Max Verstappen denied Mercedes a closing front-row lockout of the season by snatching pole place within the dying seconds of Saturday’s qualifying for the year-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Dutchman steered his Honda-powered Red Bull across the 5.5km-long Yas Marina circuit in a single minute, 35.246 seconds edging Mercedes’ provisional pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas by simply 0.025 seconds.
“I said before I went into qualifying, it’s going to be the final send of the season and we did that,” stated Verstappen after taking his third profession pole and first this season. “The whole year when you’re behind getting closer, it’s getting sometimes a bit frustrating.”
Verstappen’s dazzling show underneath the floodlights means it is going to be solely the second time in 17 races this season that Mercedes haven’t began from the entrance.
It was additionally the primary non-Mercedes pole place of the season with Lance Stroll’s qualifying-topping effort in Turkey set in his Mercedes-powered Racing Point, and solely the fourth time this season that Hamilton and Bottas haven’t locked out the entrance row.
“The main issue was we couldn’t really get the soft tyres to work properly as it should,” stated the 31-year-old Bottas. “The balance was not quite perfect.”
“It’s definitely been a difficult weekend,” stated the 35-year-old Briton. “It just felt like you’ve lost that momentum and really struggled so far with the balance this weekend.”
Verstappen had headed a Red Bull one-two from Alexander Albon in Saturday’s closing observe session. But Mercedes had been anticipated to strike again come the qualifying hour.
Hamilton led Bottas within the first two components of qualifying, with the pair wanting like favourites for a front-row lockout.
Verstappen, nonetheless, confirmed his pace as the ultimate shootout received underway, splitting his Mercedes rivals after his first run, earlier than posting the lap that deposed Bottas and Hamilton from the highest of the timesheets.
Lando Norris was a formidable fourth for McLaren, profitable the crew mate qualifying battle at McLaren towards Ferrari-bound Spaniard Carlos Sainz who was sixth.
Charles Leclerc was ninth for Ferrari however the Monegasque will drop three locations on the grid attributable to a penalty for inflicting a collision on the final race in Sakhir.
Sebastian Vettel was knocked out within the second section of his closing qualifying session for Ferrari. The German, transferring to Racing Point which is rebranding to Aston Martin subsequent 12 months, was 13th.
Sergio Perez, making manner for Vettel on the Silverstone-based crew, will begin behind the grid. The Mexican, who grew to become F1’s latest winner final weekend in Sakhir, is carrying engine-related penalties and did solely a warm-up lap within the second section of qualifying.