ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas denied quadruple world champion team mate Lewis Hamilton the final pole position of the Formula One season on Saturday, leading a Mercedes one-two in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying.
The pole was the Finn’s second in a row, and fourth of the campaign, and he said he was determined to convert it into a victory after the disappointment of missing out in Brazil two weeks ago.
“I was so gutted in the last race being on pole and missing the win. I have a clear target for tomorrow,” he said in a post-qualifying interview.
Hamilton, who had been aiming for his 12th pole of the year, was behind Bottas after the first flying laps of the final session and was unable to improve on his time when it came to the crunch.
“What a lap! He just had an incredible qualifying and congratulations to him,” said Hamilton, who clinched his fourth championship in Mexico last month, as he saluted Bottas in front of the crowd.
“The last qualifying of the year and I gave it everything but I seem to have lost a little pace going into qualifying. Valtteri did an exceptional job, so I‘m really happy for him,” added the Briton, who won from pole last year at Yas Marina.
“Either way, it’s been an incredible year of qualifying and one that I’ve really enjoyed.”
Hamilton will end the season with 72 career poles, an all-time record for the sport, after passing Michael Schumacher’s previous best of 68 at the Italian Grand Prix in September.
Mercedes have already clinched their fourth successive constructors’ championship, leaving Sunday’s race with little at stake for top teams beyond bragging rights to take into the winter break.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel qualified third with Australian Daniel Ricciardo lining up alongside him on the second row of the grid for Red Bull.
Vettel beat Bottas to the victory in Brazil. While he hoped to be closer on Sunday, the German did not sound overly confident of getting past the two ‘Silver Arrows’.
“Tomorrow with the race pace I think we can be a bit closer but they (Mercedes) have been very strong,” said Vettel, also a four times world champion.
“It should be a fun race, overtaking is not always straightforward but not impossible here so let’s see.”
Kimi Raikkonen qualified fifth for Ferrari with Dutch 20-year-old Max Verstappen sixth for Red Bull.
Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa concluded the final qualifying of his Formula One career with 10th place on the grid for Williams.
“It’s a good way to retire, good races, good lap times. I‘m happy that I‘m finished with my head up and competitive,” he said.
“I want to have fun tomorrow. I have nothing to lose, risk everything you can. Let’s have fun.”
Writing by Alan Baldwin, editing by Rex Gowar