Superb Verstappen grabs pole position for Abu Dhabi GP from Bottas and Hamilton

Max Verstappen grabbed a superb first pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as a scintillating late lap saw him edge the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

It had looked as if Bottas would take his second consecutive pole after he beat Hamilton’s stand-in George Russell to the top slot at Bahrain last time out. But Verstappen was in stunning form to eclipse the Finn’s time by just .025s.

“I said before qualifying that it would be the final send of the season, and we did that,” said a delighted Verstappen afterward. “Very happy with that, it was quite a tricky qualifying in the beginning, you had to get your lap right especially at the tricky last corner where you can make a mistake. But yeah, luckily everything came together on that final lap.

“It’s a long season for everyone and especially a lot of races in a row. So I think this was a good final qualifying for everyone in the team and for sure we are very happy with it. We have a whole year when you’re behind, getting closer, it’s getting sometimes a bit frustrating but very, very pleased with today.”

For Bottas, it was a case of so close to another pole position trophy, but nonetheless he will be pleased to have outqualified his teammate again.

“We saw in practice 3 that the Red Bull, especially in the hands of Max, was pretty quick,” said Bottas. “I think the main issue was that we didn’t get the soft tyres to work properly as they should, so all the way up to qualifying the medium tyre was feeling better for us than the soft. I think we made some improvements but looking at the result I don’t think we got 100% out of the single ap on the tyres.

“And the lap itself I wasn’t fully happy with how everything went and the balance was not quite perfect. Obviously small margins. Towards the end of the qualifying I started to struggle a bit with the front end of the car with the track temp cooling down, so then it made it difficult to improve more.”

For the second season running, it was Lando Norris who pipped outgoing teammate Carlos Sainz in the qualifying head-to-head by a solitary race, the Englishman a superb fourth fastest with Alexander Albon the filling in the McLaren sandwich. Daniil Kvyat was next for Alpha Tauri, as Lance Stroll, Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top ten.

Tomorrow, all eyes will be on whether or not Verstappen can keep the Mercedes duo behind him and end the season on a high.

“We did a lot of laps, everyone, so we still have to wait and see how that goes,” added the Dutchman. “But we’ll try to do our best to keep them behind. They’re still very fast but seems like we have a decent top speed this weekend so hopefully that will work out for tomorrow.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.