Nico Rosberg routed Mercedes team-mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The German bested his British rival by almost half a second to consolidate his place as the fastest qualifier of 2014, while Hamilton only just stayed ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who starts 3rd.
The momentum see-sawed between the two title protagonists throughout the qualifying hour, but further down the grid there were just as many absorbing inter-team battles. Will Stevens managed to get within 0.4 of his Caterham stablemate Kamui Kobayashi on his first experience of F1 qualifying, while Romain Grosjean beat Pastor Maldonado despite both Lotuses failing to escape Q1. Grosjean however faces a colossal 20-place grid penalty for engine components changed earlier in the weekend.
Q2 saw McLaren make a strategical blunder when they failed to put enough fuel in Jenson Button’s car, but the 2009 world champion still managed to beat team-mate Kevin Magnussen; the Dane failed to make Q3 and ended up 11th while Button went on to finish 8th and claim the qualifying crown in their rivalry.
Ferrari suffered an underwhelming qualifying end to their five-year tenure with Fernando Alonso when he and Kimi Raikkonen ended up 10th and 9th respectively, while Sebastian Vettel finished his Red Bull days – where he has so often been king on a Saturday – by ending up 6th and almost 0.7 down on Daniel Ricciardo.
Daniil Kvyat was 7th, while Felipe Massa filled out the remaining top ten position in 4th.