Nico Rosberg has struck a psychological blow in the title race by taking a comfortable pole position for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi decider at the Yas Marina circuit.
The Mercedes driver refused to buckle under the mounting pressure as he posted a 1:40.480s effort to clinch pole by more than three tenths of a second from team-mate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton had topped the times in both Q1 and Q2 but was unable to match Rosberg in Q3 with the Brit making a mistake on his final effort.
“It was a great day again today. I was really happy with the set-up,” said Rosberg.
“I need to get the job done, and continue in the sort of form I had in Brazil during the race.”
The Williams of Valtteri Bottas once proved to be the best of the rest in third with the Finn a little over half a second adrift of Rosberg.
The Grove squad confirmed their pace with Felipe Massa joining Bottas on the second row in fourth.
Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo was the best non Mercedes powered runner in fifth ahead of team-mate and outgoing world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat will start from seventh alongside McLaren’s Jenson Button, who will start what could be his final grand prix in eighth. The 2009 world champion did crucially out-qualify his team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who will start from 11th on the grid.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10 for the Maranello squad.
Without a drive secured for next season, Jean-Eric Vergne was hoping to impress but he could only manage a time good enough for 12th position.
Force India’s Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg along with Sauber’s Adrian Sutil were also eliminated in Q2.
The Lotus of Romain Grosjean was the first of a group of five drivers who failed to progress to Q2.
The Frenchman, who confirmed he will remain at the Enstone team next season, will start from the back of the grid.
The 28-year-old will also face a drive through penalty in the race as a result of a 20 place grid drop for a sixth engine change of the year.
Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez will start from 16th position ahead of Pastor Maldonado and the two Caterham’s of Kamui Kobayashi and debutant Will Stevens.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying Result
|3||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Mercedes||1:41.025s||+0.545s|
|4||Felipe Massa||Williams Mercedes||1:41.119s||+0.639s|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Renault||1:41.267s||+0.787s|
|6||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault||1:41.893s||+1.413s|
|7||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso Renault||1:41.908s||+1.428s|
|8||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes||1:41.964s||+1.484s|
|11||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes||1:42.198s||Q2|
|12||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso Renault||1:42.207s||Q2|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||1:42.239s||Q2|
|14||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India Mercedes||1:42.384s||Q2|
|15||Adrian Sutil||Sauber Ferrari||1:43.074s||Q2|
|16||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber Ferrari||1:42.819s||Q1|
|17||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus Renault||1:42.860s||Q1|
|18||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham Renault||1:44.540s||Q1|
|19||Will Stevens||Caterham Renault||1:45.095s||Q1|
|20||Romain Grosjean||Lotus Renault||1:42.768s||Q1 (20 place grid penalty)|
Title Decider Permutations
Hamilton can win the title if:
• he wins or is second
• is third, fourth or fifth and Rosberg does not win
• is sixth and Rosberg does not finish in the top two
• is seventh or eighth and Rosberg does not finish in the top three
• is ninth and Rosberg does not finish in the top four
• is 10th or retires and Rosberg does not finish in the top five
Rosberg can win the title if:
• he wins and Hamilton is no better than third
• is second and Hamilton is no better than sixth
• is third and Hamilton is no better than seventh
• is fourth and Hamilton is no better than ninth
• is fifth and Hamilton is no better than 10th