In the final qualifying session of the year, Lewis Hamilton grabbed his first pole position since the German Grand Prix in a session which saw Mercedes dominating the proceedings. Valtteri Bottas set the second fastest time, but his grid-drop penalty will promote Max Verstappen to second on the grid for tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Q1 – Both Alfa Romeos eliminated
No driver was in a hurry to hit the track as everyone was waiting for the track temperatures to drop as the lights switched to green. Alexander Albon was the first to set a lap time in the challenging conditions. However, his lead did not last long after Mercedes drivers also joined the action. Lewis Hamilton quickly recorded the fastest lap of the weekend with a time of 1m35.851.
Sebastian Vettel endured a shocking moment when he spun coming out of the last corner. He could keep his Ferrari SF90 away from the barriers and went for a time attack after a cool-down lap.
The first laps have already indicated that keeping up with Mercedes’ pace would be too much of an ask for the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers. At the end of the session, Albon came in second with a late attack on a fresh set of red-banded tyres.
In the midfield, a close battle was shaping up what saw the Alfa Romeo drivers missing out to qualify for Q2 by a tiny margin.
Romain Grosjean, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Räikkönen, George Russell and Robert Kubica were elimated in the first part of the qualifying session.
Q2 – Tyre tactics
Given the high degradation of the soft compound seen during Friday’s long run simulations, the Mercedes and the Red Bull drivers went for their first run on the medium rubber. Demonstrating the dominance of the Mercedes car, Hamilton and Bottas immediately topped the timing sheets, beating the Ferrari drivers who used the soft Pirelli rubber.
With three minutes left on the clock, every driver went out for another run. Hamilton also intended to gain experience on the soft compound already thinking of the final qualifying segment. For his second stint in Q2, Charles Leclerc chose the Yellow medium compound and did rightly so as he was able to improve his previous time by topping the middle segment to qualify on the harder compound for the Q3 session.
Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen were eliminated in the middle part of the qualifying session.
Q3 – New lap record
In the final part of the qualifying session, there was no room for any tactics, so everyone opted for the softs, the compound offering the most grip. After the first runs, Hamilton led the way ahead of Verstappen, Bottas, Leclerc, Vettel with Alexander Albon completing the top six.
In terms of timing, Daniel Ricciardo was out of synch as he only had one set of fresh soft tyres prompting him to time his solo attempt between the two runs of his rivals. In the end, his lap time of 1m36.456 was enough for the eighth position.
The closing stages created a bit of a drama after drivers were queuing up for the best position for their final run. Charles Leclerc failed to start his final qualifying lap in time, but he could hang on to his fourth place. Sebastian Vettel was also unlucky with the traffic as the German started his final attempt on cold tyres and was not able to improve his lap time.
On his final lap, Max Verstappen appeared to overdrive his Red Bull RB15, leaving the track on a several places that meant he was unable to shave off any time compared with Hamilton’s benchmark. In contrast, the Briton managed to improve his previous lap, setting a new lap record with a time of 1m34.779.
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:36.390||1:36.275||1:35.139||16|
|6||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:36.102||1:36.718||1:35.682||21|
|7||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||1:37.545||1:36.764||1:36.436||17|
|9||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||1:37.358||1:36.308||1:36.459||17|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point Bwt Mercedes||1:36.961||1:37.055||-||13|
|12||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:37.198||1:37.089||-||12|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point Bwt Mercedes||1:37.528||1:37.103||-||14|
|14||26||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:37.683||1:37.141||-||12|
|15||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:37.710||1:37.254||-||14|
|16||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:38.051||-||-||8|
|17||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:38.114||-||-||6|
|18||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:38.383||-||-||6|
|19||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:38.717||-||-||8|
|20||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||1:39.236||-||-||6|