It was a sixth consecutive front row lock-out for Mercedes, as Hamilton continued his recent form by grabbing his fourth pole position in a row, and his 12th of the season. Rosberg admitted to two mistakes on his first flying lap, but nailed his second to line up alongside his team mate and championship rival.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:38.755
"It’s been an awesome weekend so far. It’s rare that you end almost every session on top, so I’m very, very happy, with that. It’ s down to the hard work done by the mechanics and the engineers to get the car where I need it, so I’m grateful to them for that, as always. I felt so great out there tonight. It’s really sad that this is the last Qualifying session we’re going to do in this car! It’s a dream for any driver to have something this good to drive. I’ ve been doing my practice starts from the pole slot all weekend as I wasn’t planning on being anywhere else for tomorrow. I came here knowing that was a big part of what I needed this weekend and, now I’ve got that, I can focus on the race. Getting away in front will be the next important step. You need a big pace delta to overtake here, so the start will be crucial. Tonight, though, I need to look at strategy and how things need to work for me to get the win. At the moment, my pace is that little bit better. But I can’t control what happens behind me. All I can do is focus on my own race. You never know what might get thrown into the mix, so I’m just hoping my car is as beautiful as it has been so far this weekend and aiming for the win."
Nico Rosberg, 2nd, 1:39.058
"I came here to be on pole, so I’m not ecstatic today. I was feeling good in the car today and put in some good laps at the end. But Lewis did a great job and was just a few tenths quicker. I’ m still in a good position to win the race and I want to end the season on a high. There are a few opportunities tomorrow, so I look forward to an exciting battle. The Yas Marina Circuit is a great track and I’m feeling very good before the last race of the year. I am proud and happy about how this season has gone for me until now. Tonight I will relax a bit with Vivian and some friends and come back tomorrow in top shape."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"No matter what it looks like from the outside, a 1-2 lockout in qualifying is never easy to achieve. So it’s a great result for the team to see this car take the front row in its final ever race weekend before it heads to the museum. It was also a great driving demonstration from our boys this evening. Lewis was on his own level all the way through, setting the benchmark in Q1 and never headed after that. As for Nico, he did exactly what he needed to do tonight, and could perhaps have been a little bit closer without a couple of errors on his lap. But it sets up the perfect scenario for tomorrow’s race – and we have Red Bull running the alternative tyre strategy, too, which could add a little bit of spice to the race. They will be looking to put us under pressure with that move and we’ll see how things play out. As for us, we will be going racing just the same way as we have done all year. The boys are free to race, like they always have been, and we will stay true to our values and principles that have served us so well in the past three seasons. It’s going to be a thrilling showdown to a fantastic season."
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
"A terrifically exciting session! We’re very conscious that the whole world is watching the duel between Nico and Lewis and we are delighted to have given them both the platform they needed to put on a great spectacle this evening. Qualifying is hugely important at this circuit and, for the race tomorrow, it could even make the difference between winning a Championship and just missing out. Fortunately, from a team perspective, everything went according to plan, with both drivers able to complete their laps without any issues. We saw incredible pace from both of them at the end to secure a front row lockout. Round one of the battle this weekend has gone to Lewis, so congratulations to him for putting his car in the best possible position with an extraordinary lap. He didn’t put a foot wrong all evening. For Nico, Q1 didn’t go according to plan – but he pulled it back and was right on the pace when it mattered. We look forward to seeing how their battle unfolds tomorrow. Of course, this was the final Qualifying session of the year, so we must be extremely proud to come away with such a result. Qualifying is the ultimate measure of the pace of a car, so congratulations to the team at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart for ending the season with such a large performance margin to the rest of the field."
Verstappen had looked to have the beating of his team mate, and was mixing it with the Ferraris in the battle for third position until he ran wide on his final flying lap. On an improving track, Ricciardo seized his opportunity and qualified as 'best of the rest' behind the Mercedes. To add some intrigue to the race, both Red Bulls opted to run on supersoft tyres in Q2 and will be the only drivers in the top ten to start on the more durable rubber.
Daniel Ricciardo, 3rd, 1:39.589
“I’m definitely pleased I got the third place I was after. It feels really good. This morning was hard, I did a run quite early and I was nearly a second off Max so it didn’t look good on paper but the track warmed up so much that we didn’t really know what to expect coming into quali. Q1 was a little bit slow but then I picked it up and Q3 was solid enough so I was happy. We’ll see about the strategy. It’s just nice to do something different to Mercedes. We know on the same equipment they’re probably going to be quicker so we feel it should make us go a little bit longer at the start and then perhaps we can bring the race back to us towards the end when our tyres might be a bit different. For tomorrow of course I wish I was in their position, obviously they’ve both got a little bit more pressure than us this weekend, which I’m kind of envious about. But if the win is there for me tomorrow then I’ll go for it and there will be no holding back. You always have this level of respect as they’re fighting for the title, but if they leave the door open and I think I can pass, then I won’t make it easy for them and let them sail into the sunset.”
Max Verstappen, 6th, 1:39.818
“I’m pretty disappointed with sixth today. Qualifying up until Q3 went very well, we had no issues and didn’t touch the car. In my last run I was pushing hard and a few tenths up but I locked up into turn 11, if not for that I feel I would have been around P3. It was a bit unfortunate as my pace was there and the car felt good. It would have been great to be a bit higher on the grid as the tyre strategy means that by starting on the supersoft we need a really strong start and to be careful with the cars behind. We should be able to stay out a bit longer, the tyre seems to work well in the higher temperatures so this suits the start of the race. The pace has been there all weekend so I am definitely aiming to go forward tomorrow and work my way to the guys up front. I will put today behind me and focus on having a strong race and closing the season with another successful result.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“A great final lap by Daniel to find that half a tenth to move himself ahead of Kimi to get the best seat for tomorrow’s start. It was a shame for Max because he was up on his lap but when he arrived at turn 11 he just lost the front axle and therefore the time that he had found was gone. Nonetheless starting third and sixth on the grid here for what’s bound to be an exciting start tomorrow is not a bad place to be. Strategically we’ve chosen to start on the supersoft tyre believing it to be a little bit more robust than the ultrasoft which again brings another dimension to the race. Hopefully if we can get a good start then we should be in good shape with those tyres.”
Ericsson admitted to a mistake on his final run in Q1 which cost him time and landed him on the back row of the grid. Nasr had briefly threatened to make Q2 for the first time since Hungary, before a flurry of late improvements left him down in 19th. Still to secure a drive for 2017, the pressure will be on the Brazilian to put in a good performance in the race.
Marcus Ericsson, 22nd, 1:42.637
“A disappointing qualifying for me. The car has been difficult to drive throughout the weekend, especially on the ultrasoft tyres. We were already struggling to find a good feel on them yesterday in the practice sessions. We knew that it would not be an easy qualifying. On my last lap in Q1 it was a shame that I pushed a bit over the limit and locked up the tyres into Turn 17. I lost all my lap time there. When it comes to tomorrow, the long-run pace was looking encouraging compared to the short-runs, so I am still optimistic that we can be stronger in the race.”
Felipe Nasr, 19th, 1:42.247
“I felt that I extracted the maximum out of the car today. Although it was not enough to make it into Q2. I had a clean lap on my second set of ultrasoft tyres, so putting in a decent lap time. It was positive that we were able to make the tyres work better than on my first set. Besides that, I again had a misfire on my quick lap. Thinking about tomorrow, we need to make sure that we maintain our tenth position in the championship. This is our clear objective.”
Grosjean repeatedly complained about the set-up of his car, as he struggled for grip around the Yas Marina Circuit. As such, making Q2 was an achievement for the Frenchman. Gutierrez - in his last Grand Prix with the team - likewise made it through to the second phase, out-qualifying Grosjean, and seemed happier with his set-up. Points are not out of the question.
Romain Grosjean, 14th, 1:41.564
“I’m disappointed with that qualifying session. Clearly, we were hoping for a bit better. We had a lot of problems yesterday and we were still hoping that we’d made the right decisions. We did as much as we could, but we need to get more understanding of the tyres. I think we’re spending too much energy just to get all four corners working. It’s the same for everyone, so that’s where we need to focus. We’ve seen that when we get things right, like in Brazil, we’re very fast. When we’re not, we’re usually around 14th and 15th. That’s the number one priority for now. For the race tomorrow, I’ve got no idea what to think. I didn’t get to do any long runs. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.”
Esteban Gutierrez, 13th, 1:41.480
“It’s been quite a tricky day, starting with FP3 conditions where it was pretty hot. Obviously, it was important to understand how the conditions would change the balance of the car going into qualifying with it going into the night and temperatures dropping. I feel very grateful to have achieved this result for my team. My group of mechanics and engineers having been giving it their best efforts even though it’s quite an emotional weekend for all of us being our last race together. They deserve to have my best, and I’ll give them the best of my focus, attitude and performance.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was an average day. I think for the last qualifying session of the season we did a decent job. Two weeks ago in Brazil it was better, but still, we are in a position to get into the points tomorrow. That would be a nice finish to our first season together. There’s some work ahead of us and we will try to get it done.”
Vettel topped the timing sheets in final practice, hinting at a Ferrari resurgence come qualifying. The Scuderia certainly looked competitive but it was Raikkonen who had the edge, pipping his team mate in all three phases of qualifying. He looked to have done enough for third position, but was beaten by Ricciardo by the narrowest of margins.
Kimi Raikkonen, 4th, 1:39.604
"It was a pretty good qualifying, the car has behaved well all day. Today we went a lot faster than we had been in practice, we did our best and it was almost enough for third place, but my last lap was not perfect in some places. It's hard to say if we'll be able to fight with the Mercedes tomorrow: usually in race conditions we are a bit closer, but I'm sure they will also be very strong. Tomorrow we can only do our best, we'll try to make a good start and then we'll see."
Sebastian Vettel, 5th, 1:39.661
"I'm not really happy with the result. I was struggling a bit with the balance of the car to start with. In the end it was good, but then in the last lap I had a bit of a messy last sector. I saw a bit of smoke from Verstappen ahead, enough to lose a bit of concentration. After this morning we were expecting a bit more, not really to fight the Mercedes, but to beat Red Bulls. I don't think we were any slower, but we didn't get the lap together when it mattered, probably we were a bit on the aggressive side trying to anticipate the track conditions. For tomorrow it should be positive, for tonight it was a bit too much. Otherwise the car feels good, we managed to improve it today. Mercedes are a bit far away, but we hope to get ahead and be in front of Red Bulls tomorrow. We are on the softer compound, which should give us an advantage off the line and for the first lap."
Williams gambled on using supersoft tyres in Q1 and it paid off for Bottas, who made it through to Q2 on the red-marked rubber. The Finn could go no further, though, qualifying 11th, but will have the silver lining of free tyre choice for the race. In his final qualifying Massa made Q3, opting to run just once. A small mistake on his flying lap left him starting tenth.
Felipe Massa, 10th, 1:41.213
"It definitely was not a very easy qualifying today, but I was happy with the result. To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the tyres but I just tried my hardest to set a good lap. I had a very good time in Q2, which was important. I definitely expected a bit more from my lap in Q3, but maybe I didn’t have as much grip in the tyres as Q2. We’re not far from where we expected to be and we will see what we can do compared to the other cars."
Valtteri Bottas, 11th, 1:41.084
"Obviously I would have liked to have been in Q3, but for some reason I couldn’t get any extra grip from the ultrasoft tyre compared to the supersoft. The car felt very good with the supersoft tyre, but I don’t feel like we got the most out of the qualifying tyre. However, tomorrow is a different game. P11 gives me a free choice of tyres for the race, so that can open up opportunities. Lately, Force India have been finishing races ahead of us so it would be nice to end the season with a good result for the whole team and for Felipe. There’s obviously a title battle on the line up at the front, so that could create quite an exciting race ahead."
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering
"Felipe was more comfortable on the ultrasoft tyre than Valtteri today. It’s a shame Felipe wasn’t able to repeat his Q2 time to get himself into ninth rather than 10th. In Valtteri’s case, he just couldn’t get the qualifying tyre working. So, we’re 10th and 11th and that’s not where we want to be, but we won’t give up. We will keep pushing and do what we can. We’re in a position to get some points tomorrow and finish the season on an upward trajectory."
Force India have been battling with Williams for fourth in the constructors' championship for most of the season, and with a healthy points advantage over their rivals they just need to avoid any slip-ups in this final weekend. By qualifying seventh and eighth they did just that, with Renault-bound Hulkenberg shading his team mate Perez by 0.018s.
Nico Hulkenberg, 7th, 1:40.501
“I’m very happy and I think seventh place was probably the maximum result for us today. I’m pleased with my laps, especially considering the lack of running I have had this weekend, sitting out FP1 and missing half of final practice. Going into qualifying I thought it was going to be quite difficult, but we made good progress with the car during the session and I had the confidence to really push on all of my laps. Hopefully we can deliver more of the same tomorrow to end the season and my time with Force India in style. The cars ahead in the top six may be just out of reach, but we will give it a go and see where we end up.”
Sergio Perez, 8th, 1:40.519
“I am pleased with the result for the team, locking down the fourth row of the grid, but I am not very happy with my performance because I know I could have done better. I had a bit of understeer on my last lap so I tried to change my lines to counter it, but it didn’t really work. I could have been in P7 with a perfect lap, but with Nico just ahead it’s still a great result for the team. I am looking forward to our last race as teammates and beating the cars around us to finish the season on a high note. I want to outscore our rivals because finishing fourth in the championship is a really important objective for us.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer
“To end the final qualifying session of the year with both cars inside the top eight is an excellent effort by the entire team. The car has been competitive in all the sessions, but it’s been a challenging day with Nico losing quite a lot of track time in final practice. Despite this, he was able to secure seventh place on the grid. Sergio was matching him lap for lap and ended the session just one hundredth shy to lock out the fourth row of the grid. Looking ahead to the race, we’re well placed to bring home a strong result to sign off what has been the most successful season in the team’s history.”
After a poor Friday, Toro Rosso's woes continued in FP3 with reduced running for both drivers, limiting their opportunities to hone their set-ups. They did manage to start the qualifying session, but were unable to get either car out of Q1 in a disappointing display. On a more positive note, their technical problems appear to have been resolved ahead of the race.
Daniil Kvyat, 17th, 1:42.003
“After all the problems we’ve been struggling with this weekend, today’s result is actually the maximum we could achieve, at least from my side – I don’t think I could’ve done a better lap to be honest. We’ve had very little track time during the practice sessions, so it was difficult to go into qualifying without many laps under my belt… I’m happy with the recovery and we still have a chance to fight tomorrow, when I will try and do a clean race and see where we end up. We’re also going blind into the race, as we didn’t complete any long runs, but we will keep fighting until the end, that’s for sure!”
Carlos Sainz, 21st, 1:42.393
“Honestly, it’s being a very tough last two days here in Abu Dhabi, which is a bit painful as I really wanted to finish the season with a clean weekend and enjoy myself. The team has struggled to solve the problem regarding the rear of the car and, because of this, we haven’t had much track time unfortunately. We’re working hard and every time we do a change on the car it seems to be positive – the team has done a great job since yesterday. Obviously, this has conditioned our set-up and we’ve not had much time to develop it or get used to the track – something which is not ideal when you’re preparing for a race. Tomorrow we are starting from very back on the grid but let’s see what we can do - I will definitely try and enjoy it, hope for no reliability concerns and follow a good strategy. Let’s go for it!”
Jody Egginton, Head of Vehicle Performance
“Following the issue we suffered yesterday, the race team and factory staff have worked hard overnight to find a solution, which has allowed us to conduct some running in FP3 and follow this up with a full Q1 programme. Clearly, the lack of running has limited the opportunities for the drivers to get comfortable with the car and evolve the set-up during this event. This has resulted in both cars not getting through to Q2. It is disappointing, as we know that under normal circumstances the team, drivers and car are capable of much more. Qualifying itself was straight forward operationally, but with the lack of performance running conducted by both drivers and as a result of the delta to our immediate competitors being greater than normal, we elected to make three runs. This was meant to provide both drivers with the maximum opportunity with a package which has not been optimised so far this event. Regardless of the lack of running, both drivers approached qualifying fully committed and extracted as much performance as possible from their cars. We now shift our focus to the race and will try to take any opportunity which comes our way to improve our race position… we have nothing to lose!”
Button and Alonso comfortably made it through to Q2, but the Englishman could go no further in what is likely his last qualifying session. He remained upbeat about his chances from 12th, with free tyre choice an obvious bonus. Alonso pulled a late lap out of the bag to steal into Q3 at the expense of Bottas, and then out-qualified the other Williams of Massa to boot.
Fernando Alonso, 9th, 1:41.106
“I think we have to be happy today: it was definitely a good quali for us.
“The conditions are always difficult here, because you practice in hot conditions, then head into qualifying when the track conditions are much cooler. That means you need to anticipate what’s going to happen, and make set-up changes a little blindly as you don’t really know how the conditions are going to change.
“Happily, our car felt competitive, and making it into Q3 and finishing 9th in the final qualifying session of the season is extremely positive. We capitalised the performance of the car today and we got everything we possibly could out of it.
“There are no big threats from behind us in terms of the championship, and it’ll be hard tomorrow to finish higher than the position we’re already in, so let’s just enjoy this final race and hopefully finish on a high by scoring some good points.”
Jenson Button, 12th, 1:41.272
“It was good fun out there this evening – I enjoyed it.
“As the track cooled down, we needed to balance the car up with more front-end grip, but didn’t have anything left in the car, so the resulting understeer cost me a little bit of time.
“To be fair, however, 12th position isn’t a bad place to be for tomorrow: we get to run new tyres. With these tyre regulations, it’s often better to start outside the top 10 in order to best free up the strategy for the race. And I’d definitely rather have a good race tomorrow than a good qualifying today.
“None of the compounds last for long around here, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow – points are definitely possible.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“Both drivers did a very good job in qualifying this evening, optimising all the available performance their cars had to offer.
“The result – P9 for Fernando and P12 for Jenson – provides a good platform from which both of them will be able to aim for points-scoring finishes tomorrow.
“In particular, it would be very nice if Jenson scores in what may or may not end up being his last Grand Prix – and the fact that he’ll have a free hand as regards tyre choice will assist him we hope.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“McLaren-Honda was able to make the most of the last qualifying session of the 2016 season today, with Fernando reaching Q3 and finishing P9, and Jenson in P12, a good position to start with fresh tyres in tomorrow’s race.
“Both drivers were happy with the car’s balance and performance as well as their laps in each of the sessions, and are looking forward to tomorrow’s race, which is very encouraging for the team.
“This afternoon’s FP3 was also a busy session, and the team did a superb and professional job of setting up the car for qualifying. We think that our race pace is again good here so we are hoping for a successful end-of-year race tomorrow.”
Palmer continued his run of recent good form, out-qualifying his team mate and making Q2 for the fourth time in the last five races. The Haas-bound Magnussen couldn't quite match Palmer, qualifying 18th in his final outing for Renault.
Kevin Magnussen, 18th, 1:42.142
“We’ve been lacking pace so far here in Abu Dhabi and that was the same for qualifying today ; it just hasn’t been my weekend. We had three runs planned but I was called into the weighbridge so that didn’t help. Hopefully we can have a good race, as a lot more can happen and we’ll be looking for every opportunity to fight our way forward”
Jolyon Palmer, 15th, 1:41.820
“I’m really happy with how we’ve been going ; I’ve been in Q2 at every race I’ve qualified for after the Malaysia GP now so it’s been a strong run for us including today. Yas Marina isn’t the easiest of tracks for us but I did a really good lap in Q1 and managed to beat Wehrlein in Q2, so fifteenth is probably as good as it can get. I think our race pace is a bit stronger, so we should be able to move forward. If something kicks off at the start and we make up some places then we have the pace to stay up there.”
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director
"Today was a similar story to what we’ve seen at a number of recent races ; we didn’t quite get the optimum out of the car however this didn’t impact greatly on our grid position. Jolyon made a small mistake on his second Q2 run, however a perfect lap would only have put him nearer to the car ahead, not in front of it. Kevin struggled to unlock the pace when needed and grappled with some front wheel lock-ups on his second Q1 run so missed out on Q2.
"The data points to a two-stop strategy as the norm with the majority of racing taking place on Pirelli’s soft compound. There’s still a bit of movement around those two aspects and we have seen in the past that track position can be important here as the car in front can be difficult to pass."
Wehrlein put in one of the laps of the day to make Q2 for the sixth time this season season, despite having never raced around this circuit before. He comfortably out-qualified team mate Ocon by four-tenths of a second.
Pascal Wehrlein, 16th, 1:41.995
"My fifth time in Q2 this year and that's a really special way to finish in the last qualifying of the year! In Q2 I only had one set of Ultrasoft tyres so my second run was the limit and it wasn't possible to improve any more. But I think we have to be happy with P16 and my thanks to the team because together we've done a really great job so far this weekend. I like the track but I don't think it's our best one, so we're really pushing hard to end the season in a positive way.
"Well, who knows. We're in front of Sauber and our pace looks really strong, so you never know what might be possible and what might happen in front of us. I think we should dream big and push for points. Why not? Brazil was a tough day for us, so I would love to put the smile back on everyone's faces."
Esteban Ocon, 20th, 1:42.286
"Yes, my qualifying was a disaster. Free practice looked positive this morning and we were ahead, but as soon as we put the Ultrasoft on I was standing still and my team mate and everyone else was improving. There was nothing more in terms of pace on that tyre for me. I was losing speed and we have to look at what the problem was because for sure, there was one.
"It's a great track, which I enjoy, and up until qualifying the signs are all good in terms of our performance. I'm starting at a disadvantage in terms of grid position, but if we can get a good start – and we know we can – then I hope we can recover some places and have a good race."
Dave Ryan, Racing Director
"The first thing I'd like to say today is what a fantastic job the whole team has done so far this weekend and in the couple of weeks since that very disappointing day in Brazil. We could have been forgiven for letting our heads drop and writing off the season there and then, but instead, we've dusted ourselves off and decided to throw everything we have at the finale. Even though it's only Saturday, I think everyone should be very proud of themselves.
"Which brings me to our drivers: both of them. Pascal did an excellent job to get us into Q2 for the fifth time this season and was clearly enjoying himself out there. His two runs were flawless and everything seemed to go right for him. With Esteban, he had a slightly interrupted FP3 this morning and then, for reasons we need to establish, the Ultrasoft tyre was just not working for him. Nonetheless, we have good pace here - both drivers have demonstrated that – and I'm sure we'll see a great fight from them tomorrow."
Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director
“Track and air temperatures fell throughout the session, and we were also a full 11 degrees cooler on track than the FP3 session earlier in the day. In these unique conditions the ultrasoft came into its own, but there was an interesting variation in strategy from Red Bull, which has opted to start the race on the supersoft. How these different tactics play out will be a key aspect of the race and potentially the championship outcome tomorrow.”