Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Nico Rosberg won his 11th pole position in Formula One this season after topping his Mercedes teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton in Saturday's qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Rosberg beat Hamilton for the pole with a lap in 1 minute, 40.480 seconds, which was 0.386 seconds quicker than Hamilton's lap. It was the third consecutive pole win for Rosberg and the 12th time this year that Mercedes has started 1-2 in a grand prix.
Sunday's season-ending Abu Dhabi GP at Yas Marina Circuit will determine the F1 world championship between Hamilton and Rosberg. They are the only drivers who remain eligible for the title. Hamilton enters this 55-lap race with a 17- point lead over Rosberg, who won the most recent grand prix in Brazil two weeks ago. The Abu Dhabi GP will award double the amount of points, with the winner collecting 50, second place receiving 36 and third place 30.
Therefore, if Hamilton finishes no worse than second in this race, he will claim his second world championship, regardless if Rosberg wins the event.
If Rosberg wins and Hamilton finishes third or lower, then Rosberg will clinch his first F1 title.
"It was a great day again today, for sure, and I'm thankful to the (Mercedes team) engineers, because they did a good job with the car, and I was really happy with the setup," said Rosberg, who scored his 15th career F1 pole, including his first in the Abu Dhabi GP. "It all worked out well, and I got a good lap together in the end. I'm pleased with that.
"But of course, it's only one step, a very small step, because this weekend is about the championship, not about pole position or anything."
Hamilton posted the quickest lap in the opening and second qualifying rounds. In Q3, he had to abort his first lap when he locked up his brakes and nearly went off course. Hamilton's last lap in Q3 was clocked in 1:40.866. He led the way in Friday's two practice sessions, while Rosberg was fastest in final practice, held shortly before qualifying.
"I generally didn't have the best of laps, but it was still a really good qualifying session, and I enjoyed it," Hamilton said. "The car was fantastic. Tomorrow will be a special day."
Valtteri Bottas qualified third with a lap in 1:41.025, while his Williams teammate, Felipe Massa, took the fourth spot.
Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion, had finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in qualifying, but Ricciardo and Vettel had their times disallowed after race stewards deemed the front wings on their cars to be illegal. They will start the race from the back of the 20-car grid.
According to the FIA, the governing body of F1, both Red Bull cars "did comply with Article 3.15 (aerodynamic influence) of the F1 technical regulations."
Red Bull said in a team statement, "Following the decision of the stewards regarding the front wings on both our cars (Car 1 and Car 3), we are disappointed that we have been singled out for a front wing deflection test when it is clear that other teams are interpreting the rules in a similar fashion. The team accepts the decision of the stewards and will start the race from the back of the grid."
This will be Vettel's last race with Red Bull before he moves over to Ferrari for the 2015 season, replacing Fernando Alonso. Vettel has won three of the previous five grand prix in Abu Dhabi, including a victory here last year.
Daniel Kvyat from Toro Rosso will start fifth, followed by McLaren's Jenson Button and Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso. Button's teammate, Kevin Magnussen, and Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne moved up to ninth and 10th on the grid following the disqualifications of Ricciardo and Vettel.
This could be Button's last race in F1, as it is widely rumored that Alonso will replace him at McLaren for next season. Button, the 2009 world champion, has been competing in F1 since 2000.