Bottas takes second successive pole


If you want to know about the reality of Abu Dhabi as a race track, go ask Fernando Alonso, for the layout of the circuit, combined with the Spaniard's unexplained failure to deal with Vitaly Petrov, cost him a third title.

While traffic will cause issues for drivers tomorrow, it will also be a problem in Q1 this afternoon and a result we could see some big surprises.

Having led the way in FP1 and then kept Mercedes honest in FP2, it was back to reality earlier today when the Ferrari duo finished half—a-second off the Mercedes pace.

Then again, being held entirely in daylight, as opposed to this session which is held at twilight, the opening session was pretty much relevant yesterday. That said, Mercedes was quicker as the sun set and temperatures fell.

While we wait to see whether Ferrari can pull something out of the hat, it would appear that Red Bull has to be placing all its bets on race pace tomorrow and strategy.

However, while we wait to see if Valtteri Bottas can topple Sebastian Vettel for runner-up in the driver standings, it is the battle for sixth in the team standings that fascinates.

What looked to be a hotly contested battle between Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas, could yet be joined by McLaren, while the Faenza outfit's run of reliability issues continues.

Regular readers will be aware that we don't do hyperbole, but with so much at stake this weekend - thankfully not the title so Lewis Hamilton doesn't have to find new ways of running slowly - this session and indeed the race could be a corker, as drivers are forced to take that extra risk.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 25 degrees C, while the track temperature is 37 degrees. The risk of rain is 0% you'll be glad to know.

There are late scares for both Finns, with work ongoing on Raikkonen's Ferrari and Bottas' Mercedes in the moments before Q1 gets underway, Mercedes having made changes to its drivers suspension. As for the Ferrari, the work involves the 'underbelly' of the SF70H.

Gasly leads the Sauber duo out on to the track to get Q1 underway, Wehrlein having been impressive in each of the three preceding sessions. The Haas pair are also early risers.

Ericsson gets things underway with a 40.692 but this is soon beaten by Gasly, Wehrlein and then Bottas who crosses the line at 37.704. Moments later, Hamilton takes the top spot with a 37.473.

Vettel goes third but is already 0.732s off the pace, Ocon goes fourth ahead of Magnussen and Wehrlein.

A 38.119 sees Raikkonen snatch third from his teammate as Bottas looks likely to up the ante.

Verstappen goes fifth (38.419) but is 0.946s off the pace.

Make that 1.063 as Bottas posts 37.356 to go quickest. Though Hamilton is quickest in S1, he encounters traffic in S3 and fails to improve.

Thus far the ultrasofts are clearly good enough for two hot laps.

Ricciardo leapfrogs Raikkonen as does Vettel, the German now third on 37.817.

Perez, currently 11th, goes quickest in S2, finally crossing the line at 38.601 to go seventh.

As Raikkonen posts 37.453 to go third, Hamilton goes quickest in S1 demonstrating that perhaps even three hot laps are possible with the ultras. Again, a poor final sector robs him of a significant improvement.

With 5:25 remaining, Stroll, Wehrlein, Ericsson, Gasly and Hartley comprise the drop zone, with the Haas duo, Massa and Alonso hovering.

Despite PBs in the first and final sectors, Verstappen remains sixth, 0.665s off Hamilton's pace.

Grosjean improves his time but remains 15th (39.516).

"Come on, put a lap together and we'll be fine," Magnussen is told.

As the flag is waved, there are nine drivers on track.

Magnussen stays 13th, as attention turns to Stroll and Massa. The Brazilian goes 8th with a 38.629 while the Canadian manages to make the cut albeit by the skin of his teeth. He posts 39.503 to go 16th.

"Oh god that was everything!" says the Canadian.

Quickest is Bottas, ahead of Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Perez, Massa, Vandoorne and Hulkenberg.

We lose Grosjean, Gasly, Wehrlein, Ericsson and Hartley.

The Mercedes duo are keen to get out for Q2, joined by Magnussen and eventually Raikkonen.

Raikkonen complains of a vibration from his tyres, while Hamilton is minded that this is his "potential race start set".

Bottas posts 36.977 with Hamilton posting 36.742 moments later.

Magnussen posts 39.298 but is instantly demoted by Raikkonen (37.464) and then Vettel (37.034). The German is giving 100% but remains 0.292s adrift of his great rival.

No sooner has Perez gone fifth than he is demoted by Hulkenberg who posts 38.138. The German is in turn demoted by Ricciardo who stops the clock at 37.583.

Verstappen can only manage 38.143 which puts him seventh, behind Perez.

"That f******* Force India, most stupid place to slow," suggests The Iceman.

With 5:00 remaining, Vandoorne, Massa, Magnussen, Sainz and Stroll comprise the drop zone, with Alonso and the Force India pair hovering.

After his Q1 showing, Stroll really needs to raise his game, while Sainz will have seen what his own teammate has achieved.

Alonso and Vandoorne head out for a final run, joined by the Mercedes pair.

In clear air, Alonso is told he can drive the out lap exactly the way he wants it.

All 15 drivers are on track as Alonso posts a PB in S3 but remains 10th.

"I was losing about two tenths every straight," he subsequently reveals.

Sainz can only manage 11th (39.311), while Stroll also fails to make the cut.

A late, late 37.777 sees Verstappen leapfrog Hulkenberg for sixth.

Replay shows a little silliness involving Hulkenberg and Perez, the Mexican looking to make a late entry to the pits as his former teammate was about to pass him

Massa goes tenth which means his former teammate is demoted and thereby misses the cut.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Ocon and Massa.

We lose Alonso, Sainz, Vandoorne, Magnussen and Stroll.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Yas Island, here.

Bottas heads out to get Q3 underway but Raikkonen and Hulkenberg have beaten him to it. Hamilton and Vettel are also keen to get to work.

Raikkonen posts 36.985 but Bottas responds with a 36.231. Hamilton can only manage 36.403 and Vettel 36.859.

No sooner has Ricciardo posts 37.716 to go fifth, than teammate Verstappen slips in a 37.696 to demote him.

Despite being quickest in S1, by the end of the lap Vettel was 0.628s off Bottas' pace. In other words, what we saw in FP2 yesterday is pretty much the case again today, the Mercedes have a half-a-second advantage over Ferrari and the same again, at least, to Red Bull.

Hulkenberg is best of the rest, ahead of Ocon, Perez and Massa.

Ocon and the Mercedes pair are first out for the final assault, which looks likely to be about Bottas versus Hamilton.

"Make sure you stay ahead of that Merc," Ocon is told. However, there's little the Frenchman can do when Bottas sends one down the inside at T8.

Hamilton is quickest in S1 while Bottas is slow. Raikkonen improves in S1 but Vettel doesn't.

Bottas continues to lose time in S2 but so too does Hamilton.

Running wide in the final corner, Hamilton fails to improve, while Bottas has already pitted.

Indeed there are no significant improvements other than for Ricciardo, who not only leapfrogs his teammate but splits the Ferraris with his 36.959. Great final lap from the Australian.

So, Bottas takes pole, ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Ocon and Massa.

Alonso will start eleventh, ahead of Sainz, Vandoorne, Magnussen, Stroll, Grosjean, Gasly, Wehrlein, Ericsson and Hartley.

As previously mentioned, Bottas will want to try and overhaul Vettel in the driver standings for the runner-up spot, but if he is to make up that 22 point deficit, other than the German not needing to finish, the Finn will need to win.

As for the battle for sixth in the team standings, Hulkenberg's seventh place on the grid must put the odds in Renault's favour, especially as Toro Rosso appears to be al at sea. Then again, could Haas spring a surprise?

All will be revealed tomorrow.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Yas Island, here.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 25/11/2017
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