Abu Dhabi GP, Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton to pole as Mercedes dominate
Bottas tops the timesheets in final 2017 qualifying session; World champion Hamilton 0.172s adrift of Mercedes team-mate; Vettel half a second back in third; Massa dazzles to make it through to Q3
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 27/11/17 1:33pm
Valtteri Bottas edged out Lewis Hamilton for pole position at the Abu Dhabi GP as Mercedes sealed a dominant one-two in the final qualifying session of 2017.
World champion Hamilton held an advantage over Bottas for much of the hour but a sensational Q3 lap from the Finn, a track record 1:36.231, saw him beat his team-mate by a tenth of a second to claim his fourth pole of the season.
Bottas and Hamilton traded blows in the gripping closing stages, though neither could improve with their final laps.
"He had an incredible qualifying and congratulations to him," said Hamilton. "Valtteri did an exceptional job."
It was the first time Bottas has ever sealed back-to-back poles in F1, and he added: "I was so gutted in Brazil getting pole and missing the win. I have a clear target for tomorrow."
But while the Mercedes battle was tight and tense, Ferrari and Red Bull were distant in the desert.
Sebastian Vettel, so often Hamilton's main rival in an enthralling campaign, was closest to troubling the world champions for Ferrari but still more than half a second adrift in third.
Daniel Ricciardo produced his best lap of the weekend to beat Kimi Raikkonen to fourth and will join Vettel on the second row for Sunday's race. Encouragingly for the Australian, he out-qualified Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen by 0.3 seconds.
Nobody could get close to Mercedes, but there were also impressive results for Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa.
Hulkenberg beat both Force Indias for seventh - which could be crucial for Renault in their quest for constructors' points - while Massa arguably drove the lap of the day for Williams to knock McLaren's Fernando Alonso out in Q2.
The Brazilian, taking part in his final F1 qualifying session, will certainly have enjoyed getting the better over his former Ferrari team-mate as McLaren's last Saturday with a Honda engine ended with neither driver in Q3.
It was another nightmare qualifying session for Toro Rosso, meanwhile, and another blow in their bid to hold off Renault and Haas for sixth place in the championship.
Both Brendon Hartley, who will serve yet another engine grid penalty, and Pierre Gasly were knocked out in Q1, along with both Saubers and Haas' Romain Grosjean.
Can anyone catch Mercedes?
It was clear from the very start of Yas Marina's shootout that Mercedes would be fighting for top spot, with a Silver Arrow comfortably on top in all three stages.
However, there are still plenty of talking points for Sunday's race, which starts at 1pm on Sky Sports F1.
After sealing pole at the last race at Interlagos, with Hamilton starting from the pitlane, Bottas was tentative into Turn One and essentially lost a race win to Vettel by doing so. This time, he will have a triumphant, but eager championship-winning team-mate to contend with on the front row.
Will Mercedes let their two drivers race and compete for victory with nothing to lose?
And Ferrari certainly aren't be giving up the fight, either. The Scuderia were happy with their usually-dependable race pace from Friday's second practice session, and Vettel is primed to attack Bottas and Hamilton.
"It's a bit of a shame to be that far back but tomorrow, with race pace I think we can be a bit closer," said Vettel. "It should be a fun race."
Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying Timesheet
|1) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1:36.231|
|2) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+ 0.172|
|3) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+ 0.546|
|4) Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+ 0.728|
|5) Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||+ 0.754|
|6) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+ 1.097|
|7) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+ 2.051|
|8) Sergio Perez||Force India||+ 2.143|
|9) Esteban Ocon||Force India||+ 2.166|
|10) Felipe Massa||Williams||+ 2.319|
|Out in Q2|
|11) Fernando Alonso||McLaren||1:38.636|
|12) Carlos Sainz||Renault||1:38.725|
|13) Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||1:38.808|
|14) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1:39.298|
|15) Lance Stroll||Williams||1:39.646|
|Out in Q1|
|16) Romain Grosjean||Haas||1:39.516|
|17) Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||1:39.724|
|18) Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber||1:39.930|
|19) Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||1:39.994|
|20) Brendon Hartley *||Toro Rosso||1:40.471|
|* Grid penalties to be taken|
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