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