Verstappen grabs pole position in season finale

Max Verstappen has taken a significant pole position in terms of the championship at stake. The Red Bull driver will start first in the season finale at Abu Dhabi beating Lewis Hamilton. A key point was Max’s pole was getting a tow from teammate Sergio Perez which led to being in P1.

The two title contenders will start Sunday’s race on different tyre strategies after Verstappen used the softs to go through Q2, where Hamilton progressed on the mediums, and they will start ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris with their respective teammates down in fourth and sixth.

On the first Q3 runs, Red Bull sent Perez out ahead of Verstappen and ordered him to push to create a gap while Verstappen carefully prepared his tyres, with Perez then moving out of his teammate’s way on the approach to the new Turn 9 long left hairpin at the end of the track’s second straight.

The tactic worked brilliantly for Verstappen, who set a one minute, 22.109 seconds that put him 0.551 seconds clear of Hamilton after the Mercedes driver completed his opening run, which featured a lock-up at the new Turn 5 hairpin at the start of the second sector.

Mercedes opted to head the pack for the final runs, where Hamilton improved, but shipped more time to Verstappen’s existing as his lap unfolded, to wind up 0.371 seconds adrift.

Red Bull didn’t repeat the tow tactic on the second Q3 runs, with Perez staying ahead of Verstappen all the way around as he set a personal best that still left him behind Norris’s one minute, 22.291 seconds.

Verstappen ended up slower than his first time on his second run, but it did not matter.

Carlos Sainz took fifth for Ferrari, ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who ran behind Hamilton on both runs for Mercedes in Q3, as the Black Arrows squad did not try a tow strategy.

Charles Leclerc took seventh ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who lost a quicker lap on his first run in Q3 for running too wide out of the final corner, where the FIA is hotly policing track limits.

Esteban Ocon finished ninth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, with both drivers facing post-qualifying investigations for possible impeding incidents involving Sebastian Vettel, with Ocon’s occurring in Q1.

Q2 ended with chaotic scenes ahead of the final runs, where Verstappen switched to the softs after locking up on the set of mediums he had been running in the early part of the middle segment and flat-spotting the left front, using the red-walled rubber go quickest at that stage.

The pack were sent out en masse and things got so crowded at the final turns that Vettel stopped on the track just past the Turn 14 left where Kimi Raikkonen crashed in FP2.

He got going again but was eliminated in P15, with Fernando Alonso the highest profile faller – the Alpine driver also annoyed by traffic late in his final lap as he came across Ricciardo going through the final corner in an incident that will be investigated after the session.

Ricciardo’s last-gasp improvement then knocked out Alonso, who finished ahead of Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Gasly, who also faces a post-session investigation alongside Vettel for an incident that involved them getting in each other’s way on the pit straight during the middle part of Q2, felt his brakes were too cold on his final run.

Q1, which Hamilton topped, was interrupted by a short red flag after Mick Schumacher knocked a bollard from inside the apex of the final corner, with Norris then sending it up into the air after it was sucked under his front wing when he subsequently came by.

But once it was retrieved the action got going again, with Stroll’s last lap knocking out Nicholas Latifi in P16.

Latifi ended up ahead of George Russell, who’s excellent qualifying record for Williams ended on a down note as he was eliminated in P17, ruing his tyres being “absolutely nowhere” and criticising his team’s run plan late in the opening segment.

Raikkonen’s final Formula 1 qualifying session ended with him P18 in the Alfa Romeo, the Iceman pitting with a few seconds remaining ahead of the chequered flag falling.

The two Haas cars brought up the rear of the field once again, with Schumacher, who had two trips through the Turn 1 runoff during Q1, ending ahead of Nikita Mazepin.

So a thrilling qualifying session with Max Verstappen scoring ten pole this season. This P1 is an important step in terms of the championship and it’s going to be fascinating in terms of strategy in the race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. Bring it on!

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:22.109
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:22.480
3 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:22.931
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:22.947
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:22.992
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:23.036
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23.122
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:23.220
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:23.389
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.409
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:23.460
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:24.043
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:24.066
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:24.251
15 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:24.305
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:24.338
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:24.423
18 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:24.779
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:24.906
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:25.685

6 thoughts to “Verstappen grabs pole position in season finale”

  1. Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by

    Max Verstappen took a crushing pole position – with the help of a tow from Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez – to seize the advantage over rival Lewis Hamilton for the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

    The Dutchman clocked a brilliant 1m22.109s on his first run to take a 10th pole position of the season, with Hamilton 0.371s off the pace to end up second with Lando Norris a surprise third place.

    Red Bull sent Perez out on track first in Q3, ahead of Verstappen, with the Mexican towing Verstappen down the long straight before bailing out of the way before Turn 9 and sacrificing his own lap.

    Verstappen made the most of the boost to slot into provisional pole, with Hamilton locking up at the hairpin and ending up nearly half a second adrift.

    Mercedes sent their cars out first for the second run, but with Hamilton ahead of Bottas as they turned down the opportunity to try a tow. Hamilton improved, but he was behind in all three sectors and instead will start on the dirty side of the front row alongside his title rival in P2.

    However, like his team mate Bottas, Hamilton will start on the more durable medium tyre that should allow him to run deeper into the race before stopping. The Red Bulls, however, will start on the soft tyres, Verstappen moving to that rubber after he flat-spotted his medium tyres in Q2.

    Perez will start fourth, ahead of a very quick Carlos Sainz, who appeared to have made big gains after a difficult Friday, with Bottas down in sixth in his final Grand Prix for Mercedes ahead of a move to Alfa Romeo.

    Charles Leclerc was seventh, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda – who could have been higher, having sat third before having his lap deleted for track limits – with Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo completing the top 10.

    Q1 – The two Mercedes cars dominate, as Russell exits

    Red Bull sent Verstappen and Perez out early doors but it was their title rivals Mercedes who set the early pace with Hamilton and Bottas comfortably slotting into first and second, with Verstappen 0.414s off.

    The session was then red flagged after a Haas knocked over a bollard, which Norris then ran over, with a marshal then dispatched to collect it before the running got back under way.

    Ferrari sent Sainz and Leclerc out on softs, as their initial runs on the mediums weren’t strong enough to guarantee safety, while Vettel was annoyed when he felt he was baulked by Ocon as he battled to get out of the drop zone.

    Up front, Hamilton bolted on a set of fresh tyres and went fourth tenths quicker, with Bottas then slotting into second as Mercedes flexed their muscles.

    Vettel escaped from the drop zone, but the Williams duo of Nicholas Latifi and George Russell could not follow suit. Kimi Raikkonen’s final qualifying session ended early as he ended up 18th, with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin closing out the classification.

    Knocked out: Latifi, Russell, Raikkonen, Schumacher, Mazepin

    Q2 – Red Bull and Mercedes choose differing strategies

    Mercedes and Red Bull sent their respective cars out on mediums and though Hamilton went quickest, Verstappen slotted into second by just 0.004s – the duo evidently much more evenly matched on the yellow-walled tyre.

    But on the second timed run, Verstappen locked up into Turn 1 and picked up a flat-spot. That forced the Red Bull back to the pits – and with not a lot of time remaining, they swapped to the softs. Was that always the plan? Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky “that lock-up wasn’t ideal, so it sort of forced our hands”.

    Verstappen promptly went fastest, with team mate Perez – also running the softs – slotting into second. Hamilton was third with Bottas sixth – both on mediums – as they were separated by the Ferrari duo of Sainz and Leclerc.

    At the other end of timesheets, Ricciardo scraped through by 0.012s at the expense of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. Pierre Gasly made a surprising exit, the Frenchman outpaced by his rookie team mate Yuki Tsunoda, with Lance Stroll also knocked out.

    Antonio Giovinazzi’s final race with Alfa Romeo – and possibly in F1 – will start from 14th, with Vettel completing the drop zone.

    Knocked out: Alonso, Gasly, Stroll, Giovinazzi, Vettel

    Q3 – Perez tows Verstappen to pole position

    Verstappen set the early benchmark, helped in part from a tow from Perez which the Dutchman said was worth around 0.1s. Hamilton had no answer to that, with the seven-time world champion locking up and slotting into second.

    Hamilton improved next time around – but it still wasn’t good enough, giving Verstappen his second successive pole position in Abu Dhabi, and with the title contenders lining up on the front row together for the first time since Austin.

    Norris earned his best start since taking pole in Sochi seven races ago with third, with Perez putting two Red Bulls in the top-four at Yas Marina for the first time in the turbo-hybrid era.

    Fifth was Sainz’s best-ever start in Abu Dhabi in what is his 10th third row start of the year, ahead of Bottas, who secured his worst Q3 performance since Russia.

    Tsunoda recovered from having his first lap deleted to take eighth, as he outqualified team mate Gasly for the first time in a conventional session to end the year with six Q3 appearances in the final seven races. Tsunoda will also start the race on mediums, having gone through Q2 on that tyre.

    Ocon was ninth, securing the qualifying head-to-head with team mate Fernando Alonso 12-10, with Ricciardo outperformed by Norris for the fourth race in succession.

  2. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says “insane” driving, not Sergio Perez tow, behind Max Verstappen’s pole position. has the news story.

    Red Bull reckons “insane” driving from Max Verstappen, rather than a tow from Sergio Perez, was the key to him grabbing pole position for Formula 1’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

    Verstappen appeared to have been on the backfoot in pace terms compared to title rival Lewis Hamilton through the first two qualifying stages at the Yas Marina circuit.

    But a supreme first lap in Q3, which was helped by a tow down the back straight from teammate Perez, produced an effort that secured him pole spot from title rival Lewis Hamilton.

    While the scale of the gap to Hamilton after that first Q3 run suggested that the tow had been worth a lot, Red Bull estimates that the gain was only worth one tenth of the half-second margin.

    That much was proved when Verstappen nearly matched the mini sector time on that part of the track on his second effort in Q3.

    Speaking about the performance, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sky: “I think that’s one of Max’s best laps of the year.

    “The tow, even on the following lap that we got him to back off on, he matched the time, and the tow was probably worth a tenth or two, not half a second.

    “I think that his last sector, when you look at the level of downforce he’s got on, is insane. It’s absolutely insane.”

    Verstappen agreed that the benefit from the tow was much smaller than it looked like at the time.

    “It was very nice, nicely executed as well,” said the Dutchman. “But I don’t know what the gain was.

    “I mean, I might have gained one tenth towards Turn 9, which is not a massively long, straight. But nevertheless, Checo is a great teammate and a real pleasure to work with.”

    Horner also praised the way that the two Red Bull cars had worked together to deliver a pole that could prove crucial to the F1 championship battle.

    “I think that Max, he’s given everything and he’s driving his heart out,” he said. “He’s thrown everything at this session.

    “I think Checo has been the dutiful teammate. He sacrificed an optimal lap for him to give his teammate that performance. And I think that you can’t ask for more than that. So they put it on the pole. Now we’ve got to try and convert that tomorrow.”

  3. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton commented that he “no answer” to Max Verstappen pace in Abu Dhabi qualifying. has the details.

    Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he had no answer to Formula 1 title rival Max Verstappen’s blistering pace in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

    Verstappen pulled off a brilliant effort in his first run in Q3 to deliver a lap that was half a second clear of everyone else – although it was slightly helped by a tow from teammate Sergio Perez.

    But despite Hamilton improving on his second run to close the gap, with his first lap having been hurt by a lock up at Turn 5, Verstappen had pole in the bag.

    Hamilton said he could not attribute any of the time deficit to any specific errors, and that the result was simply down to his Red Bull rival having better pace.

    “Max did a great lap today,” said Hamilton. “We just could not compete with that time at the end there.

    “It was looking really strong through practice. We just couldn’t answer to that lap. That was a fantastic lap from him.

    “But we’re in a good position, I’d like to think, with our tyres for tomorrow. And I hope that we can have a good race.”

    Hamilton’s only suggestion for why his Q3 pace could not deliver the form he showed earlier in qualifying was perhaps that his tyre preparation at the end was not as good as it should have been.

    “On the first lap I dropped a little bit of time in Turn 5,” he explained. “But the last lap was nice and clean. I just couldn’t go any quicker.

    “I don’t know if it’s tyre prep, or whatever it may be in terms of the out lap, but nonetheless, I couldn’t beat that time that he did today. He fully deserved the pole.”

    Reflecting on his pole position performance, Verstappen said the car felt much better in qualifying than it had been throughout practice.

    “I think we definitely improved the car again in qualifying because so far this weekend it was a bit on and off,” he said.

    “I’m incredibly happy with this. I mean, this is of course what we wanted, but it’s never easy, especially with their form the last few races.

    “Now, I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, because that’s what was the most important.”

    Verstappen and Hamilton are on different strategies for the race, but the Dutchman does not feel starting on the softs will be that much of a disadvantage.

    “I felt good on both tyres,” he said. “Of course, naturally now in the evening, it’s a bit cooler. So it should be a bit easier for the soft tyres. But we’ll see tomorrow.

    “Of course it’s very important to have a good start. And from there onwards, you know, we just try to do our race to our very best. And we’ll see where we end up.”

    While Verstappen has a great chance of pushing on to grab the F1 title, Hamilton said he was pleased to be on the front row – and especially to be in a position where he could see where his championship rival was.

    “I’m still on the front row,” he said. “We’ve got the difference, obviously between the tyres, but I’m grateful I can see where he is! And then we can try and navigate from there.”

  4. McLaren’s Lando Norris feels “a bit nervous” about start behind Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. has the full story.

    Lando Norris has admitted that he feels a bit ‘nervous’ about starting Formula 1’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix right behind title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

    The McLaren driver has pulled off a surprise third spot on the grid at the Yas Marina circuit, as he got within touching distance of the two championship protagonists ahead of him.

    While Norris has no allegiance to either of the two drivers, so is free to race them as he chooses if he gets away well, he knows it’s not a straightforward situation.

    The youngster is well aware that he doesn’t want to trigger an unnecessary incident and risk taking out either the Mercedes or Red Bull ahead of him and wreck their title hopes.

    “I’m a bit nervous, because I kind of want to just stay where I am, and just watch everything unfold over the first few laps, or even the whole race,” he explained.

    “I also don’t want to really get involved too much because it can cause a lot of controversy. So I don’t know. I don’t know whether to go for the move or not go for the move…you tell me. But I’ll do my best and, if I have a chance, I’ll go for it.”

    Norris had been quite low key throughout the Abu Dhabi weekend before once again stepping it up in qualifying as he edged out the number two Red Bull and Mercedes cars.

    Asked where his brilliant final Q3 time had come from, Norris said: “I don’t know really! It came already in Q3 run one. I made some improvements, but also a few mistakes.

    “Then I just had a clean lap in the end. I went for pole, but it didn’t quite work out as it’s still a little bit off. But no, it was a nice lap to P3. It was a bit of a surprise.”

    McLaren is still fighting for third place in the constructors’ championship but, with it lying 38.5 points behind Ferrari in the standings, it would take a stroke of good fortune for it to deliver the result it needs to overhaul its Italian rival.

  5. Lewis Hamilton feels “a million times better” than ahead of 2016 title showdown when he was fighting for the world championship over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. has the news story.

    Lewis Hamilton feels “a million times better” going into his 2021 Formula 1 title decider against Max Verstappen than he did in 2016 against former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

    The Briton will enter his fourth F1 title decider in Abu Dhabi in Sunday’s race at Yas Marina, following the 2010 event that ended with Sebastian Vettel’s first championship triumph in a four-way scrap against Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Hamilton, then in 2014 and 2016 Hamilton and Rosberg had to-the-wire title battles decided at the same venue.

    In the latter contest, Hamilton won the race – as he did in 2014 and has on four other occasions at the Abu Dhabi track – but Rosberg finished second to inflict the only championship defeat Hamilton has suffered in F1’s turbo hybrid era.

    The 2021 season will conclude on Sunday, with Verstappen starting the race from pole position after stunning Mercedes, which had led the way on one-lap pace in practice, in Q3.

    That gives the Dutchman an early advantage in the winner-takes-all contest, where Verstappen and Hamilton enter level on points – the first time this has happened in F1 in 47 years.

    After losing out in qualifying to Verstappen on Saturday, Hamilton was asked to compare his feelings ahead of Sunday’s race to 2016 – the last time an F1 championship battle has gone down to the final event.

    “[I feel] a million times different,” he responded. “It’s a much, much different scenario. Completely different and a million times better I feel now than I did then. I feel good.”

    Hamilton said that explaining why he felt better in 2021 compared to five years was “not something I particularly want to go into” but added that he is “just in a different place in life than in 2016”.

    He continued: “[I’m] facing different resistance in life and this time I’m just in a different and much happier place.”

    When asked if he is a better driver now than in 2016, where Hamilton endured the worst of Mercedes’ reliability problems that year as well as making several costly slow starts compared to Rosberg, who retired from F1 immediately after winning the title, Hamilton replied: “Yes. And teammate.”

  6. Red Bull Racing didn’t plan to start Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on soft tyres. provides the details.

    Max Verstappen says Red Bull did not plan starting Formula 1’s 2021 Abu Dhabi finale on the less durable soft tyres, but insists it is not a disadvantage to Mercedes.

    Before he dominated Q3 to take pole at the Yas Marina track ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen had initially tried to get through Q2 on the mediums, the same compound his rival ran at that stage to take for the start of Sunday’s race.

    But after posting a time that would have got him through to Q3 on the mediums, Verstappen locked up at Turn 1 as his run on the yellow-walled rubber continued and he quickly reported that the set had been flat-spotted on the left-front.

    He therefore pitted and went back out on the softs, which he used to top Q2 and then go on to claim a 10th pole of the 2021 season.

    When asked if it was always the plan to start on the softer rubber, which was tracked degrading much more in the long runs that closed FP2 compared to the mediums, which offer greater strategic flexibility as well as longer life, Verstappen replied: “Well, naturally it wasn’t.

    “Because I wanted to try and start on the mediums, but I flat-spotted that one.

    “But I felt good yesterday on the long-run also on the softs. So, it’s not really a difficult decision to make to then just say OK, ‘let’s just focus on the soft’.”

    Hamilton, who was speaking alongside Verstappen in the post-qualifying press conference, said the differing tyre strategies between the pair was “interesting” and said he was “always kind of sceptical of everything”.

    He added: “So it will be interesting to go back and look at the information and onboard laps. It’s very rare that people lock up in Turn 1.

    “But if he truly did lock up in Turn 1, then maybe whether or not we’re in the better position in terms of that tyre [will become clear].

    “Or maybe they know something we don’t and that soft tyre was their plan all the time.

    “We struggled a little bit more on the soft tyre for the long runs. I think we’ve got the right tyre, but I guess we’ll see tomorrow.”

    Verstappen also explained that ahead of qualifying he had been feeling “a bit on and off in terms of [car] balance”.

    The Red Bull cars ran in their low downforce configuration with a skinnier rear wing.

    “For qualifying, we made the right decisions,” Verstappen added.

    “As soon as I went into qualifying, I had a bit of a better feeling, but nevertheless [in] Q1 still not perfect, still needed to fine-tune a few things.

    “But from Q2 onwards it was a bit better, but of course in Q2 I had my flat spot on the medium set so I had to go out on the softs again.

    “But then in Q3 basically both laps [the car felt good]– the last lap until [Turns] 12-13 I was more or less on the same lap time. The car felt pretty decent in these final two laps.”

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