Valtteri Bottas has captured pole position for the final race of the Formula One season. It is the second straight race in which he has beaten the new drivers' champion Lewis Hamilton to first in qualifying.
The Finnish driver has been doing a good job of putting a bit of a damper on the celebrations of his Mercedes teammate, Hamilton, who clinched the F1 drivers' title last month. Valtteri Bottas edged out Hamilton for the pole position for Sunday's season-finale at Abu Dhabi, leaving the Briton to start in second.
Bottas set a lap record on the Yas Marina circuit of 1 minute, 36.231 seconds. He was .172 seconds ahead of Hamilton and about half a second clear of German Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who qualified in third.
"I lost it on turn five or six ... I gave it everything I could but it was really on a knife edge," Hamilton said afterwards.
This was the fourth pole position of Bottas' career – all have come this season after he moved to Mercedes from Williams, following the retirement of last season's champion, Nico Rosberg. Bottas is hoping to win just his second race on Sunday.
"I have a clear target for tomorrow," Bottas said. "I've only won once from pole, but I've not had so many poles," he added, referring to his win at the Austrian Grand Prix in July.
Hamilton will be looking to avoid the scenario he found himself in two years ago, when he won the drivers' title with three races to spare, but didn't win again until the following season. Failure to take the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi would make the repeat of this unwanted scenario perfect.
For Vettel, who like Hamilton will be going for a fifth drivers' title next season, a sixth win in 2017 would help to boost his confidence after he saw his title bid collapse in September and October.
pfd/ (AP, AFP)