Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2018

Hamilton on pole as Mercedes sweep front row for finale

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton took his 11th pole position of the 2018 season in Abu Dhabi as Mercedes swept the front row of the grid for the season finale.


Pierre Gasly was surely the unluckiest driver in the first part of qualifying. His Honda power unit let go as he approached the final corner of his final run, and although he crossed the line he narrowly failed to get a place in Q2.

Gasly lost almost a tenth of his second to team mate Brendon Hartley in the final sector. With that, he might have pipped Kevin Magnussen to the last place in Q2.

Fernando Alonso scraped through with his final lap: “That my friend is magic, well done<" congratulated his race engineer. That meant Alonso completed a perfect season of out-qualified team mate Stoffel Vandoorne. He was unable to beat the Toro Rossos and ended up with only the Williams pair behind him. Renault joined the 'big three' teams in gambling not to do a final run, and must've got a fright when they saw Charles Leclerc setting fastest times through the first two sectors. Carlos Sainz Jnr fell close to the drop zone but made it through along with his team mate.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1’37.994
17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1’38.166
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1’38.577
19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1’38.635
20 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1’38.682


According to Pirelli the ultra-soft tyre was supposed to be up to 1.4 seconds per lap slower than the hyper-soft, and the top teams were therefore unlikely to be able to get through Q2 using it. That wasn’t how it turned out, however.

Lewis Hamilton produced a scorching lap on the harder rubber, comfortably beating the track record for Yas Marina. and almost seven-tenths of a second than Bottas could manage on the same tyres.

That meant their rivals faced a tough call on whether to follow them. Vettel did, though he couldn’t get close to Hamilton’s time. Max Verstappen opted for hyper-softs and improved his time, meaning he will start the race on the softer rubber.

Daniel Ricciardo in the other Red Bull also went out on hyper-softs but he was one of the last to run. As it became clear not enough of the midfielders had found enough time on the hyper-softs to beat him, Red Bull made the smart call to abandon his lap, and his ultra-soft time from earlier in the session was the one which got him into Q2.

The remaining four places were taken by drivers from four different teams: Romain Grosjean, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Nico Hulkenberg all reached the final Q3 of 2018, the latter despite being briefly delayed by a power unit problem.

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Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1’36.580
12 Carlos Sainz Jnr Renault 1’36.982
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’37.309
14 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’37.541
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1’37.743


With all drivers now on the hyper-softs, the first runs set up a thrilling fight for pole position. Hamilton, despite a scruffy lap, led the way, but the top six were covered by less than three-tenths of a second.

On his final run Hamilton cleaned it up and lopped half a second off his time. Bottas was the next driver through but could only find enough to join his team mate on the front row.

Vettel’s last lap started well – he was two-tenths quicker than Hamilton through the first sector and virtually matched him in the second. But in the final sector, where Ferrari had been struggling all weekend, he lost over half a second to the Mercedes and ended up third.

Kimi Raikkonen beat Ricciardo to fourth place by three-hundredths of a second. The Red Bull pair took up their customary places on the third row, Verstappen very unhappy with his tyre temperatures in Q3.

Grosjean declared himself very happy with his first run but Leclerc came very close to beating it as the pair claimed seventh and eighth. Ocon beat Hulkenberg to ninth place by two-thousandths of a second.

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Top ten in Q3

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’34.794
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’34.956
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’35.125
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’35.365
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1’35.401
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1’35.589
7 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1’36.192
8 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1’36.237
9 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1’36.540
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1’36.542

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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73 comments on “Hamilton on pole as Mercedes sweep front row for finale”

  1. Phew. Hamilton seems to have finally learned not to let up at the end of the season. Superb qualifying session.

    1. Nah. Let ups are fine. Don’t you love just resting while doing your job, and the others have to work hard?

      1. Obviously :0)
        But in Hamilton’s case can’t help feeling it gives a little impetus to his rivals (and harder work for him) the following season.

        1. I don’t know, I look at it as a psychological + for Lewis. He just doesn’t make mistakes, they’ve had all year to improve and are still getting beaten, by a third of a second or more!

          1. @waptraveler My impression is he’s realized that he can’t afford to give head starts next year though. The rivals are getting closer and closer in terms of car speed at least. And two new drivers up front next year, Gasly at Red Bull and (especially) Leclerc at Ferrari. Maybe neither as accident prone as Vettel and Verstappen.

        2. Agree totally with your post below mine. The racing is much closer at the end of this season, next year should be a real fight!

  2. That Q2 Lap, Hamilton take a bow mate, take a bow.

    1. Indeed his pole lap is impressive enough, but that Q2 lap was simply insane.

    2. He blew everyone with that lap. 7 tenths faster than Bottas.

    3. The aim of q2 is only to advance to q3, he may have taken too much out of that set of tires.

      1. Yes for advancing to Q3.
        However vitally important part of Q2 you seem to be either unaware of or missing it’s importance?

        Fastest time in Q2 on whichever tyres are on the car. Decides which tyres they start the race on.
        Mercedes have a major advantage with their tyres to start the race on.

        1. @wildbiker
          I think you’re missing Megatron’s point. He’s right in saying that the sole purpose of a Q2 lap is to advance to Q3. This implicitly includes the point you explain in your post, i.e. determining the set of tyres that will be used at the start of the race. And that’s where you appear not to connect the dots:
          Megatron’s point is that posting an especially quick lap time in Q2 is:
          A) No more useful than a steady attempt that barely gets you into the top 10, as the times are deleted at the end of Q2
          B) Potentially harmful to a driver’s race, as the tyres degrade very quickly when pushed hard, which could translate to a performance disadvantage that stays for the entire opening stint.
          The Q2 lap times tell us that Hamilton pushed much harder than he needed to, seeing as Ricciardo made it through to Q3 with a lap that was almost 1.3 seconds slower. In that sense, Bottas and the Ferraris did the right thing, as there was nothing to be gained by matching Hamilton’s lap time. Their Q3 lap times indicate that they might have had the pace to achieve much more competitive lap times in Q2 – but they chose not to, and rightfully so.

          In the end, it all didn’t matter, as Hamilton used the VSC period for an extremely early pit stop, i.e. we’ll never know if he took enough life out of his Q2 set to affect his race under VSC-less circumstances.

  3. No matter who your teammate is, outqualifying him 21/21 times is an amazing feat. From Vandoorne’s perspective, it is pretty pathetic to be honest.

    1. Yeah, it looks pretty bad. You’ve got to at least challenge your teammate, regardless of how good or bad the car is. The value of Vandoorne’s stock has definitely plummeted. We all know Alonso’s one of the best to do it, but he’s not untouchable. And either way, if you can’t challenge the best then why would any front running team want you? There are no pushovers at the sharp end.

      1. ahem, some Valteri guy…

        1. At least Bottas has out-qualified Hamilton on occasion this year, & it wouldn’t be a whitewash on wins this year either if he didn’t have to give up one to Lewis, & another to a popped tire. & There was another close call in there somewhere, I think… Bottas isn’t doing nearly as badly as some suggest.

          1. Not meaning lack of skills, but being always ready to yield to the Lord & Master of the team

    2. and while Alonso is a well-rounded package on track, his quali skills were never the best he had to offer

      1. So he’s not well rounded then?

        1. Umpteenth unwarranted conclusion

        2. Even Alonso has acknowledged there are better one lap qualifiers out there, so I’m not sure what your beef is with here KGN.

          1. What beef?

            Alonso himself said he’s not good in the wet and not good over one lap, that to me says he’s not ‘well rounded’ like she said.

          2. Watch the Hungarian 2006 first lap then talk about skills in the wet

          3. @KGN11 Well If you add not the fastest and not that good at developing a car (just going by his time at Ferrari and McLaren) I guess that does make him a well-rounded not the best at anything. :oP Even Verstappen is better at annoying engine manufacturers.

          4. Well I disagree. Alonso is an excellent qualifier, just not the best. It can still make him a well rounded driver.

            I don’t understand your logic I’m afraid.

          5. @Hyoko

            So you’re going to use one race from over a decade ago as evidence? So Alonso’ words aren’t enough?

          6. @john_h

            I don’t understand your logic either

          7. First, yes, the best lap ever in the wet is evidence enough for me
            Second, no, words are no evidence at all

        3. Exactly as I used to say about Prost, wasn’t the best in qually or the wet so could not be well rounded or the best.

          1. Last time I checked, well-rounded didn’t mean being the absolute best at everything.

      1. I disagree, if that was a dominant car in each of his whitewash seasons in term of qualy it would be 39 poles in two seasons. Would his qualy performance be judged the same if the prizes were different?

  4. I really shouldn’t be surprised since he’s done it quite often, but still, every time Lewis manages a lap time that the others can’t get anywhere near it still leaves me shaking my head.

    1. Yup I know what you mean, it feels like every so often he drops a lap time that’s just outlandish, I don’t feel like the are other drivers that do that in this generation.

      That’s not to say there aern’t drivers as fast as him, but those gobstopper laps, (and not necessarily only in q3), always seem to come from Hamilton.

    2. Watch the old videos of other drivers watching Senna qualify, they would stand there head shaking and slack jawed.

      1. Lewis is the best qualifier ever. That includes Senna.

        1. Correct me if I’m wrong but AFAIK the best quali record still belongs to JM Fangio with 57% (29 poles/52 entries). And still Jim Clark (45%) and Alberto Ascari (42%) are on top of Ayrton Senna (40%) who still is ahead of that guy you mention (36%), who certainly has the record of total poles, but with vastly more entries.

          1. Apples and oranges. Ham is definitely peers with all those you mention.

      2. Oh, I’ve seen a few of them live. Been watching for a while.

      3. To be fair, to all, I did say of this generation. Its rrally difficukt to compare with other Eras.

        1. @yloops
          Difficult or even next to impossible for that matter, certainly for us. This circus is in a constant evolution, qualifying included. The way the cars line up on the grid, the perceived significance of quali at the time and by individuals, implications of the rules&regulations etc etc all change every (couple of) year(s). Just for example in this same generation of drivers you had these rules which meant cars were on different fuel levels in quali, and also different tyres to start the race with. So significant effects on quali results, all depending on a team’s (and even drivers within a team) strategy, which in turn is affected by characteristics of their specific car, also relative to the others’.

          Most of the time when people bring this subject up to ‘compare’ drivers, some of these comparisons could have been between a man and his great-great-grandson, it concerns a FBoy who needs affirmation why he’s idolizing his subject of adoration.

  5. That was a solid qualifying session. Great qualifying from Hamilton. That Ferrari didn’t behave well in the final sector and it shows from Vettel’s time. If they have the pace tomorrow he or Kimi can win it. Great performance by Leclerc as well!

    1. Yes, according to the time sheets above he went out in Q2 but still managed 8th in Q3, nice work!

  6. José Lopes da Silva
    24th November 2018, 15:15

    “if you can’t challenge the best then why would any front running team want you? There are no pushovers at the sharp end.” Aldoid said it all.

  7. @keithcollantine – I’ve figured out how Leclerc scores so many points! There is (are?) two of him. One of them dropped out in Q2 but the other one made it to Q3…

  8. Hamilton’s Q2 lap was magical. Something like what he delivered in Singapore Q3. Its moments like these which make him so special anf unique. Absolutely untouchable at times.

    Also hope Ocon scores big tomorrow. He has been overall the better driver at Force India.

  9. @keithcollantine where is ERICSSON?

    1. Leclerc is listed twice.

    2. Gone, with a smile.

    3. Serving a race ban for taking out Grosjean.

  10. Man Hamilton is capable of producing some magical laps. That Q2 lap was something else. He and Vettel on the same strategy along with BOT. So 3 way fight for the win tomorrow, surely.

    I think those on the Hypers will really be compromised: Kimi and Max especially.

    1. Max will adapt, Kimi is compromised on any tyre.

      1. How exactly will he adapt? The hypersofts were terrible in practice.

        1. @gufdamm
          He has shown time after time he and his team can do more than anyone else with the given tyres.

          1. Eh?? He’s won 2 races this year so that can’t possibly be true

          2. Aaaaand i was right. Turns out it is true after all.

    2. @blazzz
      Kimi’s on ultra’s.

  11. End of season fun- where is @sarahj these days? Seems when Hamilton is doing well, she’s nowhere to be seen… Or is it a he…

    1. @blazzz, please don’t start that sort of fighting here – whilst SaraJ’s posts have been extremely toxic and laden with xenophobia, nobody gains from trying to provoke somebody into that sort of argument either. All it descends into is recriminations, abuse and trolling where everybody ends up losing – you can choose to celebrate the achievements of whomever you want to follow without having to then act to denigrate their rivals so aggressively.

      1. +1 to that, don’t feed the trolls.

      2. @annon,

        Fair points.

        1. No..not fair points. That’s a big jump anon has made there. How is that “fighting”? A reasonable question was asked by blazzz based on the absence of said messenger in recent months and anon sticks theres in by trying to denigrate the initial comment which was far from controversial. Maybe Saraj can answer for herself. I for one would be interested in the answer.

  12. Damn, it looks like I missed a good qualifying (which probably means the best part of the weekend!).

    I just hope the race on Sunday is half as good – this rubbish circuit is not the send-off F1 deserves into the winter break.

    1. True but F1’s happy enough to take the money. Personally I’d like Japan as the final race.

    2. @phylyp: Agree. Crass Marina is a pathetic car park – could only be improved if it was paved with gold. And never hosted a F1 race again.

      However, it’s a fitting testament to Bernie’s legacy – cost over $1B attempting to be prestigious. Yet it’s just tacky, gauche and pretentious.

      @david-br: Japan as the final would be great – warmer, but not quite as great as Spa, but still great. If Liberty wants to expand the calendar to 25 races, just race more than once at the classic tracks. Problem solved. ;-)

    3. @phylyp
      Why exactly is this a rubbish circuit to you? Drivers seem to quite like it.
      Just curious about another opinion.

  13. High hopes for Danny Riccardo tomorrow. He had the pace today and starting on the Ultrasoft could be key. Fingers crossed his car can make the end and he brings back a great result on his last Red Bull race.

    Magically from Hamilton as it has been all season, as others have said above, the Q2 lap was a class above everyone else

  14. Nice to see the Helmet Police haven’t confiscated his Gold lid !
    Golden lap there Lewis.

    1. @budchekov

      The 6 year old in me kinda likes the tacky gold helmet. But I really like being able to tell him from Bottas without the numbers.

  15. I’m voting for Leclerc as DOTD! Still managed to qualify 8th after getting knocked out of Q2.

    1. @dusty: That’s going to be a worry for Seb. A teammate that can qualify in two positions at once. In a Sauber. Charles might put the Ferrari in all the top 3 Q3 slots next season.

  16. Marcus Ericsson seems to have missed all three sessions? And Charles Leclerc was eliminated in Q2 but placed in the Top 10? I must be missing something.

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