No points to be won on Saturday, of course, but lots of head to heads to be decided as far as qualifying performance over the season. None more so than at Mclaren, who enter the final weekend of a distinctly lacklustre season with no drivers confirmed for 2015. This could be the final chance to shine for those who haven’t secured a drive for next season.
It’s fitting that the season comes to an end in the desert twilight and there’s a definite end-of-term feel with the Constructors’ Championship already done and dusted. With all eyes on the Drivers’ Championship (and heads spinning from the variety of mathematical permutations), Abu Dhabi’s wide, trouble-free Yas Marina circuit is the perfect arena for some racing action.
There was the small matter of qualifying to sort out first. With Caterham present and correct, albeit with newbie Will Stevens partnering Kobyashi, there was a 20-car line-up at the start of Q1. Grosjean for Lotus was carrying a penalty so huge, he would probably be starting from the Bahrain grid for his complete powertrain change. No major incidents in Q1, the casualties were the Caterhams, the Lotuses and the Sauber of Gutierrez, underlining another season to forget for the Swiss team.
Almost inevitably it was the Mercedes pair topping the Q2 times for most of the session, with Williams in close attendance. In fact, Massa and Bottas managed to split the Mercedes pair. McLaren had a mixed session, with Button 6th but Magnussen dumped out at the death by a charging Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. Out in Q2: Sutil (Sauber), the Force Indias of Hulkenberg and Perez, Toro Rosso’s Vergne and Magnussen.
It was Hamilton who blinked first, locking up at the end of his first Q3 flying lap and handing the advantage to his team mate but still recording the second-fastest lap in the process. With everybody out on track for their final runs, it would be Hamilton who was at the back of the queue and therefore the last to record a qualifying time. As the times tumbled, Rosberg planted his Mercedes in pole from Hamilton, followed by Williams’ Bottas and Massa, the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Vettel, Toro Rosso’s Kyvat, and the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Alonso.