Red Bull's Max Verstappen was the fastest man in qualifying today and is therefore set to start from first place in tomorrow's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton was second fastest and will start alongside his title rival.
Many many cars ventured out on track as soon as the session started. Even the Championship contenders were out early, eager to set a time to avoid getting into trouble with traffic or stoppages.
Verstappen was the first of the main contenders to set a laptime but it was soon improved upon by Hamilton and then Bottas who slotted into between. In fact, even Perez ended up ahead of Verstappen but the Dutchman's second attempt on the same tyres was much better, improving to second at 0.056s off Hamilton's best.
Six minutes from the end the session was briefly stopped. A bollard was left out on track after Mick Schumacher cut the final corner a bit too aggressively and ripped it off. Norris later almost had it stuck in his sidepod before everybody was forced to return to the pits to allow a marshall to safely get the obstacle out of the way.
After the stoppage, both Ferraris were out first but nearly everybody came out of the pits to give it another go. Only Verstappen and both McLaren's stayed in to avoid burning an additional set of tyres.
Both Mercedes did go faster to top the times again. Behind Perez in fourth, Tsunoda was 5th fastest, followed by Leclerc, Gasly, Norris, Sainz and Ocon. Giovinazzi and Vettel only just made it through - despite traffic - while the Williams and Haas drivers were out, along with the retiring Finn of Alfa Romeo, Kimi Räikkönen.
The second part of qualifying saw most drivers choose the medium compound tyre. Ferrari, Alpine and Aston Martin did not, just like Daniel Ricciardo while his McLaren teammate Norris indeed chose the soft.
Halfway into the session, Sainz popped up atop the timesheet, narrowly ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc and Bottas. All 5 were within a tenth while 6th fastest Tsunoda was also only 0.230s behind Sainz. Both Alpines followed up in 7th and 8th, followed by Norris and Perez.
As Perez didn't put in the greatest lap, Verstappen's "flat spot, massive" message to his pitwall was an additional worry for Red Bull Racing. To avoid having to start Verstappen on this set of tyres, he was going to have to go faster on a second set.
Two minutes from the end everybody was looking for a clear bit of track to get their final attempt in, resulting in another awkward situation that triggered Sainz to say "wow, it's like a race out here" as everybody was trying to pass one another, but at reduced speeds to not wear the tyres too much before the flying lap.
For this late attempt, both Red Bulls switched to softs and topped the times, resulting in a different starting tyre compared to the Mercedes. Daniel Ricciardo also made it through in 10th while Alonso just dropped out, very unhappy with Ricciardo's actions the lap before where the Spaniard was probably somewhat hindered in the last few corners of his flyer. The incident was "noted" by the stewards.
In the final part of qualifying it was Perez who led everybody out on track, followed by Verstappen. Hamilton crossed the line 20 seconds later but ended up more than half a second off of Verstappen's lap. Tsunoda was third for a moment up until the deletion of his laptime for exceeding track limits. Perez then moved up into third by going faster on his second lap on the softs after he helped Verstappen with some slipstream on his first lap. Bottas was fourth after the first laps, ahead of Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, Ocon and Ricciardo.
The second outing didn't see Verstappen improve, but it was enough to get pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Lando Norris surprised to end up in third, followed by Perez and Sainz. Valtteri Bottas was a disappointing 6th in his final qualifying for Mercedes.
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:23.322||1:22.800||1:22.109||19|
|3||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:23.553||1:23.256||1:22.931||20|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:23.350||1:23.135||1:22.947||24|
|8||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda||1:23.428||1:23.404||1:23.220||22|
|9||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:23.764||1:23.420||1:23.389||20|
|10||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:23.829||1:23.448||1:23.409||19|
|11||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:23.846||1:23.460||12|
|12||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Honda||1:23.489||1:24.043||16|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:24.061||1:24.066||17|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:24.118||1:24.251||17|
|15||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:24.225||1:24.305||18|
|16||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:24.338||8|
|17||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:24.423||7|
|18||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:24.779||8|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:24.906||9|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas Ferrari||1:25.685||9|