Hamil­ton on pole for grand fi­nale

The Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - BY PHILIP DUN­CAN

LEWIS Hamil­ton com­pleted one half of his vow to end his cham­pi­onship-win­ning cam­paign in style as he put his Mercedes on pole po­si­tion for the sea­son­clos­ing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamil­ton, who se­cured his fifth ti­tle with two rounds to spare in Mex­ico last month, will be joined on the front row by Valt­teri Bot­tas, with Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Kimi Raikko­nen third and fourth for Fer­rari.

Fer­nando Alonso is end­ing his 18-sea­son ca­reer in the desert to­day and, in his fi­nal For­mula One qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion, the two-time world cham­pion fin­ished 15th.

Hamil­ton, 33, has been in the form of his life this year, dom­i­nat­ing Vet­tel in a ti­tle fight that many had ex­pected to go to the wire. And it was fit­ting that he would se­cure his 11th pole of the sea­son at the fi­nal round as he goes in search of his 11th win.

Un­der the lights of the Yas Ma­rina cir­cuit, Hamil­ton danced his way to the top of the time sheets, fin­ish­ing 0.162 sec­onds clear of Bot­tas, and a third of a se­cond faster than Vet­tel.

“It was quite an emo­tional qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion, be­cause it is the last time I will qual­ify in this car,” said Hamil­ton, who kissed and mas­saged his car in grat­i­tude.

“I am clos­est to this car than I have been to any other. It has not al­ways been easy, but it has been a real priv­i­lege this year. To go out there and ex­press your­self, and push the car the way you want, there is no bet­ter feel­ing.

“The first lap wasn’t spec­tac­u­lar, but that last one started off calm, and then I got more and more ag­gres­sive. The last sec­tor was a killer, and that is where I made the dif­fer­ence.”

Vet­tel, who has been vic­to­ri­ous at just one race since the sum­mer break as his chal­lenge faded, said: “I am con­fi­dent for to­mor­row, so it should be good fun chal­leng­ing these guys, and I will give it ev­ery­thing I have.”

The sport will throw on a pad­dock party for Alonso in cel­e­bra­tion of a ca­reer which has yielded 32 vic­to­ries, and two ti­tles.

Yet, the Spaniard’s only hope for his fi­nal out­ing is set to be a point, or maybe two, as he lines up an un­der­whelm­ing 15th of the 20 run­ners.

Alonso, 37, will take some com­fort from out-qual­i­fy­ing his McLaren team-mate 21-0 over the course of his fi­nal sea­son. The last driver to man­age that? Alonso, in 2008 with Nel­son Pi­quet Jr as his Re­nault team-mate.

It will be 100 and out for Daniel Ric­cia­rdo’s Red Bull ca­reer to­day, and he ended his fi­nal Sat­ur­day with the team on some­thing of a high, by edg­ing Max Ver­stap­pen out to fin­ish fifth. The Dutch­man will line up one place lower, in sixth.

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