ABU DHABI • Lewis Hamilton may have already won his fifth Formula One world championship ahead of today's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but he was nonetheless emotional after clinching pole position in qualifying yesterday.
The Briton led a Mercedes front-row lockout at the season-ending race alongside teammate Valtteri Bottas. He did not forget to pay a tribute to his team, but not before first planting a kiss on his car.
"I'm so grateful for all the support we've had here. 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," said Hamilton.
"I'm so grateful for the mechanics who put this together for me. To just go all out and put a performance like that is a special feeling.
"I'm just happy that this car will be in the history museum at Mercedes in Germany, so I can go visit whenever I can.
"It's been a privilege to work with this team. I'm so grateful for everyone and it's so much fun to go out there and express yourself and push your car the way you want."
His pole was a record-extending 83rd of his career and 11th of the season, as well as the fifth year in a row that Mercedes have swept the front row at the floodlit Yas Marina circuit.
ABU DHABI GP GRID
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus)
6 Max Verstappen (Ned)
7 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas
8 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber
9 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India
10 Niko Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault
14 Sergio Perez (Mex)
15 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren
The German outfit have also won their fifth consecutive constructors' title before today's race, therefore it was inconsequential regardless of how hard they pushed.
But there was no stopping Hamilton. The 33-year-old broke the track record in his pole lap of 1min 34.794 seconds.
"I never say there is a perfect lap, the first lap wasn't spectacular, the last one started off calm and then got more and more aggressive," he added. "Valtteri did a great job and Sebastian (Vettel) too."
Bottas concurred with Hamilton and admitted that he was happy with his performance despite starting second today.
"For sure, I was aiming for pole. I had a good result here last year, but I couldn't repeat that," the Finn said.
"But good for us, even though we have secured the championships, we can still be one-two for the final race. I was performing well, but I couldn't beat Lewis' time, he did a great job."
Ferrari will start in the second row with Vettel in third and Kimi Raikkonen in fourth.
The Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are in fifth and sixth respectively.
Romain Grosjean (Haas), Charles Leclerc (Sauber), Esteban Ocon (Force India) and Niko Hulkenberg (Renault) complete the top 10.
"I enjoyed the session," said four-time world champion Vettel, who also kissed and made up with Hamilton by playing down their rivalry.
"I don't see the reasons why you can't talk with each other or joke with each other.
"Obviously, it didn't go my way and Lewis enjoyed it a little more, but I'm looking forward to getting in the car tomorrow for the last time this season and giving it a real go. I'm looking forward to it as the last race and to give it everything we have."
With nothing at stake for the top teams, and no orders holding anyone back, today's race promises to be a full-on fight for victory.
ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX
Race day, Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 8pm