Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole position using the P Zero Pink hypersoft tyres on their final qualifying appearance, with a time that was a second and a half faster than last year’s pole: a new track record.
Qualifying was close from start to finish, with the Q2 session dominated by tyre tactics. Eight drivers went out on the ultrasoft tyres, around a second slower than the hypersoft. However, only five of them set their fastest times on the ultrasoft – including Hamilton – and they will be the top five on the grid, ahead of Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen.
The most likely strategy tomorrow is one pit stop, but this also depends on the degradation rate of the hypersoft, for those starting on this compound. With Yas Marina being a difficult track to overtake on, race strategy could make a decisive difference.
Track temperatures fell progressively during the evening qualifying session, as is usual at Abu Dhabi, with the fastest times coming right at the end.
Mario Isola: “The Q2 session was particularly relevant, with a lot of drivers starting their runs on the ultrasoft, but not all of them managing to set their fastest times with this compound. As a result, we’ll have an interesting situation at the race start tomorrow with the Mercedes of Hamilton leading a top five on ultrasoft, ahead of the rest of the top 10 on hypersoft. It will be interesting to see how their strategies diverge. One-stop should be fastest, but it will also depend on the degradation rate of the hypersoft on heavy fuel at the start of the race. Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel was the only driver to use two sets of ultrasoft in Q2, which could indicate a strategy that keeps a new hypersoft for the second stint. The drivers will have to manage falling track temperatures throughout the race, which will have an effect on how they can manage the tyres. Generally speaking, they will be able to push harder on them in the later stages.”