Valtteri Bottas outpaced his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to claim pole position with a record-breaking lap in Saturday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 28-year-old Finn clocked a best lap in one minute, 36.231 seconds to outpace the newly-crowned four-time world champion.
It was Bottas’s fourth career pole and the first time he had claimed back-to-back pole positions.
German four-time champion Sebastian Vettel took third place for Ferrari ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull and his Ferrari teammate Finn Kimi Raikkonen, with Dutchman Max Verstappen sixth in the second Red Bull.
German Nico Hulkenberg took seventh for Renault ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez and his Force India teammate Esteban Ocon, with retirement-bound Brazilian Felipe Massa 10th in his final outing for the Williams team.
“Thanks guys,” said Bottas, whose wife is at the circuit, at the end. “You know, family support is always nice!”
“Things were getting better and better in practice and it was all under control. I felt good in the car. I’m really happy. I was so gutted in Brazil to be on pole and to miss out on the win so I have a clear target for tomorrow.”
Hamilton did his utmost to grab pole, but said: “I am delighted for Valtteri. He did a great job and deserved it. What a lap. He had an incredible session and congratulations to him.
“I think I was up a bit on Turn One, but then I lost it on turns five and six, but otherwise it’s been an incredible year of qualifying and one I’ve enjoyed.”
ALONSO PUSHED OUT
On another hot day at the Yas Marina Circuit, Bottas and Hamilton dominated in Q1 which concluded with Frenchman Romain Grosjean eliminated.
Rookie New Zealander Brendon Hartley came in down in 20th place in his Toro Rosso.
Hamilton then scorched to another track lap record lap in 1:36.742, two-tenths faster than teammate Bottas. Apparently satisfied, Mercedes retired to their garage.
Vettel and Raikkonen did the same for Ferrari after securing third and fourth spots to secure passage to the top-ten shootout.
All bar Ferrari made second runs in the final seconds during which Massa gate-crashed Q3 with a flying final lap that pushed his one-time Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso down to 11th.
Out with the McLaren Honda man went his fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz in his Renault, Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne in the second McLaren, Dane Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Canadian rookie Lance Stroll in the second Williams.
The final seconds of the session saw a near-accident when Perez slowed on the racing line at the final corner, forcing Hulkenberg to move inside to avoid hitting his car at high speed.
In Q3, it was Bottas who set the pace with a record 1:36.231, a lap that lifted him beyond Hamilton by 0.172 seconds and the two Ferraris.
Both men slid and scurried on their final laps, but were unable to improve their times as the track temperature fell to 29 degrees.
Their earlier laps were enough as Bottas took pole in spite of a slower lap which persuaded him to pit early at the end of the session.
It was the Mercedes team’s fourth consecutive front row lockout at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the team’s 50th in Formula One.
1. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Mercedes 1:36.231
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull – TAG Heuer
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari
6. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull – TAG Heuer
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Renault
8. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India – Mercedes
9. Esteban Ocon (France) Force India – Mercedes
10. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes
– – – – – – – – – –
11. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren
12. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Renault
13. Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium) McLaren
14. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Haas – Ferrari
15. Lance Stroll (Canada) Williams-Mercedes
– – – – – – – – – –
16. Romain Grosjean (France) Haas – Ferrari
17. Pierre Gasly (France) Toro Rosso – Renault
18. Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Sauber – Ferrari
19. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber – Ferrari
20. Brendon Hartley (New Zealand) Toro Rosso – Renault