What We Learned From Qualifying

  • Nico Rosberg scored a resounding pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after trailing Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in Q2. Rosberg edged Hamilton by 0.38 of a second. It was his 11th consecutive front row start and further strengthens Mercedes record of front row starts in a season.
  • Lewis Hamilton had the edge on his team-mate in Q1 and Q2, but like so many times this year, when it really counted, small errors crept into his crucial lap. The one advantage Hamilton will take into the race tomorrow – apart from the fact that this race has only been won by the polesitter on a single occasion – is that the tyres he will start the race on are a lap younger than Rosberg’s. On Rosberg’s Q2 lap he missed his braking point at the end of the back straight, ran wide and had to put a time in on his second lap.
  • Hamilton’s final lap in Q1 was described by Toto Wolff as “messy” and he was in danger of being split by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who came within 0.004 of Lewis before he improved on his final run.
  • Mercedes capture of pole means that they are the first engine manufacturer to claim all pole positions in a season since 1969, when it was the Ford-Cosworth DFV reigning supreme.
  • Williams will have the second row of the grid to themselves with Bottas in P3 and Felipe Massa in P4. Massa was edged out of P3 by just 0.08 of a second, though neither were that far ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. One point of note was that Bottas was able to run the harder of the two tyres in Q1 and even set the fastest first sector time with them! Mercedes went straight for SuperSofts.
  • Daniel Ricciardo won the final qualifying battle of the season against his departing team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who had a special paintjob on his garage floor celebrating his four championships. The P5 will be particularly satisfying to Dan as Vettel is an expert at Yas Marina having won the race before and coming third from a pitlane start. (and always trumping his Aussie compatriot at the venue in races. )
  • Jenson Button got as high as P6 in Q2, but was probably hoping for more than he ended up with – which was P8. He outqualified Mclaren team-mate Kevin Magnussen who was edged out of Q2. In Q2 the McLaren team underfuelled both cars, so we had this embarrassing exchange on race radio…
    JB race engineer: “We need to pit. Box this lap.”
    Jenson Button: “Any reason?”
    JB race engineer: “Fuel. We need to top up fuel.”
    Jenson Button: “You’re serious…?”
  • Kimi Raikkonen outqualified Fernando Alonso for only the fourth time this season but it was a poor session for the Ferrari team with the Scuderia ending up P9 and P10. Fernando Alonso is wearing a special signature helmet this weekend with the names of all the team-members inscribed on it (which will probably annoy the master of the best special occasion helmets, Sebastian Vettel)
  • It was a pretty good F1 debut for former World Karting Champ Will Stevens at Caterham. Despite limited running on Friday he managed to qualify less than 0.5 behind his far more experienced team-mate Kamui Kobayashi. And thanks to Romain Grosjean’s multiple engine penalties, he won’t be starting the race from last place on the grid.
  • Celeb spotters in the pitlane could get glimpses of Prince Harry in the Red Bull garage standing behind the diminutive Gerri Halliwell. Pharrell Williams was in the Ferrari garage but firmly on the side of supporting his buddy Lewis Hamilton win the World Championship. “I’m not sure of the chronology… but I’ve known him for between eight and 10 years. It’s been awesome to follow his journey.” (Some wags remarked that he should have been with Frank and Claire’s team.)