Abu Dhabi GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
The stage is set
By Dan Knutson in Abu Dhabi
The stage is set the championship showdown. After the final qualifying session of the season, contenders Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will line up first and second respectively for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 84 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Centigrade).
The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen . Force India Mercedes - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Renault - Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Toro Rosso Ferrari - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz. Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Manor Mercedes - Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon. Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.
Pirelli had its ultra soft, super soft and soft compound slicks on offer for the weekend. At the start of the 18-minute Q1 session the Haas and Toro Rosso drivers headed out on the ultras while the top team guys stayed in the garage.
Five minutes later the Mercedes drivers joined the action, and both were on the ultra softs. Hamilton laid down a 1:39.487 and Rosberg a 1:40.511.
With nine minutes remaining, everybody but Magnussen was on track. Vettel clocked a 1:40.359 to move into second. Then Verstappen grabbed third.
So, with the first round of runs complete, the top six were Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Verstappen, Rosberg and Perez.
Wehrlein was 16th and on the bubble with Gutierrez 15th and Palmer 17th. But that soon got flipped around and not Magnussen was 15th and ahead of Nasr and Wehrlein.
The top nine stayed put as the rest of the drivers fought it out in the final minutes.
The six drivers who were eliminated at the end of FP1 were: Kvyat, Magnussen, Nasr, Ocon, Sainz and Ericsson.
The fastest 16 drivers who moved on to Q2 were: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Verstappen, Rosberg, Perez, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Massa, Button, Bottas, Grosjean, Alonso, Gutierrez, Palmer and Wehrlein.
"We're already a lot faster than last year's pole: 1m40.237s in 2015, 1m39.487s for @LewisHamilton now," Pirelli tweeted.
Q2 ran for 15 minutes, and Hamilton was the first out on track. Raikkonen, Vettel and Rosberg followed him. Everybody was on the ultra soft tires.
Hamilton stopped the clocks at 1:39.382 and Rosberg at 1:39.490. Raikkonen took third and Vettel fourth.
Ricciardo was on the super softs when he posted a 1:40.429 which put him sixth. Verstappen, also on the super softs, grabbed fourth with a 1:39.903. The Red Bull drivers therefore would get to start the race on the harder compound tire.
So now the top six were Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Vettel and Ricciardo.
The bubble had Bottas in 10th, Massa in ninth and Alonso in 11th.
With five minutes to go, everybody was in the pits. Then, with just over three minutes remaining, drivers started off on their final attempts. Both Red Bull drivers headed out as well and they were on the ultras. But they eased off so as to not set their fastest time on those tires.
The six drivers who were eliminated at the end of FP2 were: Bottas, Button, Gutierrez, Grosjean, Palmer and Wehrlein.
The fastest 10 drivers who moved on to Q3 were: Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Perez, Massa and Alonso.
Once again Hamilton was first out, but Rosberg was not too far behind as the 12-minute shootout began.
Hamilton set a 1:39.013 and Rosberg a 1:39.359. Raikkonen filed a 1:39.634 and Ricciardo a 1:39.658.
Verstappen, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Perez, Alonso and Massa (who did not go out) rounded out the top 10.
So now it all came down to the final three minutes, and Hamilton was first out again.
Hamilton's lap time this time was a 1:38.755, and Rosberg a 1:39.058.
Ricciardo moved into third. Raikkonen, Vettel, Verstappen (who went off on his lap), Hulkenberg, Perez, Alonso and Massa rounded out the top 10.