F1: Verstappen wins pole for Abu Dhabi GP over Hamilton

Using a tow from Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen has won the pole for the Abu Dhabi GP with a lap of 1m22.109s, 0.371s faster than his title challenger Lewis Hamilton. It was the 10th pole of the year for the Dutchman.

On the first run on Q3, Red Bull sent Sergio Perez out ahead of Verstappen, and Verstappen used the tow to perfection in the full throttle 2nd sector to make up time he was losing to the more powerful Mercedes of Hamilton.

A happy Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Strategically, both Red Bull cars will start the race on the soft red tires, vs. the mediums for the Mercedes cars, which should give them the jump off the line at the start, but now Red Bull will be at a disadvantage for race strategy.

But what a lap that was from Verstappen. Even taking into account the tow, he nailed every single corner to comfortably beat the field. The margin in the end was 0.371s, absolutely colossal all things considered.

“It’s an amazing feeling. We definitely improved the car in qualifying, we got what we wanted,” said Verstappen. ”

I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, that’s the most important. I felt good on both tires, so we’ll see.”

He has more than made up for his mistake last time out in Saudi Arabia – in fact, having the luxury of coasting over the line in his final run in Q3, knowing he had already done enough to secure pole.

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd quick but on the better tires for the race – LAT Images

“Max did a great lap today, we just couldn’t compete with that time at the end there,” Said Hamilton.  “We couldn’t answer to that lap, but we’re in a good position with our tires tomorrow. The last lap was nice and clean, I just couldn’t go any quicker.”

Lando Norris put his McLaren third fastest, just ahead of Sergio Perez in 4th, 0.822s and 0.838s behind respectively.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M was 3rd quick

“I dunno really, where that lap came from! I went for pole, didn’t quite work out, still a little bit off,” said Norris. “I’m a bit nervous, I kind of want to stay where I am and just watch, I don’t want to get too involved and cause any controversy…”

“I wish I could have been P3, but it is still a great team result,” said Perez.  “There is still a lot we can do [on the softs] so hopefully we have a good start and go from there.”

Norris has the best seat in the house for the start tomorrow from P3 on the grid, that’s for sure.

It was a brilliant qualifying for Norris and McLaren – but as he said, while he has a brilliant position with which to see the carnage unfold, he will not want to be part of it and inadvertently influence the championship. Expect a very conservative start from him tomorrow.

Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded out the top-5 for Ferrari, 0.883s behind the Dutchman.

Carlos Sainz Jr. credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Well, it looked like Mercedes were favorites. Red Bull then made mistakes in Q2. And yet they nailed their strategy in Q3 to grab pole and P4. That is quite a turn around today, considering they’ve had reliability issues with their rear wing as well.

“We discussed the slipstream this morning, we lowered the downforce, it was the only way to match these guys on the straights, said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

“Q2 came more towards us, and then both runs in Q3 were exceptional. That tow, Checo working with his team mate, absolutely perfect team work today. I think that’s one of Max’s best laps of the year.”

“Much rather start on the medium, we will have a slight disadvantage from the start and the first six or seven laps if [Max] goes fast,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

“We can go longer, we can go for an aggressive undercut. I’m also worried about tomorrow because their long runs were much better on Friday.

“I think there is nothing you need to say [to Lewis]. I think he’s going to be angry, which is good. He’s going to be hunting him down. We are on the back foot. This is a long race, and this is Lewis Hamilton in the car.”

More to follow….

Qualifying Results

1 Max Verstappen NED Red Bull Racing 1m23.322s 1m22.800s 1m22.109s
2 Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG 1m22.845s 1m23.145s 1m22.480s
3 Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team 1m23.553s 1m23.256s 1m22.931s
4 Sergio Perez MEX Red Bull Racing 1m23.350s 1m23.135s 1m22.947s
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. ESP Scuderia Ferrari 1m23.624s 1m23.174s 1m22.992s
6 Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG 1m23.117s 1m23.246s 1m23.036s
7 Charles Leclerc MON Scuderia Ferrari 1m23.467s 1m23.202s 1m23.122s
8 Yuki Tsunoda JPN Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda 1m23.428s 1m23.404s 1m23.220s
9 Esteban Ocon FRA Alpine F1 Team 1m23.764s 1m23.420s 1m23.389s
10 Daniel Ricciardo AUS McLaren F1 Team 1m23.829s 1m23.448s 1m23.409s
11 Fernando Alonso ESP Alpine F1 Team 1m23.846s 1m23.460s
12 Pierre Gasly FRA Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda 1m23.489s 1m24.043s
13 Lance Stroll CAN Aston Martin 1m24.061s 1m24.066s
14 Antonio Giovinazzi ITA Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen 1m24.118s 1m24.251s
15 Sebastian Vettel GER Aston Martin 1m24.225s 1m24.305s
16 Nicholas Latifi CAN Williams Racing 1m24.338s
17 George Russell GBR Williams Racing 1m24.423s
18 Kimi Raikkonen FIN Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen 1m24.779s
19 Mick Schumacher GER Uralkali Haas F1 Team 1m24.906s
20 Nikita Mazepin RUS Uralkali Haas F1 Team 1m25.685s


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