Lewis Hamilton has ended the season in which he won a fifth world title with his 11th pole of the year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver was 0.162 seconds ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and 0.331secs ahead of erstwhile title rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.
Kimi Raikkonen locked out the second row for Ferrari, ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
“It was emotional because it is the last time in this car,” Hamilton said. “The emotional rollercoaster I have been through with this car, I am probably closer to this car than any other. It has not been easy, it has been a struggle, but I am so grateful to the team for putting it all together for me.
“Today was so much fun, to be able to go out and express yourself was a great feeling.”
Hamilton has taken it as a point of pride this season to keep winning after clinching the championship, the first time he has done that in his career.
He was fortunate to take victory in Brazil two weeks ago, after leader Verstappen collided with a backmarker, but he wants to end what many believe has been his greatest season on a high.
Beyond the battle at the front, which is about little more than honour and a positive feeling going into the winter, the other focus of the weekend is McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who is bowing out of Formula 1 after this race.
The two-time champion had as good a qualifying session as could be expected in his difficult car, making it into the second knock-out session and 15th on the grid.
In the process, the Spaniard completed a whitewash of team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne in qualifying this season, the only driver to achieve it.
Alonso’s engineer Will Joseph described his lap, nearly 0.7secs quicker than Vandoorne’s, as “magic”. But the McLaren did not have the pace to do any more than be last in the second session.
McLaren have painted the car in a special livery reflecting Alonso, and he is wearing a unique helmet design and overalls for the occasion.