Three-time world champion Max Verstappen signed off his qualifying performance this season by taking his usual spot – pole position. The Red Bull driver finished ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren driver Oscar Piastri.
In a final qualifying session where the soft tyres were good for just a single flying lap – unlike the multiple fliers seen in Las Vegas – Lewis Hamilton was knocked out in Q2 for Mercedes while Carlos Sainz suffered from traffic to get eliminated in Q1.
In Q3, Verstappen put in time of one minute, 23.445 seconds on his first of two runs, with the 2023 title winner well clear of the rest at this stage as he was the only one to use new tyres.
On the second runs, Verstappen ran at the rear of the group of leaders to this point, but was unable to improve his time.
The others did, but not by enough, with Charles Leclerc going from just over a second off after the first Q3 runs to shoot up to second on his final attempt – ending up 0.139 seconds to the Red Bull driver.
Piastri took third ahead of George Russell, who climbed the order with Q3’s quickest time in the final sector to rise to fourth position.
Lando Norris had looked like Verstappen’s biggest challenger but he made a mistake with the new tyres right at the end due to a massive sideways moment at Turn 13 which cost the McLaren driver 0.4 seconds in the lap’s final third sector alone.
Then came Yuki Tsunoda, Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg, while Pierre Gasly rounded out the top ten.
Sergio Perez’s final lap was good enough for sixth but he lost it for running too wide out of Turn 1, where he had had a wild sideways moment on the first Q3 attempts. So time was deleted and will start in P9 instead.
Verstappen progressed Q2 with just a single run on new softs, while the rest took a sighter on used softs at the start of the middle segment.
Come the end with everybody bar Verstappen out on new softs, Russell’s improvement eliminated his Mercedes teammate Hamilton, who complained on his way back to the pits, “There’s something wrong with this car”.
Then came Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo, with Albon having run off-set for his second run and completed his final flier well ahead of the rest – just as Williams had done at the end of the opening segment.
In Q1, where the entire field was covered by one-second, Perez’s last-gasp effort moved him through in second behind Verstappen, knocking out Carlos Sainz along with Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant.
The first four completed personal best efforts on their second and final fliers, with Sainz complaining about traffic impacting his last run, but Sargeant lost both his Q1 times for running beyond track limits at Turn 1.
His best of those two laps was his first, but that still would not have been fast enough to progress.
So congratulations to Max Verstappen in taking pole at Yas Marina. Earlier, the Red Bull driver was struggling to find a right setup after a tricky final practice session. But the team figured it out and the world champion delivered the result with P1. Kudos.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:23.445
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23.584
3 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:23.782
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:23.788
5 Lando Norris McLaren 1:23.816
6 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:23.968
7 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:24.084
8 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:24.108
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:24.171
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:24.548
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.359
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:24.391
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:24.422
14 Alexander Albon Williams 1:24.439
15 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:24.442
16 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:24.738
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:24.764
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:24.788
19 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:25.159
20 Logan Sargeant Williams No time