Playful Hamilton on pole, Rosberg disappointed

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Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team’s British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) and German teammate Nico Rosberg celebrate at the end of the qualifying session as part of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 26, 2016. Lewis Hamilton will start on pole for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix title showdown after the defending champion bettered his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in qualifying. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo came in third to start on the second row at Yas Marina where the Australian is joined by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP

Lewis Hamilton demonstrated his supremacy and his humour Saturday when he topped the times in qualifying for Sunday’s season-ending title-showdown Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The defending three-time world champion outpaced his Mercedes team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg by three-tenths of a second with a blistering performance and then enjoyed a joke with Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who was third fastest for the Red Bull team.

“So far, this weekend, I have been focused on getting into this position, but now I am hopeful of hearing Daniel saying ‘winner, winner, chicken dinner’ tomorrow – or second chicken dinner anyway!”

As the pair laughed in the post-session news conference, German Rosberg struggled to raise a smile, his disappointment clearly apparent after being comprehensively outpaced by the 31-year-old Briton.

Rosberg had been aiming to complete a hat-trick of poles at the Yas Marina circuit where only once has a driver, who did not start on the front row, won the race.

“I came here to try and be on pole and to try and win the race tomorrow,” said Rosberg, clearly disappointed.

“I am not ecstatic about today… Lewis did a great job and he was a couple of tenths quicker and it was impossible for me to do that time today.

“I had a good balance out there and as qualifying went on, it felt better and better. I got a good lap in the end, but it wasn’t good enough.

“Lewis was just that bit quicker, but there are still opportunities and I’ll go for the win.”

Rosberg added that he was not thinking about the title battle and was only focused on winning the race.

“It is a bit too much thinking… I want to try to win the race tomorrow. Keep it simple. I don’t think of ‘what if’ – that would be the wrong approach.”

Hamilton’s final stunning lap in one minute and 38.755 seconds carried him three-tenths of a second clear of Rosberg and brought him his personal record 12th pole of the season, his third in Abu Dhabi and the 61st of his career.

But he knows that Rosberg can secure his maiden drivers’ title by finishing the race on the podium even if he, Hamilton, reels off a fourth consecutive win from his fourth consecutive pole.

“I didn’t over-cook it into turn one and after that I was in total control,” said Hamilton.

“It’s been a great weekend so far. I’ve got the car in a real sweet spot, with some great work done by my engineers and faultless mechanics who’ve done an incredible job.

“It was strange coming here this weekend as it is the last practices and qualifying with this car. It’s been incredible – such a privilege driving it.

“I couldn’t have had the 61 poles I have now if it wasn’t for everyone at the factory so thanks to them.”

Rosberg added: “Adrenaline is always there in qualifying for sure. I was feeling good out there and had a good balance. As qualifying went on I was feeling better and better and got a good lap but in the end, not quite good enough.”

Ricciardo, who will start the race on the marginally softer ‘super-soft’ tyres instead of the ‘ultras’ chosen by most of his rivals, said: “We’ve got to try something. It seems to be a bit of a trend this year, if we’re in a position to qualify on a different tyre we’ll try — and see if it gives us an opportunity.”

Hamilton, who is now four pole positions behind his childhood hero Ayrton Senna (65), and seven behind record holder Michael Schumacher (68), will hope for better luck Sunday than on the two previous occasions when he started the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from pole position.

In both 2009 and 2012, when he raced for McLaren, he claimed the prime starting spot, but ended up retiring with mechanical failures.

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