The championship may be over, but Lewis Hamilton couldn’t help himself in delivering another storming lap during qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Okay, Lewis, we get it: you’re good at qualifying.
With his 11th pole of the season on Saturday at Yas Marina Circuit, Lewis Hamilton made sure to give himself the best possible chance of ending his season on a high note – what makes it more remarkable, is that he really doesn’t need it.
Indeed, while the complete lack of meaningful stakes makes this particular pole unlikely to live long in the memory, this might have been one of his best Saturday performances in a season full of them.
With the championship wrapped up, Valtteri Bottas showing some strong form of his own, and Sebastian Vettel also thereabouts, it wouldn’t have been all that surprising to see him settle for P2 (or lower), so to blitz his rivals so comprehensively across Q2 and Q3 is extremely impressive.
Not only did they have no answer for Hamilton’s final lap – which was set first of the top six – but his Q3 banker was better, even with a massive lockup into turn 8, and his Q2 time on ultrasofts was nearly half-a-second up on everyone else, even with P2 Max Verstappen setting his on hypers.
Clearly he’s found a groove with this car that’s special even for a five-time world champion, and the oddly-reflective mood of his post-qualy interview with David Coulthard only further illustrated that point. It hasn’t always been the best car on the grid, but it’s always brought the best out of him, and now all that’s left to do is send it off with one more victory.
Max Verstappen will be one to watch on Sunday – well, more than usual, that is. The only driver in the top 6 starting on hypersofts, things are likely to go very good – or very bad – very quickly.
And so the Haas-Force India saga comes to a close… for now. That said, something tells me this won’t be the last we hear of it.
Nice to see Fernando Alonso put in one more solid performance to drag his McLaren to Q2, but you have to feel for Stoffel Vandoorne. The head-to-head now stands at 21-0 Alonso on the season, and 26 straight dating back to Japan in October 2017. Ouch.
Race Tyre Strategy Preview, Courtesy of Pirelli
With the amount of tyre degradation that we expect for the race, the theoretical quickest pit-stop strategies predicted by Pirelli are as follows:
THE QUICKEST ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on ultrasoft for 18-22 laps + 1 stint on supersoft to the flag
SECOND QUICKEST ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on hypersoft for 8-12 laps + 1 stint on supersoft to the flag
VERY CLOSE TWO-STOPPER: 1 stint on hypersoft for 5-8 laps + 2 stints on ultrasoft (22 to 25 laps each)
THE SLOWEST ONE ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on ultrasoft for 27-30 laps + 1 stint on hypersoft to the flag