Valtteri Bottas secured the third pole position of his career on Saturday after his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had crashed in the opening minutes of an incident-filled qualifying session for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Finn clocked a best lap time of one minute and 8.322 seconds in the final seconds to outpace his nearest rival four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari by 0.038 seconds.
Hamilton, who clinched his fourth title in Mexico two weeks ago, lost control and hit the barriers on his first flying lap after only two minutes.
He was unhurt and is expected to start the race from the back of the grid.
“I’m okay. It happened really quickly. I tend to just look at it as challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them makes life meaningful,” Hamilton told Sky Sports.
“I just need to take whatever bubble of negativity comes from that experience and move forwards and try and grow from it.
“It’s very unusual from me but it shows we are all human and things happen.”
Bottas said he felt a responsibility to the team after Hamilton’s shock early exit.
“It feels good,” said Bottas, who also took pole at the Azerbaijan and Austrian Grands Prix earlier this season.
“I am still a bit shaken, but it is a good feeling. It was a nice lap, but it was close with Sebastian (Vettel).
“It was a shame that Lewis is out, a shame for us, but I stood up for the team and it is good to start from pole position here.”
Another Finn Kimi Raikkonen qualified third in the second Ferrari ahead of Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who faces a grid penalty for the race.
Sergio Perez was sixth for Force India ahead of resurgent two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren Honda, Nico Hulkenberg and his Renault team-mate Carlos Sainz.
Retirement-bound local hero Felipe Massa of Williams was 10th.
The 2017 Drivers’ Championship may have been wrapped up thanks to Lewis Hamilton’s determined performance in Mexico, but Yas Marina Circuit is still guaranteed to be yet another successful weekend of sport and entertainment.
With Hamilton’s title in the bag, attention now switches to the fight for second and third place; Germany’s Sebastian Vettel and Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, who drive for Ferrari and Mercedes respectively, will be locked in an on-track duel around Yas Marina Circuit.
As a result, organisers have revealed that many ticket categories have already sold out, with more expected to follow in the coming weeks until race weekend, and are urging race goers to purchase soon or risk missing out.
Positioned with views of the start and finish line, team garages and Pit Lane activity, the Main Grandstand is always a much sought-after spot among racing fans and this year has proved no exception, with all available Main Grandstand tickets already purchased.
Yas Marina Circuit also revealed that demand is very strong across all ticket categories with West Grandstand 3-day, North Grandstand 2-day and fan favourite Abu Dhabi Hill 2- and 3-day tickets also having sold out.
This year promises another record sell out weekend and limited time remains to make sure you enjoy the region’s biggest and best sporting and entertainment weekend.
As always, the only way to enjoy the four Yasalam After-Race Concert performances will be to purchase a ticket for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix & new this year the public to upgrade their weekend with Golden Circle Upgrades available to purchase for the After-Race Concerts from AED 195
Tickets are still available online at www.yasmarinacircuit.com and through the Yas Marina Circuit Call Centre (800 927) or +971 (0) 2 659 9800, as well as through all Etihad Shops and Virgin Megastores.
The newly-crowned four-time world champion made that clear in the aftermath of Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix, won by Red Bull’s 20-year-old Dutchman Max Verstappen.
Hamilton finished ninth in his Mercedes, but Sebastian Vettel‘s title challenge ended with him finishing fourth for Ferrari despite starting from the 50th pole of his career.
The pair collided at the third corner of the first lap and both required lengthy pit stops that left them at the back of the field.
Talking to reporters after the race, Hamilton said he was motivated by his battle with Vettel.
“It’s kind of cool to be in this battle with him,” said Hamilton.
“He got 50 poles and I don’t want to give him any more poles because he gets closer to me. That’s inspiration to keep pushing it – the same with wins, same with championships.
“When I see him sign for another three years with Ferrari and I’m like ‘Ferrari are not going to like me for the next couple of years’.
“We’re going to make it as hard as it can possibly be for them to win championships, but I really am looking forward to that battle with them.”
He added that he anticipated a similar scrap with Verstappen, the rising young star of the sport, who dominated Sunday’s race for his third career win.
“He’s really the brightest young star that we’ve seen for some time,” said Hamilton.
“I hope that in his early era that I can be a good force and a good battle for him.”
The 32-year-old Briton added that he expected and hoped to be re-joining battle with his one-time McLaren team-mate, Spain’s two-time former champion Fernando Alonso.
The pair had a dramatic tussle in the closing laps on Sunday as Hamilton fought to pass him.
“Just wait until this guy gets a good engine, because the car was great through other sections and I really hope for McLaren, who have a special place in my heart, that next year is a better year for them.
“I hope they have a stronger engine a stronger car. Fernando’s a tough cookie. I enjoyed the little battle I had with him and I hope we get to have many more like that.”
Hamilton spoke before flying from Mexico City to Miami for a late night party in a club where he revelled with family and friends.
He defended his lifestyle and said his 2017 title had been much tougher to win than many observers believed.
“I’m different,” said Hamilton. “People talk about Michael’s (Schumacher) single-mindedness about his job, but to stand out in the world today is a lot harder because it’s all been done before.
“Doing something different that helps you stand out, that really highlights your individuality.
“I think it’s really important and that’s really something I’m working on.”
Reflecting on his latest championship win, he said: “It felt challenging on a personal level.
“This year is a championship, which I’ve been hoping for — a little bit like 2008, where you’re fighting another team, fighting this historic team, which Michael raced for and won championships in.
“I’m really proud of that and to be able to battle someone else who is a four-time world champion, a proven world champion, who’s got great skill and a team also that knows how to win a championship.
“That’s how every championship needs to be, and I hope there’s more championships like this one where we have this tough battle.”
He dismissed the theory that he won because Mercedes had given him the best car.
“People have written that we’ve had the best car, but I don’t believe we’ve had the best car.
“I think we’ve been the best team. We’ve done the best job, but there have been times when we’ve not had the best car.”