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It’s Hamilton vs. Rosberg In F1 Season-Ender

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 27 2016
Lewis Hamilton is on pole in Abu Dahbe but is second to teammate Nico Rosberg in points.

Lewis Hamilton is on pole in Abu Dhabi but is second to teammate Nico Rosberg in points. (File photo)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Lewis Hamilton will launch his “Hail Mary” bid for a fourth Formula One World Driving Championship from pole position Sunday, after edging Mercedes teammate and point-leader Nico Rosberg for P1 during qualifying for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

formula1logoHamilton toured the 3.451-mile/5.554-kilometer/21-turn Yas Marina Circuit in 1 minute, 38.755-seconds to claim his fourth consecutive pole and 12th of the season. Rosberg, who holds a 12-point (367-355) lead in the standings in search of his first F1 World Championship, timed-in at 1:39.058-seconds.

The title rivals will have Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen of Scuderia Ferrari immediately behind them on the 22-car grid that will host the final F1 starts of Brazilian Felipe Massa of Williams/Mercedes and Englishman Jenson Button of McLaren/Honda.  Massa will start his 250th grand prix 10th after lapping at 1:41.213-seconds. Button, the 2009 World Champion for Brawn GP, will make his 305th grand prix start 12 after lapping at 1:41.272-seconds.

Meanwhile, Haas F1 Team will grid drivers Esteban Gutiérrez (1:41.480-seconds) and Romain Grosjean (1:41.564-seconds) 13th and 14th, respectively, to close-out the American-owned organization’s inaugural season of competition for the FIA Formula One World Championship. Both drivers were eliminated during Q2; only the top-10 from Q2 move onto Q3.

While the weekend’s momentum belongs to Hamilton, Rosberg remains in control of the

Nico Rosberg started the F1 season finale with a 12-point lead over his Mercedes teammate.

Nico Rosberg started the F1 season finale with a 12-point lead over his Mercedes teammate.

championship permutations. The Mercedes drivers each have won nine of the season’s first 20 races. If Hamilton wins at Yas Marina, Rosberg can clinch the title by finishing third or higher. If Hamilton finishes second, Rosberg can clinch by finishing sixth or higher. If Hamilton finishes third, Rosberg can clinch by finishing eighth or higher. And if Hamilton finishes fourth, Rosberg can clinch via the wins tiebreaker, based upon his advantage in second-place finishes (4-3).

“Well, as I’ve said, I’ve come here to try to be on-pole and try and win the race,” Rosberg said post-qualifying. “That’s what I love to do, so I’m not ecstatic about today. Lewis just did a great job and was a couple of tenths quicker. It just wasn’t possible for me to do that time today, even though I gave it everything. But as we know there are still opportunities (Sunday) and for sure I’ll try and go for the win.

“That’s what great about it, to really go on the edge, go to the limit, push flat-out. And it was feeling good out there. I had a good balance and everything, so I was quite pleased. As qualifying went on it felt better and better and I got a good lap in in the end in Q3, but not good enough.”

Hamilton, the three-time/reigning World Champion, earned his third pole at Yas Marina Circuit and the 61st of his career. “Yeah, well, I can’t believe I have 61,” said Hamilton, whose third championship last year tied him with boyhood hero Ayrton Senna of Brazil. “That’s four more (poles) to go to try and catch Ayrton.

“It’s been strange coming here this weekend, realizing that these are going to be the last practice sessions, the last qualifying sessions with this car, which has been so incredible. You never know when you’re going to have a car like this ever again. I hope we have another one in the near future, maybe next year. It’s been such a privilege driving this car.

“This weekend so far I’ve got the car in a real sweet spot, great work done by my engineers, faultless mechanics again; they have done an incredible job. Everybody back at the factory I just want to thank everyone. I wouldn’t have the 61 poles I have now if it wasn’t for them, so a big thank you to them. Yeah, perfect position for tomorrow.”

Hamilton said he has been working on “good energy” the entire weekend as he aims for victory…and a miracle. “For me I guess I have no choice,” the Brit said. “Ultimately I came here to drive like I have been and I’ve always said, if I’ve performed at my best in these races and I can leave here knowing that I gave it everything and I performed at my best, then I can walk away being proud. Obviously had other things come in the way but managed to battle through all the different types of adversity that I’ve faced this year and I’m really proud of it.”

Rosberg, who is aiming to join father Keke as a World Champion, now has qualified for 27 consecutive races in the top two positions. “I didn’t know that,” the native German said. “Yeah, of course, sounds good and for sure that’s one of the reasons why I am sitting here at the moment. I’m fighting for the championship at the last race. I’m sure it has been one of the key ingredients. In general, yeah, I’m proud of the season I’ve been able to do until now. It’s been a great year, my best so far but one race to go so let’s see.

“It’s never easy to try and win a race in F1. So yeah, I just want to keep it simple. Don’t think about ‘what if’ or all these kind of things. That would be the wrong approach to do a good performance.”

Both Gutiérrez and Grosjean ran exclusively on the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire throughout qualifying. “I feel very grateful to have achieved this result for my team,” said Gutierrez, the native of Mexico who is making his final start for the team owned by American businessman Gene Haas. “My group of mechanics and engineers having been giving it their best efforts even though it’s quite an emotional weekend for all of us being our last race together. They deserve to have my best, and I’ll give them the best of my focus, attitude and performance.”

Grosjean, who will be paired with Kevin Magnussen next season, said he was disappointed by his qualifying result. “We had a lot of problems (Friday) and we were still hoping that we’d made the right decisions,” the Frenchman said. ”We did as much as we could, but we need to get more understanding of the tires. I think we’re spending too much energy just to get all four corners working. It’s the same for everyone, so that’s where we need to focus.

“We’ve seen that when we get things right, like in Brazil, we’re very fast. When we’re not, we’re usually around 14thand 15th. That’s the No. 1 priority for now. For the race, I’ve got no idea what to think. I didn’t get to do any long runs. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 27 2016
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