Nico Rosberg scores his 11th pole position of 2014 and places the pressure further onto Lewis Hamilton in the battle for the championship, with his Mercedes teammate on the front row in second place. Jenson Button outqualifies his teammate in what might be a crucial race for the Englishman who may be racing in his last F1 weekend.
As it happened…
The final qualifying session of the season and the first insight into who will be victorious in the drivers' championship in 2014 could be revealed over the next hour. Lewis Hamilton was fastest in FP1 and FP2 on Friday, with teammate Nico Rosberg the faster in FP3. Other battles through the field this weekend may aid decisions on who will be on the grid in 2015, as Magnussen and Button are still none the wiser as to whether they will be racing for McLaren next year. We do know that Fernando Alonso is definitely leaving Ferrari with Sebastian Vettel his replacement. We also are awaiting confirmation of Sergio Perez at Force India in the week that team boss Vijay Mallaya claimed GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer as, "a great talent" and becomes a test driver for the team.
With the return of Caterham this weekend there is another small tweak to the rules ahead of this qualifying with the slowest five cars to be eliminated in the first two sessions of qualifying this afternoon. In the Caterham is Kamui Kobayashi and British driver Will Stevens in his first ever F1 race.
After FP3, Mercedes noticed that the floor on Nico Rosberg's car was broken requiring a change which then required the car to go through scrutineering again.
As the twilight setting of the Yas Marina comes into view, the lights go green and it is the new boy, Will Stevens on track first as he takes to the track in his first qualifying session. Magnussen who finished third in FP1, sets the early pace with a 1:43.171, quickly followed by the two WIlliams' cars who go slightly quicker. Rosberg completes his first lap with a time one-second quicker, with Hamilton striking first blood going a tenth quicker with a 1:41.207.
As the Mercedes head back to the pits, the attention switches to the back of the grid. Stevens is a second off the pace of his teammate, and with 8 minutes to go the two Red Bulls are in the last two positions (they have yet to set a time), followed by the two Caterhams and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
The end result though includes the normal and expected suspects. Stevens finishes in 20th but closes in on his teammate to within half-a-second, and importantly has a clean session. A good effort from the rookie in challenging circumstances. The Lotus' join the eliminated group and the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez complete their last qualifying session of the year.
16th: Grosjean (Grid Penalty – will start in 20th)
Ahead of the second qualifying session the rumour through the paddock is that Ross Brawn will be returning to Ferrari in 2015. On Sky F1, Martin Brundle reports of a text message conversation between himself and Brawn today saying Brawn's response on the rumour as, "not true."
Anyway, the sun is setting and the Williams duo start to show their hand with a 1:41.575, as we see Rosberg locking up and ruining his flying lap as Hamilton goes quickest on a 1:40.920, six-tenths quicker than Massa. Rosberg looking a little rattled as the track is getting cooler and goes into 2nd place five-tenths off the pace.
The McLaren duo both leave the puts to set their times yet both return to the pits unable to complete a competitive lap. The focus appears to be on these two as they are in their own head-to-head battle for qualifying supremacy. Magnussen completes his lap and goes into eighth – Button goes sixth.
Sutil is looking to be the slowest as the chequered flag falls in Q2. Raikkonen goes from 14th to 9th, as Kvyat goes 8th, pushing Magnussen out of qualifying and resulting in Button winning the battle at McLaren. In the dying seconds, the Williams pair go into 2nd and 3rd, pushing Rosberg to 4th place. There is a genuine battle for pole position here in Abu Dhabi.