ABU DHABI • Earlier on Friday, Max Verstappen joked that he was ready to claim his P3 seat behind the Mercedes duo after free practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
But the Red Bull driver was thrilled after claiming his maiden pole position of the campaign yesterday at the Yas Marina circuit.
The Dutchman edged out Valtteri Bottas into second spot, with the Finn’s Mercedes world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton qualifying third on his return from a one-race absence due to Covid-19.
“Very happy with that. It was quite a tricky qualifying, there are so many corners where you can make mistakes but luckily everything came together on that final lap,” said Verstappen, who had a fastest lap of 1min 35.246sec.
“It’s a long season for everyone, with a lot of races in a row. I think this was a good final qualifying for everyone in the team and for sure we are very happy with that.
“It’s great to finally get there after being close many times in 2020. Very, very pleased with today. It seems like we have a decent top speed this weekend. Hopefully this will work out for tomorrow.”
His time was 0.025sec quicker than Bottas, while Hamilton was 0.086sec off the pace. Verstappen’s display around the 5.5km lap earned him only the third pole of his career and his first since last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
It was only the second time Mercedes were denied pole this season and the first time all year that a non-Mercedes powered car will start from the front, with Lance Stroll having started on pole for Mercedes-engined Racing Point in Turkey.
“We saw in P3 that Red Bull and especially Max were pretty quick. The main issue is we couldn’t get the soft tyres to work properly,” said Bottas. “I wasn’t fully happy with how everything went. The balance wasn’t perfect. Small margins and tomorrow is a new day.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, admitted that it had been a difficult weekend “getting back into a rhythm”.
“Even though it’s only a couple of weeks off it just felt like you’d lost that momentum and I’ve really struggled with the balance,” he added. “But still I gave it my all and congratulations to Max… I’m excited to see how I can turn it around.”
- ABU DHABI GP GRID
1 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
3 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
4 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren
5 Alex Albon (Tha) Red Bull
6 Carlos Sainz (Esp) Renault
7 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) AlphaTauri
8 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point
9 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
10 Pierre Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri
13 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
15 Sergio Perez (Mex)
16 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin)
Behind the top three, Lando Norris was fourth for McLaren ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon and teammate Carlos Sainz, who was sixth in his final qualifying for the team before his move to Ferrari.
Sebastian Vettel was knocked out in the second phase of his final qualifying session for Ferrari. The German, moving to Racing Point which is rebranding to Aston Martin next year, was 13th.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
F1 ABU DHABI GP
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