ABU DHABI: World champion Lewis Hamilton stormed to the final pole position of the Formula One season with a dazzling display under the floodlights in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix yesterday.
The Briton, who wrapped up his sixth Formula One title two races ago at the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, lapped the Yas Marina circuit in one minute 34.779 seconds, beating Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.194.
“Yes, guys, that’s what I’ve been looking for,” Hamilton said on the team radio on the cool down lap.
Bottas will line up at the back due to a raft of engine-related penalties, meaning that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start today’s race on the front row.
“I’m going to start last with my 40-place grid penalty or whatever,” said Bottas. “We’ll find the fighting spirit for tomorrow.”
Verstappen said his lap was the best he could do against a Mercedes team who looked dominant in the desert.
“I think there are still a lot of chances for tomorrow,” added the 22-year-old.
The pole was a record-extending 88th of Hamilton’s career and fifth of the season. It was also his fifth in Abu Dhabi but first since the German Grand Prix in July - a run of nine races out of the top slot.
“It’s been such a long slog trying to get this pole position,” explained the 34-year-old, who was fastest after the first flying lap and then improved on his time in the second.
“Yesterday was quite wobbly so I really had to re-compose myself last night and come back today focused. I managed to really dial in the car with great work from the engineers, mechanics,” he added.
“It’s been a special car and this is the last time I get to qualify with it so I’m glad I did it proud today.”
Hamilton has won four times previously at the Yas Marina circuit and is chasing his 11th victory of the season today to end the campaign just seven off Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91.
With five of the 10 races to date in Abu Dhabi having been won from pole, and Mercedes winners of the last five, the omens look good.
“We have had a clean record here in Abu Dhabi, it’s a track that suits us and suits him,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Today’s race starts at 4.10pm