Mercedes dominated racing on Saturday, but it wasn’t Lewis Hamilton who grabbed pole position for the last race of the season. It’ll be his team-mate Valtteri Bottas who will be on pole for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after pipping his team-mate.
Final practice saw Lewis Hamilton finish fastest 0.273 seconds ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas. The two Ferrari’s were next with Raikkonen in third and Vettel fourth. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen filled the next two places with the McLaren’s of Alonso and Vandoorne in seventh and eighth positions.
It was a dominating performance by Hamilton even with a few small mistakes being made. Most unhappy driver seemed to be Max Verstappen who described his Red Bull as “unbelievable, so difficult to drive”.
Mercedes grabbed pole for the final race of the season, but it was Valtteri Bottas who got it as he finished 0.172 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel was third in his Ferrari but 0.546 seconds behind Bottas. Daniel Ricciardo finished in fourth place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Max Verstappen finished sixth with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg in seventh. The two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Estaban Ocon filled eighth and ninth with Felipe Massa, in his last race, tenth fastest. The McLaren’s of Alonso and Vandoorne were 11th and 12th.
Hamilton had a chance to get his 12th pole of the season but the final part of his last lap wasn’t good enough and he couldn’t get past the time that Bottas had set. It’s the fourth time this season Bottas has pole levelling the score of Sebastian Vettel.
“It was a very clean session and I managed to find time every run,” said Bottas after clinching pole. “The car was feeling much better than any point of the weekend and that allowed me to work on the details,” he added. Hamilton praised his team-mate and knows he’ll be in for a battle tomorrow if he wants to finish his season with a win.
Sebastian Vettel hasn’t given up hope of his second successive win and believes that despite being off the pace in qualifying, his Ferrari will be more competitive in the race, though he admits that Mercedes have been “very fast” so far, this weekend.
So, we get ready for the final day of the season. There may not be any titles left to fight for, but Mercedes won’t be keen on going into the 2018 championship with Ferrari having won the last two races of the season, particularly if it’s Vettel who comes out on top on Sunday. Nor will Ferrari want to see a season that promised so much fizzle out with a Mercedes 1-2 in the final race.
If the Mercedes perform as they did in qualifying, then a 1-2 to finish another successful season is possible. I’ll be back next week with the first of some blogs looking back at the F1 season and looking forward to next year. Till then, enjoy your racing.