Nico Rosberg scored his sixth pole position on the trot after once again beating his world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying at Abu Dhabi.
Rosberg beat Hamilton by the margin of 0.377s, in a duel that went right to the last lap of Q3.
In the final qualifying session of 2015, the big shock was Sebastian Vettel’s exit in Q1 when – despite using two sets of supersofts – he didn’t set a lap quick enough to progress.
Ferrari appeared to believe his first lap was enough to get him through, which proved to be erroneous. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start third.
Story of Q3
Despite using a higher-mileage engine, Rosberg set the early pace with 1m40.738s, almost three tenths clear of Hamilton’s scruffy opening gambit.
The impressive Sergio Perez (Force India) was less than half a second off the pole time at that point, ahead of Raikkonen.
On the second runs, Hamilton jumped to P1 on 1m40.614s but Rosberg wasn’t to be denied and slammed in 1m40.237s to snatch pole by 0.377s.
Raikkonen took third with 1m41.051s, beating Perez, with Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull taking fifth.
Valtteri Bottas will start sixth for Williams, ahead of the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg.
Felipe Massa (Williams), Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) and Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) round out the top 10.
Sainz triumphs in Verstappen battle in Q2
In Q2, Hamilton was quickest on 1m40.758s, 0.221s faster than Rosberg.
Those that didn’t make it into the top-10 shootout were Max Verstappen, who was pushed out by Toro Rosso teammate Sainz by 0.041s, along with McLaren’s Jenson Button, Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) and Sauber’s Felipe Nasr.
Lotus’s Romain Grosjean hit a technical problem and had to cruise back to the pits without changing gear.
He went out at the end of the session, but was forced to pull off on the back straight, consigning him to 15th.
Vettel makes shock exit in Q1
In the first qualifying session, Hamilton set the fastest time with 1m40.974s, 0.137s ahead of Rosberg.
Vettel was in trouble all session, having to bolt a second set of supersoft tyres – but even that wasn’t enough as he aborted his final lap in the misguided belief that he was through.
“No issues with the car, but it wasn’t enough to go through,” he said. “Obviously as a team we didn’t make the right decision.”
Alonso suffered a puncture when something appeared to fly off the right-hand side of his car, and he will start 17th having outpaced Button for most of the session.
Marcus Ericsson encountered a technical problem on his last lap, which consigned him to 18th, ahead of the Manors of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.
|4||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:41.983||1:41.560||1:41.184||18|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||1:42.275||1:41.830||1:41.444||17|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:41.996||1:41.925||1:41.686||15|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull Racing||1:42.540||1:42.328||1:41.933||22|
|10||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||1:42.911||1:42.482||1:42.708||17|
|11||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1:42.889||1:42.521||14|
|13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team||1:42.929||1:42.807||13|
|15||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team||1:42.585||11|