Events

Mercedes Train Keeps Rolling with Front Row Lockout

Not content with wrapping up the 2018 F1 drivers’ championship, Lewis Hamilton has taken pole for the final round at Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi. Not only did he get the prized number one slot on the grid, his team mate Valtteri Bottas will start from P2. The front row lock out means it’s the fifth time in a row, and the first time in F1 history that a team has achieved this feat. It was Hamilton’s 11th pole and the seventh in the year for the team to take the front row.

The second and third rows were also made up of duos, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in Ferraris, followed by Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen taking P5 and P6. P7 went to Haas and Romain Grosjean, with that placing stopping Nico Hulkenberg from doing so and creating his own little piece of history. If Hulkenberg had taken P7 he would have done so for the fourth consecutive time.

Charles Leclerc got ready to move to Red Bull in 2019 by snaring P8, and with news that he’s to be the Mercedes reserve driver, Esteban Ocon took P9. Hulkenberg was P10.

Retiring veteran Fernando Alonso fell through the pack to qualify 15th, after having made it to P14 in Q1. Pierre Gasly was out in Q1 with his Toro Rosso failing and with smoke coming from the rear of the car, Gasly exited the session. Team mate Brendon Hartley also failed to progress through Q1, with McLaren’s Stoffel Van Doorne being joined by the Williams of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll on the sidelines.

Q2 had Hamilton on hypersofts and the rubber, supposedly slower than the ultrasofts, had the champion ahead of Verstappen on the ultrasofts by close to a half second. Q2 wasn’t kind to Carlos Sainz, with he and his Renault failing to make Q3. Kevin Magnussen in his Haas, the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson, and Force India’s Sergio Perez also failed to make it through to Q3.

The cooling air of evening time at Yas Marina appeared to help Hamilton in Q3, with a sudden increase in pace seeing his Silver Arrow laying down a super quick 1:34.794, nearly one and a half seconds quicker that Bottas’ time for his pole run last year.

Hamilton was emotional after the final session, and uncharacteristically gushing about his car.” It was quite an emotional qualifying session for me because this is the last time I am going to be qualifying in this car. I know you guys watch it but the emotional rollercoaster that I’ve gone through with this car – I’m probably the closest with this car than I have ever been with any cars in terms of emotionally attached. It has not been the easiest, it has been a struggle at times with her but it has been a real privilege to work with her this year.”

Ricciardo will come into the final race having completed one goal of sorts, with his pace at Yas Marina ensuring that he’s out-qualified his team mates at the circuit, and also sees Verstappen never out-qualifying any of his at the track.

There’s some cheers for Haas and Romain Grosjean, with his P7 the first time he’s achieved that at Yas Marina and the first time Haas getting through to Q3 at the Abu Dhabi circuit.

The final race gets under way at 14:10 local time on Sunday, November 25.

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David Conole

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