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Nico Rosberg pips Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi final qualifying

Nico Rosberg stormed to his sixth consecutive pole-position, beating Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a handy margin in the final qualifying session of the year in Abu Dhabi.

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg during the final qualifying session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on Saturday. Pic/AFP
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg during the final qualifying session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on Saturday. Pic/AFP

Rosberg lapped the floodlit 5.5-kilometer long Yas Marina Circuit in one minute 40.237 seconds, a significant three-and-a-half tenths of a second faster than Hamilton, to take the 22nd pole of his career and seventh of this season overall. "I'm quicker at the moment," Rosberg, who had generally struggled to match Hamilton for speed until his pole-run kicked off at September's Japanese Grand Prix, said. "I'm very pleased about that, enjoying the moment and happy to be on pole again," Rosberg who also started last year's race here from pole, said.

Ham denied 50th pole
Hamilton's second place gave Mercedes their fifteenth front row lockout from 19 races this year. But the newly crowned triple champion was denied a landmark 50th career pole. The Briton, who wrapped up the title with three races to spare at last month's US Grand Prix in Austin, had led the first two phases of qualifying only to falter in the crucial pole-position shootout.

"I've generally been struggling with the car a little bit all weekend," Hamilton said. "Nico was just really quick today and he did a great job in Q3." Kimi Raikkonen will start today's race third after salvaging a disappointing qualifying session for Ferrari in which team-mate Sebastian Vettel, the only driver to have beaten the Mercedes pair all year, failed to make it past the opening 18-minute phase. The Finn fended off Sergio Perez, who will start fourth having carried over Force India's strong practice form into yesterday's qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo leads Red Bull's charge in fifth ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the leading Williams, Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India and the Williams of Felipe Massa. Daniil Kvyat will start ninth in the second Red Bull while Carlos Sainz wraps up his rookie season for Toro Rosso in the top ten.

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