ABU DHABI GP – Max Verstappen takes pole by two-hundredths of a second ahead of the Mercedes

Testing & Race Reports

Max Verstappen has beaten Mercedes Valtteri Bottas by two-hundredths of a second to secure pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Dutchman put in his final lap which didn’t look faster through each sector, but when they were combined together it proved to be two hundredths faster than Bottas.

It marked the first time in dry conditions, that Mercedes has been out-qualified all season, and in Abu Dhabi since the beginning of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014. Red Bull had appeared to be closer to Mercedes in practice, but it was assumed that the champions would turn it up for qualifying.

However, Bottas and Lewis Hamilton couldn’t find enough and were left a few hundredths behind. Qualifying was shaping up to be one of the closest of the season, just a tenth between Verstappen and Hamilton in third. Bottas was four-hundredths faster than the seven-times champion.

Until Q3 it looked as if Verstappen didn’t have enough, but that soon changed, the Red Bull driver soon spilt the Mercedes but was a tenth and a half behind Hamilton. The Dutchman then had enough on his final run to take pole for the first time since Interlagos last year.

Bottas set the pace early on in Q3, Hamilton then went quicker before the Finn went faster but then Verstappen went fastest in the middle sector, along with two personal bests to set the fastest time and secure pole. The Finn believing the team were only marginally faster in FP3.

Mercedes only failed to take pole in the unique qualifying in Istanbul, where on a new surface and in the wet the champions struggled to generate tyre temperature. Hamilton’s worst qualifying of the season, in which he has been in the top two at all the races.

Hamilton, who missed the last race in Bahrain last weekend with coronavirus, said it had taken him time to get back into the swing of things on this return, even though it had only been two weeks since he last raced.

Verstappen saying “Very happy with that. It was quite a tricky qualifying, there are so many corners where you can mistake but luckily everything came together on that final lap.”

Hamilton said: “Honestly, really grateful be back here with the team and try to close out the strong season we’ve had. It has been a difficult weekend getting back into a rhythm. It was just a couple of weeks off but it felt like I’d lost momentum.”

“I struggled with the balance all weekend, but congratulations to Max – a great way to seal the season. But we’re going to give them a good run tomorrow.”

Lando Norris had his best qualifying since the opening race of the season, he put his McLaren fourth and was only a quarter of a second behind Verstappen. The Englishman was seven hundredths faster than the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz.

Norris sealing the qualifying head to head for 2020.

McLaren has put themselves back into the race for third in the constructors, they are ten points behind Racing Point, who struggled a bit more than expected. Alex Albon spilt the McLaren’s going fifth, he was three tenths behind Verstappen.

Carlos Sainz was sixth, the Spaniard going a tenth and a half ahead of Daniil Kvyat with Lance Stroll eighth. Charles Leclerc was ninth, the Ferrari driver eight tenths off the pace. However, the Monacan will start twelfth after a three-place grid penalty for the opening lap collision with Sergio Perez and Verstappen on lap one last weekend.

Pierre Gasly made it through to Q3 and the Alpha Tauri driver starts tenth, the Frenchman almost eight tenths behind Leclerc.

Renault was the biggest surprise, after going fourth and fifth in FP3 both Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo were knocked out in Q2. Ocon, a bit surprised with the loss of performance in the break between sessions.

Ricciardo only managed one timed run in Q2, he made a mistake on his first exceeding track limits and had the time deleted. That also harms there battle with McLaren and Racing Point for third, with McLaren in fourth and fifth, Renault not getting through to Q3 and Perez starting last.

Sebastian Vettel starts his final race for Ferrari thirteenth, the four-times champion two tenths behind his former teammate. Vettel saying he “gave it everything I had,” but he was seven tenths off Leclerc, despite his teammate being on the slower tyre.

Antonio Giovinazzi was slowest of those who set a time in Q2 going fourteenth. Like Ricciardo his time was deleted in Q1, the Italian ran wide at the final corner, before improving on his last lap knocking Raikkonen out.

Perez opted not to set a time, the Mexican sat out the rest of the session knowing an engine change sends him to the back of the grid.

Kimi Raikkonen missed out on Q2 by half a second but was three tenths faster than Kevin Magnussen. The Haas driver joins Perez on the back row because of an engine change, for his final race with the team

George Russell was eighteenth, keeping up his record of out-qualifying his Williams teammates going almost four-tenths faster than Nicholas Latifi. They will be spilt by Pietro Fittipaldi, who was a quarter of a second faster than the Canadian.



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