Bottas on pole, Mercedes front-row lock-out in Abu Dhabi qualifying

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Valtteri Bottas edged out Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton in the final stage of qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday to pick up the final pole position of the 2017 season.

After lagging behind Hamilton through all three practice sessions, Bottas appeared to make a step towards his teammate early in qualifying before taking provisional pole with a stunning opening lap in Q3 at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Bottas looked to have thrown away his advantage after a slow start to his final Q3 lap prompted Mercedes to send him back to the pits, with Hamilton improving and on course for his fourth pole in Abu Dhabi.

A mistake at the final corner saw Hamilton run wide and lose time, failing to improve in the process to leave Bottas on pole position for the season-closer.

As Mercedes locked out the top two positions, Ferrari and Red Bull shared the second and third rows, with Sebastian Vettel leading the way in third place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who squeezed ahead of Kimi Raikkonen with his final qualifying lap.

Max Verstappen had a difficult qualifying in the second Red Bull, finishing over a second off Bottas in sixth, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg ending the session as the leading midfielder in P7.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon grabbed eighth and ninth place on the grid for Force India, while Felipe Massa will start his final F1 grand prix from P10 on the grid after barging his way through to Q3 at the expense of Fernando Alonso.

The final qualifying session of the McLaren-Honda partnership failed to offer much joy as both Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne dropped out in Q2, finishing 11th and 13th respectively.

Carlos Sainz Jr. failed to make it through to Q3 after a slow final effort due to a suspected power unit issue, taking 12th, while Kevin Magnussen and Lance Stroll filled out the Q2 dropzone in 14th and 15th.

The race for P6 in the constructors’ championship took an early twist in qualifying as both Toro Rossos and one of the Haas drivers were eliminated at the first hurdle, playing to Renault’s favor.

Romain Grosjean was bumped out in Q1 by Stroll’s late lap, while Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley were 17th and 20th respectively, split by the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

 

Alex Marquez wins first MotoGP #StayAtHomeGP Virtual Race

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Alex Marquez of Spain won the inaugural MotoGP #StayAtHomeGP Virtual Race as the world’s premier bike racing series followed other motorsports into online racing.

The #StayAtHomeGP, which was streamed Sunday on several platforms including the Motorsports on NBC YouTube channel, featured a field of 10 riders competing on their console gaming systems at home.

Francesco Bagnaia was the runner-up, and Maverick Vinales rounded out the podium.

INDYCAR iRACING: Sage Karam wins Watkins Glen opener

Defending MotoGP premier series champion Marc Marquez, the older brother of the rookie race winner and his teammate at Repsol Honda Team, finished fifth.

Here’s a recap of the race from the MotoGP site.

The premier class of MotoGP has yet to hit the track this season as its opener was canceled and the next three races were postponed, including the Grand Prix of the Americas being moved from April 5 to Nov. 15.

Several other racing series have tried online racing in recent weeks.

IMSA held a “SuperSaturday at Sebring” March 21 in place of the postponed Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of SebringNASCAR started its Pro Invitational Series last Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway and will continue Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. IndyCar kicked off its six-race IndyCar iRacing Challenge with a Saturday race at Watkins Glen International that was won by Sage Karam.