Formula 1

Nico Rosberg piles pressure on Lewis Hamilton with Abu Dhabi pole

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Nico Rosberg did all he could to pile the pressure on Lewis Hamilton claiming pole for Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The German set the two fastest times of the weekend in the final top 10 shootout, finishing with a 1:40.480 as Hamilton just held off the two Williams to claim second, albeit nearly four tenths behind his team-mate.

Valtteri Bottas was the lead Williams in third just under a tenth clear of Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo produced an incredible lap to take sixth.

Hamilton buckles under the pressure

As has been the case several times this season, Hamilton seemed to have the edge on Rosberg in the first two sessions but lock-ups on both his final timed runs had him more under threat from those behind than focussing on matching the impressive German.

And it was an impressive performance from Rosberg, who had a few little errors himself in the early segments before getting it right when it mattered, to claim his 11th pole of the year and confirm himself as the best driver on a Saturday throughout 2014.

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For Mercedes, they can be thankful that their car also produces good downforce as it was only their superior grip in the twisty final sector that kept them clear of the Williams, as both Bottas and Massa matched the two Silver Arrows in sectors one and two.

Ricciardo asserts his control at Red Bull

It should be almost fitting that in Sebastian Vettel's last qualifying session for Red Bull, a session the pair have enjoyed as much as success in as they have in the races during his five-year stay, that the man who has taken over as the 'number one' at the team should assert is control.

We know Daniel Ricciardo's skill over a single lap, as he has shown it time and again this season, but his performance at Yas Marina was perhaps his best yet. In a car with much less power than the Williams, the Australian's 1:41.267 was only a quarter of a second off third and less than half a second slower than Hamilton.

Also impressive was the six tenths gap he had over the departing Vettel as the four-time world champion once again found himself comprehensively beaten.

Perhaps even more apt, the driver who will replace him, Russian Daniil Kvyat was only a hundredth of a second slower than Vettel in the Toro Rosso as arguably the top three products of Red Bull's young driver program filled positions four-to-six.

Button sends a message

Heading into qualifying two teams had a battle between its drivers to see who would be the best over a single lap this year, the first was at Sauber, where Adrian Sutil completed a 10-9 win over Esteban Gutierrez, but more interestingly at McLaren where Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen are fighting for their futures.

And given the expectation that it maybe the Dane who stays for 2015, Button sent a message to the hierarchy that he too has a strong case to likely partner Fernando Alonso next year.

The Briton produced an excellent lap in Q2 to make the top ten, which effectively knocked out his team-mate who will start from 11th. In the final shootout Button could only manage eighth but it was still a keynote performance.

Ferrari complete the top 10

In ninth and tenth it was the two Prancing Horse's, albeit in the alternative positions they have been in for much of the year.

As Fernando Alonso endures a troublesome final weekend with Ferrari it was Kimi Raikkonen who was the superior driver holding a six tenths advantage over the Spaniard who will be keen to end his spell on a high on Sunday.


There were few surprises outside the top ten as Jean-Eric Vergne was 12th for Toro Rosso but the two Force India's ended with another disappointing qualifying with Sergio Perez 13th and Nico Hulkenberg 14th. With tyres set to pay a key role on Sunday, they could still make some good progress and score some decent points.

Adrian Sutil led the Sauber/Lotus battle ahead of Romain Grosjean who will have to serve a drive-through penalty for not completing his 20-place grid drop for taking a sixth part of three different engine components.

Esteban Gutierrez led Pastor Maldonado and the two Caterham's unsurprisingly brought up the rear as Kamui Kobayashi was half a second clear of Will Stevens albeit 1.7 seconds off the slowest Lotus.

All comes down to this

Back at the front and, as the subtitle suggests, it all comes down to this. Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg will be crowned 2014 Formula 1 champion after 55 laps of racing at Yas Marina and I'll take a look at how it will all plan out in a separate article coming later today.

All I can say is that as the tension rose from my seat here in the desert of Egypt, one can only imagine what is must be like for the two Mercedes drivers ahead of their own desert duel on Sunday in Abu Dhabi.

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