Verstappen surprises Mercedes to take Abu Dhabi pole position

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

Max Verstappen didn't record a single best sector, but put together the best overall lap to beat both Mercedes for the first time this year. Just a few hundredths slower was Valtteri Bottas while Lewis Hamilton qualified in third.

After an anonymous third free practice session, Mercedes were out to prove something, and they soon did, as Bottas went fastest halfway into Q1. Lewis Hamilton was close, but his first lap was cancelled due to not respecting the limits of the track at Turn 20. In the event, Hamilton seemingly damaged the car's floor somewhat as he skated over the sausage kerbs, throwing sparks all over the place.

Hamilton sorted the situation a few minutes later by setting the 7th best time, enough to make it through to Q2.

Verstappen, Perez, Albon and Stroll were second to 6th, though for Perez, times didn't really matter at all, as a penalty meant he would have the start the race from the back of the grid anyway.

The closing stages saw more improvements across the field with Hamilton actually jumping up into first with a last minute attempt. Leclerc improved to third. Raikkonen got eliminated while his teammate Giovinazzi progressed into Q2, for the second time in a row.

Both Haas cars were out as well, along with the Williams drivers. Russell explained "the tyre were just nowhere" while Latifi spun when starting his final lap. He was going slowly to get some space ahead, but the aggressive acceleration out of Turn 21 made him spin, obviously removing any chance for improvement on his last effort.

The second part of qualifying kicked off with both Mercedes taking the track, Hamilton leading Bottas out of the pitlane. Just like both Red Bulls, the Ferraris, Renaults and Sainz, they opted for the medium compound tyres.

Hamilton emerged fastest, with Bottas within a tenth. Behind them, the fastest driver was Norris on soft edging out his own team mate on mediums by 4 tenths. Verstappen ended up 5th after those first laps, with the Dutchman complained that the tyres were bad at the end of his lap - despite being on mediums. Albon was even worse off, as his laptime was deleted for going too wide at Turn 20.

Similarly, Ricciardo's time was deleted for going off track on the exit of Turn 21.

While the track was quiet, Perez went out for a final qualifying outing for Racing Point. Though he returned to the pits at the end of his out-lap, Perez was applauded by his crew, and encouraged for the race ahead after returning back to the pitbox.

At the end, both Mercedes returned to the track on soft, without setting a better time. Verstappen and Albon got through; Verstappen on medium, Albon on soft.

In the fight for third place, Stroll and both McLarens are on the top 10 while both Renaults just missed out.

The first laps in Q3 saw everybody out on soft tyres, and obviously with the engines turned up to the maximum. It resulting in a very close top 4, both Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton and Albon less than two tents from one another. Bottas ended up fastest thanks to a purple S2 and S3, but that was just 0.156s faster than Albon in 4th.

Both McLarens were next up. Sainz was closest, exactly 4 tenths slower than Bottas.

The small differences continued in the second attempts, with Hamilton first improving to take provisional pole, then Bottas returning the favour, and eventually Verstappen beating both Mercedes with a few hundredths.

Lando Norris also pulled off an amazing lap to go 4th fastest, topping Albon and Sainz who both didn't manage to improve on their first attempts.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarQ1Q2Q3Laps
133Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda1:35.9931:35.6411:35.24619
277Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG1:35.6991:35.5271:35.27118
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG1:35.5281:35.4661:35.33220
44Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault1:36.0161:35.8491:35.49717
523Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing Honda1:36.1061:35.6541:35.57115
655Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault1:36.5171:36.1921:35.81514
726Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri Honda1:36.4591:36.2141:35.96320
818Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:36.5021:36.1431:36.04615
916Charles LeclercFerrari1:35.8811:35.9321:36.06520
1010Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri Honda1:36.5451:36.2821:36.24220
1131Esteban OconRenault1:36.7831:36.359-12
123Daniel RicciardoRenault1:36.7041:36.406-9
135Sebastian VettelFerrari1:36.6551:36.631-12
1499Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:37.0751:38.248-12
1511Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:36.034--4
167Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:37.555--6
1720Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari1:37.863--9
1863George RussellWilliams Mercedes1:38.045--8
1951Pietro FittipaldiHaas Ferrari1:38.173--9
206Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes1:38.443--7

Note - Leclerc penalised three grid places for causing a collision at the previous round.
Perez and Magnussen required to start race from back of grid for use of additional power unit elements.