219
55Sebastian VettelGERScuderia Ferrari1:35.339
623Alexander AlbonTHAAston Martin Red Bull Racing1:35.682
74Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1:36.436
83Daniel RicciardoAUSRenault F1 Team1:36.456
955Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPMcLaren F1 Team1:36.459
1027Nico HulkenbergGERRenault F1 Team1:36.710
--Eliminated in Q2---
1111Sergio PerezMEXSportPesa Racing Point F1 Team1:37.055
1210Pierre GaslyFRARed Bull Toro Rosso Honda1:37.089
1318Lance StrollCANSportPesa Racing Point F1 Team1:37.103
1426Daniil KvyatRUSRed Bull Toro Rosso Honda1:37.141
1520Kevin MagnussenDENHaas F1 Team1:37.254
--Eliminated in Q1---
167Romain GrosjeanFRAHaas F1 Team1:38.051
1799Antonio GiovinazziITAAlfa Romeo Racing1:38.114
187Kimi RaikkonenFINAlfa Romeo Racing1:38.383
1963George RussellGBRROKiT Williams Racing1:38.717
2088Robert KubicaPOLROKiT Williams Racing1:39.236

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