Nico Rosberg will start the final race of the 2015 Formula 1 season from pole position after setting the pace during Saturday’s qualifying session in Abu Dhabi.
Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:40.237 under the lights in Q3 to secure pole by three-tenths of a second, edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the dying moments of qualifying.
After trailing Rosberg in FP2 and FP3, Hamilton bounced back in the first two stages of qualifying by beating the German driver, but was unable to carry this form over into the final shoot-out for pole.
Hamilton managed to wrestle provisional pole back by going one-tenth of a second quicker than Rosberg with his final Q3 lap, only for his teammate to respond and take pole by three-tenths.
The result marked Rosberg’s sixth consecutive pole position and sets him up perfectly for Sunday’s race at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Kimi Raikkonen finished as the best-of-the-rest for Ferrari, edging out Force India’s Sergio Perez for third place on the grid with an impressive last lap. Perez will start from P4 on Sunday ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Valtteri Bottas led Williams’ charge in sixth place ahead of teammate Felipe Massa in eighth, as they were split by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded out the top ten in Abu Dhabi.
Max Verstappen was unfortunate to miss out on a place in Q3 after being edged out by Sainz in the sister Toro Rosso by just four-hundredths of a second, leaving him 11th ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button. Pastor Maldonado finished 13th for Lotus ahead of Felipe Nasr as both struggled for pace to get close to a Q3 berth.
Romain Grosjean will start his last race for Lotus from 15th on the grid after a gearbox problem cut his qualifying short. The team told Grosjean to abort his first flying lap because of the issue, and a vain effort to get him out late on ended with the Frenchman parking up at the side of the track.
The biggest shock in qualifying came in Sebastian Vettel’s exit after the German driver backed off on his final lap, mistakenly believing that he had already done enough to make it through to Q2. A quick last effort from Grosjean dumped the German out in Q1, leaving him 16th on the grid for the start of Sunday’s race.
Vettel was joined in the dropzone by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso after his final run in qualifying was ended by a puncture on his rear-left tire. The Spaniard finished 17th ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who also had an issue on his car, while Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi propped up the timesheets for Manor.
The result gives Rosberg a golden opportunity to round off a difficult 2015 season with a third straight win, and also means he will start 2016 with Ayrton Senna’s record of eight pole positions in a row within reach.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 7am ET on Sunday.