Valtteri Bottas scored his fourth career pole position, beating his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the top spot at the Yas Marina circuit.
It seems Hamilton was the favourite for the top spot after leading the way throughout free practice, and was fastest in Q2 as well, but Bottas was fractionally quicker than Hamilton in Q1 and got back ahead during the first runs in Q3, taking provisional pole with a one minute, 36.231 seconds lap.
That proved enough for top spot when neither Mercedes driver found time on their second runs, Hamilton falling short by 0.172 seconds.
Sebastian Vettel was third fastest in the best of the Ferraris, improving to a one minute, 36.777 seconds best on his final Q3 run but ending up almost four tenths down on the Mercedes pair.
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was provisionally fourth quickest until a last-gasp effort from Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull displaced Raikkonen from the second row by just 0.026 seconds.
Max Verstappen rounded out the top six, 0.353 seconds down on Raikkonen.
Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault was best of the rest in seventh, less than a tenth clear of Sergio Perez, who in turn was only 0.023 seconds clear of team-mate Esteban Ocon.
Ocon was compromised by battling for track position with Bottas on their final Q3 out-lap.
Felipe Massa’s Williams completed the top ten, 0.153s further back after only completing one run in Q3.
Massa was one of only six drivers to find time on his second run in Q2, which proved enough to bump his old Ferrari colleague Fernando Alonso out of the top ten by 0.071 seconds.
Carlos Sainz Jr was another of those to find time after a “poor out-lap” ruined his first run. He got his Renault up to P12 ahead of the second McLaren-Honda of Stoffel Vandoorne, despite suffering a problem with his engine at the last corner.
Kevin Magnussen was P14 for Haas, almost half a second adrift of Vandoorne but well clear of Lance Stroll, who could not lap faster than one minute, 39.6 seconds however hard he tried.
Stroll at least made Q2 for the eighth time this season, his passage from Q1 coming at the expense of Romain Grosjean, whose Haas missed the cut by just 0.013 seconds as Stroll pulled the first of those one minute, 39.6 seconds laps out of the bag at the end.
“Oh God that was everything!” said Stroll over the radio upon learning he’d made the top 15.
Pierre Gasly put the best of the Toro Rossos P17, two tenths slower than Grosjean and two tenths clear of Sauber pair Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, who were separated by just six hundredths of a second.
Brendon Hartley qualified slowest of all by some distance in the Toro Rosso. Porsche’s World Endurance champion delivered a “scruffy” first lap, improved on his second run, but finished the session nearly half a second down on Ericsson.
Qualifying last negates Hartley’s grid penalty for taking a ninth MGU-H on his Renault engine ahead of practice.
So a fantastic way to sign off Mercedes’ qualifying result this season. 15 poles and another front row slot. It’s going to be a fascinating race at Yas Marina with the fight for the runner up spot between Bottas and Vettel.
Qualifying positions, Yas Marina:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m36.231s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m36.403s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m36.777s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m36.959s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m36.985s
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m37.328s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m38.282s
8 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m38.374s
9 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m38.397s
10 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m38.550s
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1m38.636s
12 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m38.725s
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda 1m38.808s
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m39.298s
15 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m39.646s
16 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m39.516s
17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Renault 1m39.724s
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.930s
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.994s
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Renault 1m40.471s