ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position at the final race of the 2018 season after securing the fastest qualifying time by 0.162 seconds in Abu Dhabi.
The lap secured the recently crowned champion his 11th pole position of the season and the 83rd of his career. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas will line up alongside him in second place after setting a time 0.162 seconds off Hamilton and 0.169 seconds quicker than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in third.
The battle for pole came down to the final laps of the session Saturday night, when Hamilton found a remarkable 0.5-second advantage over the Ferraris in the final sector alone. Combined with solid first and second sectors, it resulted in a new track record at the Yas Marina circuit of 1 minutes, 34.794 seconds, nearly 1.5 seconds faster than last year’s pole position.
Bottas dropped time to his teammate in the opening sector of the lap but still held a healthy margin over third-place Vettel, who simply didn’t have the grip to match the Mercedes drivers in the slow corners around the circuit’s hotel section. Kimi Raikkonen took fourth in his final race for Ferrari, just holding off the threat from the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo by 0.036 seconds.
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After showing promising pace Friday, Max Verstappen finished Saturday evening’s qualifying session 0.795 seconds off pole position, sacrificing time to Hamilton in all three sectors of the lap. Verstappen will be the only driver in the top six starting the race on the hyper-soft compound tyre after the top five drivers all used the more durable ultra-soft tyres for their fastest lap in Q2.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean just beat Sauber’s Charles Leclerc to seventh place on the grid as both drivers extracted impressive lap times from their Ferrari-powered cars. That left Esteban Ocon in ninth in his final race for Force India ahead of the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg in 10th.
Carlos Sainz missed out on a place in the top 10 by just 0.018 seconds in the second Renault and will start 11th with a free choice of tyres for the start of the race. Marcus Ericsson will start his final grand prix before switching to IndyCar in 12th place, ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Force India’s Sergio Perez, who both made mistakes and finished over 0.5 seconds off their respective teammates in Q2.
Fernando Alonso will start his final race in F1 from 15th after dragging his McLaren through to Q2 — a predictable, but still disappointing, final qualifying result for a driver with 22 career pole positions.
Brendon Hartley missed out on a place in the top 15 by 0.060 seconds and will line up in 16th on the grid. He beat teammate Pierre Gasly by 0.172 as the second Toro Rosso experienced a loss of power coming through the final corner and had to pull off to the side of the track on its slowdown lap with a suspected engine problem.
Stoffel Vandoorne will line up 18th for his final race in Formula One, ahead of the two Williams drivers in 19th and 20th. Sergey Sirotkin, who will also leave F1 on Sunday night, will start 19th after beating teammate Lance Stroll by 0.047 seconds.