Rosberg takes final pole of 2015, title decider in Abu Dhabi

German finishes four tenths of a second ahead of rival Hamilton to take 11th pole of season. Bottas third for Williams.Nico Rosberg seized the initiative for tomorrow’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, claiming his 11th pole position of the season and beating championship rival Lewis Hamilton by four tenths of a second.

Valtteri Bottas took his ninth top-three qualifying spot of the season with third place, the Finn putting in a superb final flyer to displace Williams team-mate Felipe Massa, who finished fourth.

The first segment of qualifying had a predictable shape, with the Mercedes drivers occupying the top two slots, despite Rosberg’s car requiring a change of floor between final practice and Q1. Hamilton went quickest with a 1:41.207 to finish a tenth ahead of his team-mate. Massa took third spot with a time of 1:41.475.

The order at the back also had a relatively familiar look. Caterham, returning to F1 action after missing the last two grands prix, were eliminated in P19 and P20, with regular race driver Kamui Kobayashi beating rookie Will Stevens, though the Englishman finished a respectable five tenths down on his far more experienced team-mate. Eliminated ahead of them were Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado in P18, the Venezuelan finishing just over 1.7s in front of the Caterhams but four hundredths of a second behind Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez. Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus could only manage 16th and with the Frenchman facing a 20-place grid penalty due to a series of power unit component changes he will also be hit with a drive-through penalty in the race as penalty places cannot be carried over past this season-ending race.

Hamilton continued at the top of the timesheet in Q2. His first run yielded a time of 1:40.920 and with Rosberg’s running only yielding a best time of 1:41.459, the door was left open for the Williams drivers to close the gap to the championship leader. They duly obliged. Massa’s 1:41.144, just over a tenth down on Hamilton, was good enough for P2, while Bottas slotted into P3 just over two tenths further back. Rosberg, though, like Hamilton, chose not to make a final run in the segment, as did Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Eliminated from the top-10 shootout were McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, Force India’s Sergio Perez and Nico Hullkenberg and 15th-placed Sauber driver Adrian Sutil.

If Rosberg’s Q2 laps had featured a couple of small errors, his first outing in Q3 showed not signs that the pressure was getting to him. He powered straight to the top of the order with a first outing in 1:40.697 to shave a full two tenths off his title rivals Q2 best. Hamilton had no response in the opening run and a mistake on his flying lap saw him finish a tenth down on his Q2 benchmark.

Behind them Massa and Bottas occupied third and fourth respectively, with the Williams duo followed by the Red Bull pairing of fifth-placed Ricciardo and Vettel in P6. They were followed by McLaren’s Jenson Button, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.

And in the final laps Rosberg demonstrated why, at the last round in Brazil, he won Formula One’s 2014 pole position trophy. The German found more time again, putting in a lightning-quick, 42-second second sector to better his first run time by two more tenths.

Again Hamilton had no response and the Briton appeared content to settle for second as he finished four almost four tenths behind Rosberg who sealed his 11th pole position of the season. Behind them Massa was pipped for third by a superb final lap from Bottas, who finished just 1500ths of a second behind Hamilton.

With Massa fourth, fifth place went to Ricciardo, with team-mate Vettel sixth. Kvyat scored an excellent seventh for Toro Rosso ahead of Button, Raikkonen and Alonso.

2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Qualifying

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:41.308 1:41.459 1:40.480 132 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:41.207 1:40.920 1:40.866 123 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:42.346 1:41.376 1:41.025 184 Felipe Massa Williams 1:41.475 1:41.144 1:41.119 205 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:42.204 1:41.692 1:41.267 126 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:42.495 1:42.147 1:41.893 17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:42.302 1:42.082 1:41.908 188 Jenson Button McLaren 1:42.137 1:41.875 1:41.964 189 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:42.439 1:42.168 1:42.236 1510 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:42.467 1:41.940 1:42.866 1911 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:42.104 1:42.198 1312 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:42.413 1:42.207 1213 Sergio Perez Force India 1:42.654 1:42.239 1514 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:42.444 1:42.384 1215 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:42.746 1:43.074 1416 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:42.768 817 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:42.819 818 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:42.860 819 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:44.540 720 Will Stevens Caterham 1:45.095 8

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