Lewis Hamilton set himself up for the perfect finale to his greatest season by taking pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It was the Briton’s 11th pole aiming for his 11th win of the year.
With the title settled long ago, there is nothing riding on the final round of the 21-race season except pride. But British fans still waved their Union Jacks triumphantly under the night sky as Hamilton put himself top of the timesheets.
The 33-year-old led a Mercedes one-two: Valtteri Bottas was 0.162sec behind, with the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen third and fourth.
“I am quite emotional because this is the last time I will qualify in this car,” said Hamilton, who was wearing a golden helmet to celebrate the fifth title he won in Mexico last month. ‘I am closer to this car than any other.
“The first lap wasn’t spectacular, but the last one I started off calm and got more and more aggressive. The final sector was the killer – where I made the difference.”
Hamilton has won on the desert track three times, a record he shares with his vanquished title rival Vettel.
Fernando Alonso, 37, is retiring after today’s race. The Spaniard qualified only 15th of 20 runners, so has no chance of adding to his 32 wins in a controversial 18-race career. A point may just be possible in his no-hope McLaren, which is decked out in the colours of his home province, Asturias.
However, the Spaniard became the first driver for over a decade to out-qualify his team-mate at every race in Stoffel Vandoorne, matching the record he set in 2008 when he thrashed Nelson Piquet at Renault.