Verstappen beats Leclerc to final pole position in 2023

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen snatched pole position at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and McLaren's Lando Norris. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó reports on the final qualifying session of 2023.

Q1 - Sainz knocked out

The opening stages of Q1 saw drivers wait in the garages as everyone wanted to have the best track conditions. Moreover, the practice sessions indicated that Pirelli's soft tyres offered the best grip on the first lap which meant that timing was crucial in qualifying.

Max Verstappen appeared to stuggle for pace in the practice sessions, but he picked up his speed as things got serious in qualifying. The Dutchman set the best time of the session with a 1m24.160s with his team-mate Sergio Perez ending the session right behind.

Having topped the final practice earlier today, George Russell set the 4th quickest time while his teammate Lewis Hamilton finished two places behind.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc ended the session in P10 as he struggled for pace in the early part of the session.

Carlos Sainz was the big name to fall in Q1 as the Spaniard failed to progress into Q2 after setting only the 16th quickest lap.

Alfa Romeo drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu and Haas racer Kevin Magnussen did not manage to get themselves through into the second qualifying segment. Williams driver Logan Sargeant looke quick, but he had his best time deleted which means that he will line up last on the grid when the lights go green in the season-ending Abu Dhabi F1 race.

Carlos Sainz, Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant were eliminated at the end of Q1.

Q2 - Hamilton endures shock elimination

Verstappen continued to impress when drivers rolled out on to the Yas Marina Circuit in Q2. The Dutchman used a new set of C5 tyres to set a blistering time of 1m23.740s

It was once again very tight in the middle part of qualifying and everyone bar Verstappen needed a perfect final lap on fresh softs at the end of the session to have a chance for progression into Q3.

The two Red Bulls and the two McLarens made it through into Q3 with Russell, Leclerc and Fernando Alonso also progressing into into the final part of qualifying.

Yuki Tsunoda has had difficult qualifying sessions recently, but he fought his way through into Q3. Having struggled for pace earlier in the session, Pierre Gasly also secured his place in Q3 alongside Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, who delivered another impressive one-lap performance to get his Haas into Q3.

The big surprise was Lewis Hamilton, who had no apparent issues on his last lap, but he was unable to progress into Q3 for the second time of asking after his woes in Las Vegas. The Briton noted on the team radio that “there’s something not right with this car."

Lewis Hamilton, Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon, Daniel Ricciardo were eliminated at the end of Q2.

Q3 - Leclerc impresses

The last segment of qualifying saw drivers complete their first flying lap on a used set of soft tyres with the only exception being Verstappen, who was able to save a new set of C5 compound in Q2.

The Dutchman set a 1m23.445s on his first flying lap which he was unable to better on his second hot lap in the dying stages of the session.

Having struggled for one-lap pace all day long, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc delivered an eye-catching performance on his last flying lap, putting his Ferrari in P2, beating his rivals who looked significantly stronger both in FP3 and in qualifying.

Oscar Piastri delivered when it really mattered as he set the third quickest time, beating George Russell and his team-mate Lando Norris, who nearly put his McLaren into the barriers on his very last push lap in Q3.

AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda was the last driver to set a lap under the 1m24 mark which was enough for him to secure P6 on the grid. Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso's best effort was enough for P7, followed by Nico Hulkenberg, who put in a great performance to secure the eighth starting position for Haas.

Having posted encouraging lap times earlier in the session, Red Bull's Sergio Perez was unable to keep up with the pace of his direct rivals and had his best lap time deleted which saw him secure a disappointing P9.

Alpine driver Pierre Gasly managed to progress into Q3, but he could not put a good lap together in the closing stages of qualifying and set only the tenth-fastest lap, half a second slower than what he managed earlier in Q2.


11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt1:24.1601:23.7401:23.44515
216Charles LeclercFerrari1:24.4591:23.9691:23.58418
381Oscar PiastriMclaren Mercedes1:24.4871:24.2781:23.78217
463George RussellMercedes1:24.3371:24.0131:23.78818
54Lando NorrisMclaren Mercedes1:24.3681:23.9201:23.81616
622Yuki TsunodaAlphatauri Honda Rbpt1:24.2861:24.2071:23.96818
714Fernando AlonsoAston Martin Aramco Mercedes1:24.5011:24.1311:24.08418
827Nico HulkenbergHaas Ferrari1:24.4251:24.2131:24.10818
911Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt1:24.2091:24.1161:24.17117
1010Pierre GaslyAlpine Renault1:24.6001:24.0781:24.54818
1144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:24.4371:24.35912
1231Esteban OconAlpine Renault1:24.5651:24.39112
1318Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes1:24.4051:24.42212
1423Alexander AlbonWilliams Mercedes1:24.2981:24.43912
153Daniel RicciardoAlphatauri Honda Rbpt1:24.4611:24.44212
1655Carlos SainzFerrari1:24.7386
1720Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari1:24.7646
1877Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:24.7886
1924Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:25.1596
RT2Logan SargeantWilliams Mercedes6