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Lewis Hamilton celebrates his season-ending pole grab (credit FIA Images)

Lewis Hamilton Ends Season Starting First

Lewis Hamilton scored his first pole position since the German Grand Prix when he took the top spot in qualifying Saturday (Nov 30) for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.  The pole extends Hamilton’s gaudy total to 88, now 20 poles ahead of second-place Michael Schumacher.  

Valtteri Bottas (more on him later) took the second spot on the grid but will fall back to last because of engine and power plant replacements.  That means that Max Verstappen, who qualified third, will be slated to start second. Verstappen’s performance has come as no surprise, especially as Ferrari has lost just an iota of their blistering pace they displayed after the summer break.  

The Prancing Horse teammates, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, took the next two spots in qualifying, respectively.  Their cars never looked like they had much of a chance at the pole, giving a mediocre performance. That the two will start alongside each other should make for good theater as the two collided at the last race, showcasing the tense relationship the drivers have with each other.  Mattia Binotto has attempted to put a positive spin on the situation, claiming that he’s lucky to have such good drivers, but it does not take a magnifying glass to see that relations are strained at the team right now.  

Alex Albon continued to hold down what has become his normal position, slotting in at sixth.  Since moving up to Red Bull from Toro Rosso, the Brit-Thai driver has consistently placed within spots four through seven, indicating that he’s steady and just in reach of tapping the leaders.  Had Hamilton not ruined Albon’s Brazilian GP, Albon would have claimed his first podium at the previous race.  

Lando Norris, who looked like he might not make it out of Q2, drove through to Q3 and earned the seventh, position.  Coming in right behind Norris is Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, who eked the most he could from his car and is positioned in front of the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz, who earned his first career podium at the last race.  Nico Hulkenberg, driving his last race for Renault posted the tenth-best time.  

Odds & Sods

– Valtteri Bottas is a peculiar story this weekend.  He faced a grid drop penalty for switching out his power unit, only to then change his engine again to ensure that no matter how fast he laid down a time in qualifying that he would be starting from the back – two times over. With is points position secure such a starting spot is no big deal and should actually provide an element of entertainment as he drives from the back.  

To add an element to his weekend, Bottas made a strange move in free practice 2 when he dove into a corner with Romain Grosjean and failed to clear the French driver.  Grosjean turned into the corner as he usually would and right into the side of Bottas. The two spun out and send debris all over the track.  

The move did not appear to be egregious but it also looked unwarranted.  Bottas escaped with a reprimand but the move brings more questions about where his head may be than about his driving ability.

The reason for making such a statement is that Bottas recently addressed the public regarding the breakup of his marriage to Emilia Pikkarainen.  The toll of his F1 career strained and finally broke the relationship between the two and highlights the difficulty these drivers in maintaining any kind of normal life.  That Pikkarainen is also an Olympic swimmer surely meant that her schedule could be difficult as well and made her less able to travel to away races.  

– This race marks the end for both Robert Kubica and Nico Hulkenberg who will be replaced by Nicholas Latifi and Esteban Ocon, respectively.  Thanks and godspeed to the aforementioned drivers.

POS#DRIVERCARQ1Q2Q3
144Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES1:35.8511:35.6341:34.779
277Valtteri BottasMERCEDES1:36.2001:35.6741:34.973
333Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA1:36.3901:36.2751:35.139
416Charles LeclercFERRARI1:36.4781:35.5431:35.219
55Sebastian VettelFERRARI1:36.9631:35.7861:35.339
623Alexander AlbonRED BULL RACING HONDA1:36.1021:36.7181:35.682
74Lando NorrisMCLAREN RENAULT1:37.5451:36.7641:36.436
83Daniel RicciardoRENAULT1:37.1061:36.7851:36.456
955Carlos SainzMCLAREN RENAULT1:37.3581:36.3081:36.459
1027Nico HulkenbergRENAULT1:37.5061:36.8591:36.710
1111Sergio PerezRACING POINT BWT MERCEDES1:36.9611:37.055
1210Pierre GaslySCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA1:37.1981:37.089
1318Lance StrollRACING POINT BWT MERCEDES1:37.5281:37.103
1426Daniil KvyatSCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA1:37.6831:37.141
1520Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI1:37.7101:37.254
168Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI1:38.051
1799Antonio GiovinazziALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI1:38.114
187Kimi RäikkönenALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI1:38.383
1963George RussellWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:38.717
2088Robert KubicaWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:39.236

 

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About Ava Huston Ladner

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As an editor, Ava works through some of the site’s biggest columns while writing one of her own on F1 each week. “Stranded” on the islands of Oahu in Hawaii, the aspiring college professor also helps anchor other coverage while coordinating Pace Laps, our multi-series news update.

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