ABU DHABI – Just when Lewis Hamilton appeared to have got the better of Nico Rosberg and was set on the right track to claiming his second world championship in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the German threw a spanner in the works by claiming a sensational pole position at Yas Marina today.
The first signs of a Rosberg revival came in the final free practice session when he managed to edge out Hamilton at the top of the timesheets, but with the Briton still failing to hook up a lap, he was the favorite to bag pole once the sun had gone done.
However, it wasn’t to be. Instead, the Briton made a number of minor errors once again, causing him to fall three-tenths of a second short at the flag, handing Rosberg an 11th pole position of the year – it’s a remarkable record for the German to boast.
The German headed into today on the back foot, but has emerged in as strong a position as he could have realistically wished for. He is on pole position with Hamilton P2 and a fast-starting pair of Williams cars just behind. Heading to Championship Sunday, the war is far from over.
Rounding up all of the news and action from the paddock today, here’s the notebook.
- FP3 saw Rosberg bounce back after Hamilton swept Friday, finishing three-tenths of a second clear
- In qualifying, it was Rosberg who seized the advantage once again, edging out Hamilton in Q3
- Christian Horner believes that now is the right time for Sebastian Vettel to leave Red Bull
- GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer thinks his chances of reaching F1 next year are slim
- Rosberg called pole position “a very small step” after qualifying
- Hamilton was short on words after finishing second, but high on focus
- Marco Mattiacci said he was impressed by Sebastian Vettel’s passion for Ferrari when signing the German
- Force India confirmed Sergio Perez for 2015, with the Mexican signing a new multi-year deal
- Sebastian Vettel feels frustrated to have had a possible Ferrari test blocked by Red Bull
- Caterham administrator Finbarr O’Connell is confident the team can find a buyer
- Williams has been cast as the possible spoiler role for this championship, locking out the second row of the grid
- Eric Boullier has said that McLaren is likely to keep junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne in GP2 next year
- Jenson Button is enjoying what could prove to be his final grand prix weekend
- Both Red Bull drivers were excluded from qualifying due to a technical infringement
- Will Stevens enjoyed an impressive maiden F1 qualifying session today
- In today’s GP2 feature race, Stoffel Vandoorne claimed his fourth win of the year
THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK
Just when Nico Rosberg appeared to have lost his way in Abu Dhabi, he found it again on Saturday by bagging his 11th pole position of the season. Say what you want about who deserves this championship more or who has been the better driver, but on a Saturday, Nico has been in a class of his own.
The result means that, for the first time since 1969, one engine manufacturer has scored pole position for every race of the season. Mercedes’ works team has claimed 18 of the 19, with Williams – powered by the three-pointed star – picking up the remainder in Austria. Given that Ford’s achievement in 1969 came in an 11-race season, Mercedes’ is arguably the most impressive the sport has seen.
For Rosberg, today went as well as it could. He knows that the championship is out of his hands now, so all he can do is win the race in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. Starting on pole position is the best way to go about it, of course, and the pace of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa on the second row of the grid will give Nico some confidence. Maybe someone can finish between himself and Lewis tomorrow?
If Lewis can keep his cool, then it is unlikely. In terms of race pace, Mercedes is still light years ahead of the field, but a poor start for Hamilton and a bit of frustration could give Nico a chance. Lewis must remember that all he has to do is finish second – he would like to win, but a second title is the most important prize on offer tomorrow.
Red Bull’s exclusion from qualifying was the big news on Saturday night, though, leaving the journalists with a very late night in the media centre. The stewards deemed the front wing on both Red Bull cars to be illegal, thus warranting their exclusion.
Red Bull pleaded its innocence, with the technical staff heading down to the stewards’ office with an armful of paperwork, only for their protests to be futile. The team did say in a statement that it felt “singled out”, yet the FIA had checked the other cars accordingly – it had been singled out because it had contravened the regulations. Quite simple, really.
The importance of tomorrow’s race cannot be underestimated. Not only will the world championship be decided, but it also marks the end of many eras in Formula 1. Seb will start his last race for Red Bull at the back, Fernando starts eighth after a very poor performance today, and Jenson Button may be starting his final grand prix from P6.
At the front though, we have the perfect scenario. One race to go, our championship protagonists side by side on the front row of the grid. It all comes down to this: the showdown at sundown; the desert duel; Nico versus Lewis.
Be sure to join us for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7a ET tomorrow. It promises to be a thrilling race.