Formula 1: Bottas on pole for Abu Dhabi season finale

26 November 2017

Formula 1: Bottas on pole for Abu Dhabi season finale

Photo credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT/Sutton Images (Formula 1 website).

Valtteri Bottas has secured pole position at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit for the final Grand Prix of the 2017 season, with a lap time of 1:36.231. This is the Mercedes’ drivers fourth pole of both this year and his Formula One career, and a new fastest qualifying lap at the circuit since Sebastian Vettel’s 1:38.481 in 2011.

 

Bottas will be under significant pressure to convert the pole position into a win, having lost the lead from pole at the first turn at the previous race in Brazil. Only adding to that pressure will be having to start alongside and in front of two four-time World Champions — his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who qualified second after going wide on the final turn, and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who qualified third.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo snatched fourth on the grid from Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen by just 0.026 seconds, relegating the Finn to the third row, alongside the other Red Bull of Max Verstappen. Meanwhile, Nico Hülkenberg managed to qualify seventh for Renault, just ahead of the Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon, who were separated by only 0.023 seconds. Felipe Massa rounded out the top-10 for Williams in his final Formula One qualifying session; the Brazilian will retire at the end of this season.

Massa pushed Fernando Alonso’s McLaren out of the top-10, by a narrow margin of 0.071 seconds. Also eliminated in Q2 were the Renault of Carlos Sainz Jr (who had to abandon a lap after a near-collision with a pitting Pérez), the other McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne (complaining of engine problems), the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, and the other Williams of Lance Stroll, who scraped into Q2 by 0.013 seconds ahead of the other Haas of Romain Grosjean who qualified 16th.

It was a disappointing session for Toro Rosso, with Pierre Gasly qualifying 17th and Brendon Hartley qualifying 20th; Hartley would have already started last due a 10-place grid penalty for taking on an additional power unit element, but expressed dissatisfaction with his personal qualifying performance. The Toro Rossos were split by the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson (another narrow margin between the teammates of 0.060 seconds).

Although both the World Drivers’ Championship and World Constructors’ Championship titles have already been claimed by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes respectively, there are still some noteworthy points battles that will be resolved when the chequered flag is waved in Abu Dhabi. These include:

  • Fourth in the Drivers’ standings — Daniel Ricciardo leads Kimi Räikkönen by just seven points. Räikkönen has outscored Ricciardo three races in a row, so a switch could happen. If they end the season with equal points, Ricciardo’s win in Azerbaijan will determine the standings in his favour.
  • Seventh in the Driver’s standings — teammates Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon are separated by 11 points. It seems unlikely they will change places, but a retirement by Pérez and a fourth place from Ocon could switch their order.
  • Ninth in the Drivers’ standings — teammates Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll are separated by two points. Although Stroll has struggled at Abu Dhabi, finishing ninth or higher could see the rookie driver outscore his veteran teammate.
  • Sixth and Seventh in the Constructors’ Championship — Toro Rosso leads Renault by four points, and Renault leads Haas by two points. Toro Rosso has not won a single point in the last two races, while Renault has received seven. Reliability issues with Renault’s power units could, however, allow Haas to leapfrog both teams to take sixth.