Lewis Hamilton has qualified second for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, one spot in arrears of Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg.
It marks the third straight race and fourth in the last five where Rosberg has beaten Hamilton to pole, and thus left the Englishman and World Championship leader second on the grid.
None of those results is more crucial than today’s, as it now leaves Hamilton with a mountain to climb on Sunday (7 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) ahead of the final race of the year.
Hamilton made several mistakes in Q3, with his first timed lap nearly running afoul of having all four wheels off at the second-to-last corner of the Yas Marina Circuit. He was more than half a second down on Rosberg heading to his final lap and while he improved his time, he was still 0.386 off Rosberg’s eventual pole time once he crossed the line.
“I don’t know how many mistakes Nico made, but it wasn’t the best of laps from me,” Hamilton admitted during the post-qualifying press conference. “The car was fantastic. Tomorrow’s the special day.”
Asked whether he’d change his outlook or approach going into the first corner on Sunday Hamilton responded simply, “Same as every time.”
While Rosberg has only been able convert three of his 10 poles prior to Sunday into wins, Hamilton has managed to respond from second three times as well. At each of Bahrain, Japan and the United States, Hamilton passed Rosberg for the lead and the eventual victory.
Hamilton of course doesn’t need to win to secure the title. With a 17-point lead in hand, he can afford to come second to Rosberg and secure the title by three points as Rosberg would net a 14-point gain (50-36, per double points).
But if Hamilton falters – either through a mistake or a mechanical issue – it opens the door for Rosberg to seize the title. Either of Williams’ pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa would need to get in-between the two Mercedes drivers to upset the form book.