Hamilton sets up final race showdown with blistering lap for pole in Abu Dhabi, points leader Rosberg just behind in P2; Red Bull’s Ricciardo pips the Ferraris to start P3
At the final qualifying session of the 2016 Formula 1 season and with the Drivers’ Championship poised on a knife’s edge, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton gave himself the best opportunity to snatch his third consecutive title and break his teammate’s heart once again. Trailing by a mere 12 points in the Drivers’ standings, the hard-charging Hamilton was faster than all comers at the futuristic Yas Marina circuit, laying down a lightning fast lap of 1:38.755 as Q3 wound down. That was good enough for pole position, his fourth in a row and sixth from his last eight attempts. Hamilton’s Championship-leading Silver Arrows teammate and archrival, Nico Rosberg, couldn’t match the speedy Englishman but still came home only 0.7 seconds in arrears to take P2. As it has been all season long there is little to separate the Mercedes duo and it’s only fitting that they will start side-by-side yet again for the ultimate prize in this last race of the season. For Rosberg, all he has to do is finish on the podium to secure his long dreamed off first career Championship. Even if the German contender finishes P4, he wins on the tie-breaker for 2nd place finishes throughout the year, where Rosberg has a 4-3 advantage. There are other permutations but essentially Hamilton needs the victory and for Rosberg to finish P5 or worse. And with Rosberg’s rather poor record at Abu-Dhabi — he’s only finished on the podium twice in six attempts at Yas Marina — his finally prevailing over his stablemate and chief tormentor is hardly a sure bet. Literally anything can happen in a Grand Prix race so buckle up. Tomorrow’s intra-team showdown and season-defining finale should be a real nail-biter with echoes of the glory days of Prost vs. Senna .
Top 10 qualifiers for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:
|3||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:41.002||1:40.429||1:39.589||17|
|6||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:40.424||1:39.903||1:39.818||13|
|7||27||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:41.000||1:40.709||1:40.501||12|
|8||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:40.864||1:40.743||1:40.519||12|
Tomorrow’s GP will be broadcast live starting at 8:00 AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network here in the States. It’s for all the marbles with two Mercedes drivers desperate for the title and the rest of the field eager to make their own impact in the season’s final race. No real racing fan should miss it so hope to see you then!