Nico Rosberg rallies to pole position in Abu Dhabi

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ABU DHABI – Nico Rosberg has stormed to the final pole position of the 2014 Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi today, edging out Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton by three-tenths of a second in the final part of qualifying at Yas Marina.

The German driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:40.480 in Q3 to beat Hamilton, who could not hook up either of his final laps and was forced to settle for second place on the grid for tomorrow’s title deciding race in Abu Dhabi.

Having topped both Q1 and Q2, Hamilton appeared to have pole position in the bag, only for Rosberg to find some more time when it mattered in Q3 and claim his 11th pole position of the year.

Williams excelled once again to lock out the second row of the grid, with Valtteri Bottas qualifying third ahead of Felipe Massa and the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, who will start fifth and sixth respectively.

In order to push for the quickest time possible, all of the drivers headed out on the super-soft tire early on in Q1 with Hamilton moving into an early lead ahead of Rosberg. Despite making a number of mistakes on his lap and locking up twice, the Briton moved one-tenth of a second clear of his championship rival after Mercedes’ first runs, with the rest of the field a further one second back.

Red Bull bided its time, opting to send Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel out for just one run midway through the first session, and they duly slotted into P3 and P5 respectively with their timed laps. Ferrari also left it a bit later before securing a place in Q2, with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen sitting in the dropzone with a few minutes remaining, but both eased through in the end.

As the flag fell, Adrian Sutil improved to squeeze through to the second session, dumping Sauber teammate Esteban Gutierrez out alongside Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, and the Caterham duo of Kamui Kobayashi and Will Stevens. In his first F1 qualifying session, Stevens finished just half a second shy of his teammate, finishing well inside the required 107% time to qualify.

Once again in Q2, the Mercedes drivers were dominant, but Rosberg didn’t have it all his own way. A mistake on his first lap sent him off the circuit, and he fell half second short of Hamilton one lap later, slotting into second place once again. With Bottas and Massa now far behind the German driver after the first runs, it was clear that Rosberg would have to keep one eye on the chasing pack.

McLaren very nearly made a costly mistake in Q2 with Jenson Button’s car, failing to put enough fuel in the MP4-29. The Briton was rushed back to the pits, but he was less than amused, asking the team “are you serious?”. With four minutes to go, most of the runners opted to head out and post a second lap time to try and secure a place in the final top ten shootout.

With a correctly fuelled car, Button lifted himself up to sixth place and out of the dropzone, but his teammate, Kevin Magnussen, was less fortunate, finishing 11th behind Kimi Raikkonen. Jean-Eric Vergne and Adrian Sutil also failed to make it into Q3, along with the Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.

In the dying moments of Q2, both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas improved their lap times to finish second and third respectively, dropping Rosberg to fourth. Heading into Q3, the advantage quite clearly lay with Hamilton at the front.

However, the Briton did not get it right with his first run in the shootout for pole position, running wide at the final corner and locking up to sit P2, three-tenths of a second behind Rosberg who was on provisional pole. The Williams duo of Massa and Bottas sat third and fourth, with the Red Bulls sitting fifth and sixth after the first Q3 runs.

In the final runs, Bottas appeared to throw his hat into the ring for pole position by going quickly in the first two sectors, only for a slow final third of the lap to leave him third on the grid. Although Hamilton was able to improve his time, so was Rosberg, finding an extra two-tenths of a second to secure his 11th pole position of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Despite missing out on pole, Williams impressed once again to lock out the second row of the grid, and it looks set to clinch third in the constructors’ tomorrow given that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso will start from ninth and tenth on the grid.

Red Bull did all it could under the lights to qualify fifth and sixth, with Ricciardo ahed of Vettel once again, whilst future Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat showed his pace again by finishing seventh ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button.

Rosberg’s qualifying victory is an important one. Not only does he have the advantage of a better grid position, but it may have dealt a psychological blow to Hamilton as he goes in search of his second world title.

With our title protagonists locking out the front row of the grid in Abu Dhabi, the stage is set for a thrilling finale to the 2014 championship. Make sure to join us from 7a ET tomorrow on NBCSN for all of the action from Abu Dhabi.