Valtteri Bottas Sets Track Record, Takes Final Pole of F1 Season in Abu Dhabi

The Finn takes his fourth pole position of the year and narrowly beats out world champion Lewis Hamilton for P1 on the starting grid.

Formula 1 rolls into Abu Dhabi this weekend for the 2017 season finale. Champion driver Lewis Hamilton has been dominant in Free Practice prior to Saturday’s qualifying round, and despite posting a time of 1’36.403

in Q3, he fell 0.172 seconds off of his Silver Arrow teammate Valtteri Bottas for pole position. This is his fourth career P1 start as he will head the all-Mercedes front row with Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo behind, both of whom were more than half a second off the pace in the final qualifying run.

Bottas will look to take advantage of this stellar position as he works towards Vettel in second place for the Drivers’ Championship. He currently sits 22 points behind the Ferrari ace in title standings but has been a steady contributor to Mercedes efforts this year, helping the team to capture its fourth consecutive Constructors’ Trophy this season. His quickest lap of 1’36.231 was enough to set the track record at Yas Marina, boding well for his chances of winning a third Grand Prix in 2017.

Even without bumping his pole position record to 73, Hamilton was not to be outshined in earlier rounds of qualifying. The Brit remained the fastest through Q1 and Q2 to fall just short of Bottas’ time in the end. He will try his hand at recreating the result from last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which he won. With the championship decided, expect the two Mercedes drivers to battle it out if they can sneak away from the Ferraris and Red Bulls.

Sebastian Vettel qualified in third with Daniel Ricciardo following quickly behind to complete the second row. Vettel remains the only active driver other than Hamilton and Raikkonen to win at Abu Dhabi, his last time being with Red Bull in 2014. Ricciardo hopes to bring that honor back to the Milton Keynes outfit as he feels optimistic about his chances on Sunday.

“I’m happy with the end of quali,” said Ricciardo. “I’m so happy to have jumped Ferrari and the second row is good. We thought we could get close to Ferrari but as qualifying went on, it looked like they were too quick. During the first run in Q3 we were slow but I knew we could get a lot more out of the car, we just had to figure it out.”

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Kimi Raikkonen nabbed fifth while Max Verstappen rounded out the top six. The 20-year old Dutchman struggled to find the correct set up during Saturday’s running and was admittedly disappointed with his best time of 1’37.328. Having only raced at Yas Marina once in his career, the young Verstappen will have to learn on the fly to compete with the veterans on the grid. 

Nico Hulkenberg was best of the rest in seventh. He and his Renault finished 2.051s behind Bottas, landing a best lap of 1’38.282. The two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished qualifying in eighth and ninth, landing them within a shout of capturing the team’s 16th double-points finish of the season if all goes well.

Finally, Felipe Massa managed a top ten qualifying round in the final go of his Formula 1 career. The Brazilian announced that he will retire at the end of this season, ending his fifteen-year career with the sport.