Verstappen takes pole position for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 09: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing looks on at the Red Bull Racing team photo during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 09, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202112090289 // Usage for editorial use only //

If you were watching the Free Practice session, you’d get the impression that Mercedes look like the car to beat in the Abu Dhabi grand Prix and despite not claiming pole position, that still could be the case given the tire difference, race strategy and overall race pace but if there was a chance to change the narrative, Red Bull and Max Verstappen certainly wrote their own story on Saturday’s qualifying session.

The session had a slight twist in that Max Verstappen looked set to start on the same Medium compound as Lewis Hamilton but a second run in Q2 created a flat spot and he made a final run on the Soft compound, along with his teammate Sergio Perez, meaning both Red Bull’s would will start of Soft tires while both Mercedes will start on the Medium compound.

Whether that choice was planned or made for them with the flat spot, it’ shard to know but the real surprise came in Q3 when Max was able to take pole by 0.371s over Legs Hamilton’s Mercedes and both were on the Soft compound tires. Could that simply be that the Mercedes doesn’t like the Soft as much as it does the Medium or was there genuine pace in the Red Bull that has revealed itself in Abu Dhabi when it hasn’t been present in the last three races?

Mercedes long-run pace looks good and on Medium tires, they should have a decent strategy for Sunday while Red Bull’s hope will be the they can take advantage of the Soft tires to get a good start but then also make them last as long as possible. Could the choice of Soft tires force Red Bull into a 2-stop race with a pit lane delta of 23s? That may be a very challenging strategy to overhaul the Mercedes.

It’s not over yet and despite a good pole position for Verstappen, there is a lot of work to do yet and Mercedes will not go quietly. Much depends on the tire performance, the start and how the strategies play out on top of any potential clashes between the two title contenders.

Abu Dhabi Qualifying Results:

1Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1m23.322s1m22.8s1m22.109s
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m22.845s1m23.145s1m22.48s
3Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1m23.553s1m23.256s1m22.931s
4Sergio PérezRed Bull-Honda1m23.35s1m23.135s1m22.947s
5Carlos Sainz Jr.Ferrari1m23.624s1m23.174s1m22.992s
6Valtteri BottasMercedes1m23.117s1m23.246s1m23.036s
7Charles LeclercFerrari1m23.467s1m23.202s1m23.122s
8Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1m23.428s1m23.404s1m23.22s
9Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1m23.764s1m23.42s1m23.389s
10Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1m23.829s1m23.448s1m23.409s
11Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1m23.846s1m23.46s
12Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1m23.489s1m24.043s
13Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1m24.061s1m24.066s
14Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1m24.118s1m24.251s
15Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1m24.225s1m24.305s
16Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1m24.338s
17George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1m24.423s
18Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1m24.779s
19Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1m24.906s
20Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1m25.685s
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Melton Ricke

For me, this by far has been the most entertaining season in quite sometime. Takes me back to the FA/MS battles for the championship when Fernando wasn’t going to be denied. Max is definitely more subdued than Freddie was back then for sure. Gonna be a fun race.

Glen Mhor

All set up for a great race.

jiji the cat

Great season and i concurr with the below comments, however was this the most underwhelming qualifing this season? Felt a little flat.