ABU DHABI 25 November 2018: Lewis Hamilton has claimed his fourth pole position at Yas Marina Circuit, his 11th of the 2018 season and the 83rd of his Formula 1 career in a stunning Saturday night performance by world champions Mercedes.
Hamilton destroyed the outright lap record for the 5.554-kilometre Abu Dhabi track, breaking it in the second qualifying segment then lowering it to a breathtaking 1:34.794 – a second and a half faster than the previous record set by his teammate Valtteri Bottas in last year’s qualifying session.
‘The emotional roller-coaster I’ve been through with this car!’ said Hamilton as he kissed his Mercedes W09. ‘It’s the closest I have ever been with a car.
‘It was so much fun: to be able to go out there, push the car the way you want and just express yourself – it’s the greatest feeling.’
Bottas came very close to repeating his 2017 pole but lost time in the highly technical final sector. Still, his second place means Mercedes have monopolised the front row at this circuit for five successive seasons, a feat no team has ever achieved at any track before.
Ferrari’s rediscovered Saturday pace saw Sebastian Vettel threaten the Mercedes pair in the first segment, Q1, but in the end he could not do better than third and will start alongside teammate Kimi Räikkönen in the Finn’s final race for the Scuderia.
The third row belongs to Red Bull, with Daniel Ricciardo ahead of Max Verstappen. This means the 21-year-old Dutchman has lost his chance to become the youngest pole-winner in F1® history, an honour that still belongs to Vettel.
In a hugely entertaining hour, Q1 was as far as it went for some of the usual suspects: both Williams drivers, Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin, the two Toro Rossos of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly, who pulled off track with a reported loss of power, and the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne.
He might have been tempted to get out of Qualifying early in order to prepare for the paddock barbecue in his honour, but Fernando Alonso ignored that siren call and produced a typically bullish lap to get the other McLaren into Q2.
Sadly that was as far as the Spaniard got: along with Renault’s Carlos Sainz, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and the Racing Point Force India of Sergio Pérez, he was eliminated before the top ten shoot-out. Twelfth was still Ericsson’s best qualifying at YMC – but 14th was Checo’s worst.
The key question in Q2 was which tyre to run: Ultrasoft for durability or Hypersoft for sheer speed? In the end Hamilton showed the way, setting his fastest Q2 time on the purple-walled Ultras: in fact his 1:35.693 set an outright lap record at Yas Marina Circuit.
He then switched to the pink Hypers but slowed at the end of his final run to guarantee he would start the race on the Ultrasofts. Verstappen is the only one of the top six who will start the 55-lap journey on the Hypersoft compound.