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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Lewis Hamilton determined to 'push the limit' after clinching pole for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

This is third time Mercedes-GP driver will be driving in Abu Dhabi after already winning driver's title, but this time he wants to end season on high

Lewis Hamilton credited a "killer" final sector to his final lap of qualifying at Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday for the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for taking him to the 83rd pole position of his career.

The world champion set a lap record of 1 minute, 34.794 seconds around the 5.5-kilometre track to stave off his Mercedes-GP teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.162 seconds and top the times.

It was the Briton's 11th pole of the season and sets him up to try and complete a season that has already seen him clinch his fifth world title in winning fashion.

"I never say there is a perfect lap," the 33 year old said. "The first one wasn't spectacular, there was excursions and movement at the rear end.

"The last sector was the killer and where I was able to make the difference and that is not easy to do."

This is the third time that Hamilton has competed in Abu Dhabi having already clinched the championship.

On the previous two occasions he was beaten to the pole and the win by his teammates Nico Rosberg (2015) and Bottas (2017).

So what was different about 2018 with Hamilton having won the title in Mexico in October, before winning in Brazil two weeks later, the first time he had ever triumphed in a race when he was already crowned champion that season.

"I don't think it was because I couldn't do it in the past, I just didn't do the job," Hamilton said. "I just think this year I think it was being a different place in my life.

"I just wanted to continue to push the limit and the boundaries, and I wanted to finish the season on a solid high so I can keep this foundation as strong as it has been this year."

Hamilton was cheered by the crowd in the Main Grandstand opposite the pit lane when he got out of his car after qualifying and he knelt down and kissed the W09 chassis in appreciation of its role in his success.

"I'm so grateful for all the support we've had here," he added. "It's so emotional for me because it's the last lap I'll do in this car. I've been so emotionally attached to this car."

It was a disappointing day for Bottas, who will become the first Mercedes driver since Michael Schumacher in 2012 to go a season without winning if he fails to triumph in the 55-lap race that starts at 5.10pm UAE time.

The Finn acknowledged that his teammate had simply been faster on the day.

"I was performing well but I couldn't beat his time, he did a great job," he said.

Hamilton is tied on the most wins in Abu Dhabi with Sebastian Vettel, with each having prevailed three times in the past.

While Hamilton will begin as favourite to clinch a record fourth victory, Vettel, who starts third in his Ferrari, said he would do his utmost to pressure the Mercedes drivers.

"I'm looking forward to getting in the car tomorrow for the last time this season and giving it a real go," the four-time world champion said.

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Read more:

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Lowdown on bu Dhabi GP qualifying: Mercedes and Ferrari set to duel for pole

Valtteri Bottas edges out Red Bull pair in tight second practice for Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Weekend - all the latest updates on and off the track

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Sebastian Vettel, right, was beaten to the front row by Mercedes-GP pair Lewis Hamilton, centre, and Valtteri Bottas, left. EPA
Sebastian Vettel, right, was beaten to the front row by Mercedes-GP pair Lewis Hamilton, centre, and Valtteri Bottas, left. EPA

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth quickest in his final race for Ferrari before he joins Sauber, while the Red Bull Racing cars of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen completed the third row.

Further back, double world champion Fernando Alonso will start 15th in his McLaren for his final race before he retires from the sport.

He said a strong end to his F1 career – at least for now, with the Spaniard admitting a return in the future is not out of the question – is unlikely in Abu Dhabi.

"My priories are to finish the race to see the chequered flag," he said. "If we can be in the points that will be in the dream, we are five places away now."