No ecstasy for Rosberg as Hamilton bags Abu Dhabi pole

© F1 Pulse, 26 November 2016
© Daimler

Nico Rosberg isn't content settling for second, even if that doesn't really hinder him from finishing first in the championship. But the title favourite had no answer to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton's pace in qualifying on Saturday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Such was the sheer speed of the defending champion that even his first hot lap was out of reach for the German, albeit by only 0.045 seconds. Hamilton's final pole position lap of 1 minute 38.755 seconds around the Yas Marina circuit was three-tenths quicker than Rosberg.

"I came here to be on pole, so I'm not ecstatic today," Rosberg said. "It just wasn't possible for me to do that time today."

Not just on Saturday though, as Hamilton finished every session ahead of Rosberg since Friday, including in each of the three practice outings.

"It's rare that you end almost every session on top, so I'm very, very happy, with that," Hamilton pointed out. "I've been doing my practice starts from the pole slot all weekend as I wasn't planning on being anywhere else for tomorrow.

"It's kind of crazy to think I have 12 poles considering I didn't even compete in three of them, so could have been the ultimate year of pole positions," reminded Hamilton, alluding to the reliability issues that put him on the backfoot all season and only an outside chance to clinch his fourth championship.

In the battle for the title, Rosberg only needs to finish on the podium to bag the crown leaving Hamilton virtually nothing to offer to influence the results considering the dominant pace of the Silver Arrows over its rivals.

"I can't control what happens behind me. All I can do is focus on my own race," said Hamilton, who bagged Mercedes' unprecedented 20th pole of the season.

Doors of opportunity

Red Bull, starting the race on the more durable but relatively slower supersoft tyres as opposed to Mercedes' ultrasoft efforts, could perhaps offer Hamilton some hope.

"We've got to try something," reasoned Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified third. "It seems to be a bit of a trend this year: if we are in a position to qualify on different tyres, then we'll try and see if it gives us an opportunity... Hopefully it puts us in the fight.

"You always have this level of respect as they're fighting for the title, but if they leave the door open and I think I can pass, then I won't make it easy for them and let them sail into the sunset," added the Australian.

Rosberg potentially would be the first to leave the door open for the Aussie but the German was confident that Mercedes had chosen "the right tyre for the best possible race" standing by his supersoft start.

Nevertheless, Ricciardo will have "the best seat for tomorrow's start" nicking it from Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen by 0.015 seconds. Sebastian Vettel was a further 0.057 seconds adrift in fifth.

Max Verstappen was sixth ahead of the Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, the latter outqualified by a teammate in Abu Dhabi for the first time.

Fernando Alonso was ninth in the McLaren with Williams' Felipe Massa, in his final Grand Prix, in tenth.

 

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