Imperious Hamilton claims pole for season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Newly crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton will start the final race of the 2019 season in Abu Dhabi from pole position after beating the lap times of teammate Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen.

Hamilton, who won in Abu Dhabi in 2014, 2016 and 2018, dialled in a stunning new track record 1m34.779s to claim his fifth pole of the season and amazing 88th of his career, as he looks to finish off another championship year in fitting style.

“It’s been such a long slog trying to get this pole position and we just tried to get our heads down,” Hamilton told Sky Sports’ Paul di Resta after claiming pole. “The guys have been doing such a great job around me, so it was really just a case of focusing and trying to continue to do my job. Yesterday was quite wobbly so I had to recompose myself last night and come back today focused and I managed to really dial in the car with great work from the engineers.

“We never give up, there’s always room to improve and there’s been a lot of growth this whole year. It’s been a special car and the last time I get to qualify with it, so glad I did it proud today.”

Having changed his engine overnight, Bottas was always going to be starting from the back of the grid, but still pushed hard during the session as a base line to scrub tyres and see how the car’s pace was before Sunday’s race.

“It didn’t feel as good today as it did yesterday with my car,” said Bottas. “I struggled a bit more with sliding but I think Lewis made some good improvements since yesterday and he could put some good laps together and was quicker. In any case, I’m going to start last with my forty place grid penalty, or whatever, so we’ll find that fighting spirit for tomorrow.”

For Ferrari, it was another tactical mix up, Leclerc failing to make it to the chequered flag in time to start his Q3 flying lap, possibly slowed down by his teammate ahead. It capped another puzzling day for the out of sorts Vettel, who suffered an embarrassing spin as he tried to get up to speed entering the start/finish straight in Q1.

Alexander Albon was sixth fastest in the second Red Bull and will start a revised fifth ahead of Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg. It means that Norris wins the closest qualifying head-to-head battle of the season, beating Sainz 11-10 over the course of the season.

As far as Sunday’s race is concerned, it is surely Hamilton’s to lose now, such has been the dominance of the Mercedes team around the Yas Marina circuit during the Hybrid era. But that won’t stop Verstappen from giving it his all and pushing Hamilton all the way for that race win.

“Today was the best we could do, I think we all know that Mercedes is quite dominant here. We tried everything we could and overall I think pretty happy. Good to start on the front row, of course I would like to have qualified there. I think still a lot of chances for tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.