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Hamilton takes Abu Dhabi pole

NEWS STORY
30/11/2019

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 26.5 degrees C, while the track temperature is 33.2 degrees. It is still bright,. But the sun is slowly sinking in the sky, and along with it the temperatures.

While Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in both of yesterday's session, it was Max Verstappen who set the pace in FP3.

However, starting from the back of the grid after his team changed his engine - and subsequently changed it again - the Finn's can pretty much be counted out this afternoon as he continues to focus on the task that lies ahead of him tomorrow.

Verstappen edged out Lewis Hamilton by just 0.074, the Briton seemingly happier with his car today than he was yesterday, when he complained of being down on power.

Alex Albon was fourth quickest, 0.361s off his teammate's pace, but ahead of the Ferraris. However, with the Maranello pair doing their qualifying sims on mediums - and the rest on softs - it is unclear if Ferrari has a trick up its sleeve.

Sergio Perez was best of the rest as the midfield battle continues to entertain and mystify in equal measure.

Though McLaren is assured of fourth, there is the little matter of best qualifier, with Sainz and Norris both on 10.

The Spaniard is also level with Gasly in terms of sixth in the championship, though the right result could see Albon leapfrog the pair of them.

Currently fifth in the team standings, Renault is just 8 points clear of Toro Rosso, while Alfa Romeo would surely love to leapfrog Racing Point, though based on the evidence of FP3 this seems most unlikely.

Though we remain unconvinced by the Yas Marina track, especially as host of the season finale, the pieces are in place for a thrilling qualifying session and race as the various teams and drivers seek to sign off in style. And after all, when one is watching the finest of plays, does one really care about the theatre in which the stage is set.

As Mercedes reminds us in the moments before Q1, it has claimed pole here for the last 5 years.

In the moments before the start of the session there is still a lot of work being carried out on Kvyat's car which is up on its stands.

The lights go green and Albon leads the way, followed by Grosjean and Perez. As they are joined by more and more rivals, its softs all the way.

As Albon sets the benchmark with a 37.699, teammate Verstappen heads out.

Raikkonen goes second with a 38.876, as the Ferraris and Mercedes head out.

A 38.085 sees Perez go second, as Albon complains that it is "very slippery".

Norris goes top with a 37.545, but is instantly demoted when Verstappen posts 36.930.

Leclerc goes second (36.480), ahead of Sainz and Norris.

Hamilton goes quickest with a 36.231, not seeming to be affected by the waved yellows that followed a spin by Vettel on the pit straight as the German started his flying lap.

Bottas goes third with a 36.468, as Leclerc looks set to improve, the Monegasque quickest in the first two sectors. That said, a poor final sector means he fails to improve.

Vettel goes fifth with a 36.963, as Sainz remains seventh, ahead of Norris, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.

The drop zone comprises the Williams and Alfa duos along with Grosjean, while Magnussen, Stroll and Kvyat are hovering.

"My seat is clicking," reports Hamilton. No sooner has Bottas gone quickest (36.200), than Hamilton posts a 35.851 to deprive his teammate yet again.

Grosjean is one of several drivers heading out for the final assault, the Frenchman unhappy that Kvyat was released into his path.

Albon is among those clearly feeling that they are not yet secure.

As the field begins the final flying lap, there is green aplenty.

Raikkonen can only manage 15th, which is unlikely to be enough.

Giovinazzi however goes 13th, while Gasly goes sixth and Magnussen tenth.

Hulkenberg goes ninth and Kvyat eleventh, while Stroll subsequently goes eleventh.

Quickest in the second sector, Albon crosses the line at 36.102 to go second.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Albon, Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly and Sainz.

We lose Grosjean, who apologises to his team, along with the Alfa and Williams duos.

That said, he is apologising to Haas not the Alfa and Williams drivers.

"You deserve better," admits the Frenchman. "Just... bad," says Raikkonen.

Albon is first out for Q2, the Thai driver followed by Magnussen and Gasly.

Albon is on mediums, as are Hamilton, Verstappen and Magnussen, while most of the other early risers are on softs.

Albon questions why he is always first out, the youngster therefore unable to benefit from a tow.

All but Bottas are on track.

Albon posts 36.718, with Magnussen stopping the clock at 37.855 moments later.

Hamilton posts 35.634, while Stroll goes third with a 37.374.

As Verstappen goes second (36.275), Bottas heads out on mediums.

Leclerc goes second (35.697) and Vettel third (35.786), both on the softs.

Sainz is fifth (36.269), ahead of Albon, Ricciardo, Perez, Hulkenberg and Kvyat.

Neither Red Bull driver is happy with his car, Albon claiming that there is no mid-corner support on the mediums, while Verstappen has "no rear grip".

Though he could have opted not to run, Bottas goes second with a 35.674.

Ahead of the final run, Kvyat, Norris, Stroll, Gasly and Magnussen comprise the drop zone.

The Bulls are among the last to head out for a final assault, and then the Ferraris emerge... followed by Hamilton, who is now on softs, like the Bulls.

Vettel goes quickest in S1as Gasly imnpoves to tenth overall.

Ricciardo consolidates eighth, only to be demoted when Norris improves.

Hulkenberg goes tenth, thereby demoting Perez.

A poor final sector see Vettel fail to improve while teammate Leclerc goes quickest overall, on the mediums.

Quickest was Leclerc, ahead of Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen, Sainz, Albon, Norris, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.

We lose Perez, Gasly, Stroll, Kvyat and Magnussen.

Going into Q3, it's Noah all over again with McLaren and Renault joining the 'big three'.

"Check the front-left suspension," warns Verstappen, "because at Turn 5 I hit the inside kerb."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Yas Marina, here.

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