F1: Nico Rosberg takes pole position in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

German driver fastest in qualifying session of title-deciding F1 championship, ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton

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Nico Rosberg will start on pole position in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, having finished fastest in today’s closely-fought qualifying session.

The German turned up the heat on his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who made a small error on the Yas Marina Circuit and fell into second place. Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas came third in the high-octane race session.

Rosberg will now be top of the grid in Sunday’s championship-deciding race, the last of an electrifying F1 season.

Rosberg told the assembled media he expects a “great battle” tomorrow but wants to “get the job done.”

“It’s the first step – and that’s what I need to do again tomorrow,” he said after today’s qualifying session. “This weekend it’s about the championship, and not about the pole position… It’s Sunday that counts.”

Hamilton acknowledged he “didn’t really have the best of laps”, but said he is still confident for tomorrow.

Qualifying session

The hour-long qualifying session is used to determine which driver takes pole position and the rest of the starting-grid order of the main race.

Rosberg will take pole position in tomorrow’s 55-lap race, which starts at 5pm local time.

Hamilton had finished fastest in the time sheets for both practice sessions on Friday.

But Rosberg set the fastest time in the third and final practise on Saturday afternoon, which took place a few hours before the qualifying session.

Hamilton only needs to finish second in Sunday’s race to secure his second world title, as he leads Rosberg by 17 points in the championship standings.

Hamilton currently has 334 points against his German teammate’s 317. But with double points on offer for the first time, there is still everything to race for in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton will be champion if he finishes first or second. But he will also clinch the title under several other permutations, such as in the case of Rosberg failing to win and the British driver coming in third, fourth or fifth.

Rosberg will be champion if he wins and Hamilton is not second, or if he finishes second and Hamilton is not in the top five, among other permutations.

Abu Dhabi cements F1 ties

More than 125,000 local and international spectators are set to attend this year’s sold-out F1 event in Abu Dhabi, according to race organizers.

With the countdown ticking to Sunday’s race, two major deals were announced that point to Abu Dhabi’s strengthening ties with the sport.

It was announced on Saturday that Etihad Airways has extended its association as title sponsor of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The airline, which is owned by the Abu Dhabi government, has been title sponsor of the Abu Dhabi F1 since the inaugural race in 2009.

The extension of the partnership was finalized between F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone and James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ president and chief executive.

It was also announced this week that the Formula 1 race is to stay in Abu Dhabi following a multi-year contract between Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management and Formula 1 World Championship Limited. The current agreement had been due to expire after the 2016 race.

Statements announcing both deals did not specify the duration of the extended contracts.