Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will start 2016 finale – world championship decider from pole position after setting a time of 1m38.755s on the ultrasoft tyre. This was a second and a half faster than last year’s pole, when the supersoft was the softest available compound.
In line with expectations, track and air temperatures dropped throughout each session, meaning that the quickest times tended to come right at the end. All the drivers were straight onto the ultrasoft in Q1, with the exception of the Williams drivers. Only Valtteri Bottas managed to get through to Q2 with the supersoft only.
Having gone fastest in Q1 on the ultrasoft, Hamilton lowered his benchmark in Q2 on a fresh set of the same compound, with both him and his team mate completing only one run to place first and second.
Red Bull was the only team to take an alternative approach to the Q2 session by running the supersoft, which is around 0.7 seconds slower than the ultrasoft but can last longer. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will start from third and sixth on the grid tomorrow: the only cars in the top 10 to begin the grand prix on the supersoft. Both Red Bull drivers completed their final Q2 runs on the ultrasoft, without improving their previous times.
The final top 10 shoot-out was mostly contested over two runs, with Hamilton’s pole time on the second run coming close to the absolute qualifying record set in 2011.
The most likely strategy tomorrow is for two pit stops, with tactics playing an important role in the race as the Yas Marina circuit is quite difficult to overtake on, as has been seen in the past here during previous championship deciders. One predictable factor should be the weather, which is expected to be similar to conditions today.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “Track and air temperatures fell throughout the session, and we were also a full 11 degrees cooler on track than the FP3 session earlier in the day. In these unique conditions the ultrasoft came into its own, but there was an interesting variation in strategy from Red Bull, which has opted to start the race on the supersoft. How these different tactics play out will be a key aspect of the race and potentially the championship outcome Sunday evening.”