Ricciardo seventh on grid for Abu Dhabi GP as Ferrari woo pole position qualifier Hamilton

Daniel Ricciardo has secured a battling seventh place on the grid for the season's Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.

The Australian Renault driver, who suffered a dramatic engine failure resulting in his car's engine catching fire in Friday's first practice session, clocked a best lap time of one minute 36.456 seconds for an initial eighth position in the UAE on Saturday.

Nico Hulkenberg, driving the second Renault car, was 10th on the grid for Sunday's race with 1:36.710 seconds.

Daniel Ricciardo on track during F1 Abu Dhabi GP qualifying at Yas Marina. Credit:Getty Images

Both drivers were later upgraded a place with the application of post-qualifying penalties.

"I'm really happy with today's qualifying. It's cool for both cars to be in Q3," Ricciardo said.

"We've made a good turnaround from Friday and that's what I'm most proud about. The jump we made is really strong and encouraging and credit to the team for working hard overnight.

"It was close out there again today but we're in the mix inside the top 10. There's a bit of pressure in the fight for fifth and there's a job to do. We delivered today and now we have to deliver tomorrow."

Six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton put his title-winning Mercedes back on pole for the race.

The British driver set a best lap of 1:34.779 on the 5.554-kilometre Yas Marina course, beating teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.194 seconds.

Aseel Al-Hamad presents Lewis Hamilton with the Pirelli Pole Position trophy. Credit:Getty Images

Bottas qualified second but will start at the back of the grid due to engine penalties, meaning that Red Bull's Max Verstappen will join Hamilton on the front row for Sunday's race.

The pole was Hamilton's first since Germany in July, a run of nine races without starting from the top slot, but his fifth in Abu Dhabi and 88th of his career.

"It was such a long slog trying to get this pole position in and we just kept our heads down and the guys have done a great job," Hamilton said.

"Yesterday was quite wobbly so I had to recompose myself and had to come back today and re-focus. I managed to dial in the car with the hard work of the engineers."

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who ends the season with the most poles (seven), will start in third place with teammate Sebastian Vettel fourth.

The pair collided in Brazil two weeks ago, ending their races and leading to a meeting at the Maranello factory to clear the air.

Hamilton has refused to hose down speculation linking him with Ferrari, admitting he is flattered by the Italian giant’s interest. Ferrari have ramped up their pursuit of Hamilton in Abu Dhabi with public wooing.

Italian media have reported that Hamilton, who is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of next season, has spoken on two occasions with Ferrari chairman John Elkann this year.

In a further intriguing twist on Saturday evening, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff – whose own future with Formula One’s record-breaking team is also in doubt – revealed he would not stop his $A76 million-a-year driver from entering into talks with their rivals.

Reuters and PA

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