Nico Rosberg will lead another Mercedes lock out ahead of tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The German racer dominated much of the crucial third session of qualifying with a stylish touch, emerging nearly four-tenths clear of Hamilton, while the Briton struggled with vibrating Pirelli tyres.
Indeed Hamilton led the first two sessions, but where it really counted Rosberg was supreme, with the 29-year-old German setting a best of 1:40.480s on his final lap.
Such was his advantage over Hamilton, Rosberg’s first run in Q3 – a 1:40.697s – would have been enough for pole, but with the threat of Hamilton lingering, the championship challenger could not afford a moment of complacency.
Hamilton did improve on his final run. He took two-tenths of his previous best; however a scrappy first sector rendered his task close to impossible. As Rosberg set purple sectors clean across his final lap the task was complete.
Valtteri Bottas heads an all-Williams second row, with Felipe Massa settling for 4th place having been unable to improve on his final tour. Red Bull locked out the third row, with Daniel Ricciardo once again out-qualifying the Ferrari-bound Sebastian Vettel.
Row four broke the two-by-two mold, as Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) edged McLaren’s Jenson Button for 7th place. Although Button out-qualified teammate Kevin Magnussen again, the Englishman did find annoyance with his team during Q2 when he was told to return to the pits to top up with fuel.
Disappointingly Ferrari were left to hold the fifth row to themselves, with Kimi Raikkonen (rarely) going quicker than Fernando Alonso.
Kevin Magnussen led the list of names that departed from Q2. The Dane’s best of 1:42.198 came as the session drew to a close; however it was not enough to displace Raikkonen from the top ten shoot-out.
The McLaren man will have Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne alongside, while Force India have locked out the seventh row, with Sergio Perez leading Nico Hulkenberg. Adrian Sutil capped off another miserable qualifying for Sauber. The German could do no better than 15th place, some seven-tenths shy of Hulkenberg.
Both Lotus entries missed out on graduating to Q2. A late run by Sutil was enough to drop Pastor Maldonado (16th) into the drop zone after the chequered flag.
Meanwhile the following Romain Grosjean could only take 16th on the scoreboard, having missed the cut-off point by 0.022s; however with all the penalties in place due to his power unit change, the Frenchman will have to start last and then take an additional stop-go penalty during the race.
As expected, both Caterham’s filled the bottom of the time sheets, with Kamui Kobayashi almost two seconds shy of Maldonado’s benchmark; however it was a good effort by Formula One debutante Will Stevens whose best was just over half-a-second shy of Kobayashi.