Max Verstappen took an emphatic pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi after a master stroke in strategy from Red Bull in Q3.
Was that the all-important moment in this historic weekend? The pole sitter in the last six races at Abu Dhabi has won the race, will that continue tomorrow? It is a huge contrast to last week when Verstappen’s error cost him massively in qualifying.
While the stats are suggesting Verstappen will take the race victory and with it the championship, will race strategy be the decider? Red Bull were forced onto the soft tyres to start the race on after a lock up in Q2 meant Verstappen flat spotted a set.
The championship leader has an eight metre advantage at the start and in tyre, putting him in the perfect position to get a good start and waltz off into the distance, while Hamilton will have to fight off a cluster of cars around him on the soft tyre from P2.
George Russell Beaten
For only the second time in conventional qualifying this season, Nicholas Latifi finished higher than George Russell. Unfortunately for Williams, both drivers couldn’t make it out of Q1.
After initial runs, Hamilton led Verstappen by just 0.05 seconds, but on a final flying lap, Hamilton got the sought after three purples. It was only Q1, but Hamilton put over 4 tenths between him and Verstappen who was 3rd. Valtteri Bottas finished 2nd.
Nikita Mazepin, Mick Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, George Russell, Nicholas Latifi all exited in Q1. Not the way Raikkonen wanted his final qualifying session to go before retirement. Nikita Mazepin ended the season as the only driver to not make it out of Q1 at least once.
Red Bull Strategy Call
The opening runs in Q2 saw both Mercedes and Red Bull opt for mediums. Christian Horner on the pit wall told Sky Sports they were ’50/50′ on mediums or softs for the race start. On a second run on mediums, Verstappen locked up and flat spotted a set of, forcing the hand of Red Bull.
They decided to start the race on soft tyres, with both Verstappen and Sergio Perez qualifying on them. In contrast to Mercedes who stuck with the mediums, interesting for tomorrow’s race start and strategy.
Credit has to be given to Yuki Tsunoda who managed to get P8 in Q2 on the medium compound tyre to give Alpha Tauri options in the race with the Japanese driver.
Sebastian Vettel, Antonio Giovinazzi, Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso were the drivers lost in Q2.
Max Verstappen Gets One Hand on the Title?
The opening runs for Mercedes and Red Bull saw the team game played perfectly by Verstappen and Perez. The former sacrificed his first run to give Verstappen a tow in sector two to bridge the gap to Hamilton and Mercedes, which they did emphatically.
Verstappen took pole by 0.371 ahead of Hamilton with Lando Norris 3rd. The bad news for Mercedes is Bottas is down in P6. That’ll make it harder for him to help his teammate in the race.
Max Verstappen was delighted with pole: “It’s of course an amazing feeling… I’m incredibly happy with this, this is what we wanted, but it’s never easy, especially with their form in the last few races.”
Lewis Hamilton praised his rival, but remained optimistic: “Max did a great lap and we couldn’t answer that today. He fully deserves the pole. But we think we’re in a good position with our tyres tomorrow and we’re hoping for a good race. I’m still on the front row and we’ll navigate from there.”
Lando Norris predicted a cautious start from P3: “I wanted pole, didn’t quite work out, I was a little bit off! It was a nice lap to be P3, it was a bit of a surprise. I kind of just want to see everything unfold, but I don’t want to get involved too much.”
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