Verstappen grabs final pole of the season ahead of Perez and Leclerc

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

Max Verstappen came out on top of a thrilling battle to claim the pole position for the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating his team mate Sergio Perez and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó reports on the qualifying session.

Eye-catching performance from Vettel in Q1

It was AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, who led the timesheets with a 1m26.135s early on in Q1, a tenth ahead of Schumacher. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc then quickly beat the Japanese’s lap time with a 1m25.211s, but Red Bull’s Sergio Perez went nearly 0.4s quicker just a few moments later.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen had a clean first hot lap, and went by 0.066s faster than his Mexican teammate. In the meantime, Carlos Sainz put his Ferrari SF-75 in P3 after making a mistake on his first effort.

Each driver went for a second run bar the Ferrari duo with most drivers opting for a new set of C5 compound, but the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers stick to their set of red-walled tyres on which they completed their previous flying laps.

The biggest surprise was Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who produced a mighty lap to take sixth at the end of the first part of the qualifying session.

Following his shock pole position last time out at Sao Paulo just a week ago, Kevin Magnussen was unable to progress from Q1 with the Danish driver complaining about traffic. Despite his eye-catching laps in Free Practice 3, Alexander Albon did not manage to earn a promotion into Q2 and only beat his team mate Nicholas Latifi by just a few thousands of a second.

Kevin Magnussen, Pierre Gasly, Valtteri Bottas, Alexander Albon and Nicholas Latifi were knocked out at the end of Q1.

Ferrari back in top form in Q2

Mercedes sent their drivers out on to the Yas Marina circuit quite early on in the second segment of qualifying. On their used soft tyres from Q1, Hamilton posted a 1m25.722s, but Russell managed to topple him by 0.4s.

Perez shocked the competition by a huge lap of 1m24.419s, putting himself 0.4s ahead of his team mate Verstappen.

Despite being hindered by traffic on multiple occasions, Vettel completed another superb lap to go only half a second slower than what Perez was able to do earlier on.

In the dying minutes of Q2, Ferrari drivers Leclerc and Sainz showed eye-catching pace on the new C5 tyres, ending the session second and third fastest respectively only a tenth behind Perez.

McLaren managed to carry over their fine form from Q1 with Norris and Ricciardo both getting the promotion into the last qualifying section. However, McLaren’s arch rival in the Constructors’ Championship, Alpine had a slightly worse showing with Ocon managing to get himself through into Q3, but Fernando Alonso failing to go faster than P11.

Fernando Alonso, Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher, Lance Stroll and Zhou Guanyu were knocked out at the end of Q2.

Thirlling battle in Q3

Verstappen led the way with a time of 1m 23.988s after the first Q3 runs and improved to a 1m 23.824s on his final lap. Despite setting the pace in the middle part of the qualifying session, Perez was unable to beat his team mate, and had to contend himself with a second place in the end, finishing the session two tenths of a second adrift of Verstappen.

Leclerc has been complaining about the behaviour of his car across the entire weekend, but he demonstrated his class once more by grabbing P3 on the grid only a fraction behind Perez. His team mate Sainz appeared to have the upper hand, but his final effort saw him end up fourth fastest, two tenths of a second behind the fast Monegasque driver.

There was nothing to chose between Hamilton and Russell in qualifying, and in the end the seven-time world champion managed to beat his young team mate, but the duo was separated by only three thousands of a second and will line up in P5 and P6 in the season-closing grand prix.

Lando Norris grabbed seventh in his McLaren, ahead of Alpine rival Esteban Ocon. Four time world champion Vettel stormed to ninth during his final F1 qualifying session, while Ricciardo rounded out the top 10, albeit the Australian will serve a three-place grid penalty for crashing with Kevin Magnussen in last weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.


11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Rbpt1:24.7541:24.6221:23.82417
211Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Rbpt1:24.8201:24.4191:24.05218
316Charles LeclercFerrari1:25.2111:24.5171:24.09217
455Carlos SainzFerrari1:25.0901:24.5211:24.24216
544Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:25.5941:24.7741:24.50821
663George RussellMercedes1:25.5451:24.9401:24.51120
74Lando NorrisMclaren Mercedes1:25.3871:24.9031:24.76917
831Esteban OconAlpine Renault1:25.7351:25.0071:24.83017
95Sebastian VettelAston Martin Aramco Mercedes1:25.5231:24.9741:24.96118
103Daniel RicciardoMclaren Mercedes1:25.7661:25.0681:25.04515
1114Fernando AlonsoAlpine Renault1:25.7821:25.09612
1222Yuki TsunodaAlphatauri Rbpt1:25.6301:25.21915
1347Mick SchumacherHaas Ferrari1:25.7111:25.22515
1418Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes1:25.7411:25.35915
1524Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:25.5941:25.40812
1620Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari1:25.8349
1710Pierre GaslyAlphatauri Rbpt1:25.8599
1877Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:25.8926
1923Alexander AlbonWilliams Mercedes1:26.0289
206Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes1:26.0549