Max Verstappen scored his only pole position of the year by a mere 0.025s from Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team’s Valtteri Bottas during today’s qualifying session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver Verstappen hadn’t expected to be in the fight for the final pole position of the season, with Mercedes having dominated the top spot for all but two qualifying sessions during the seventeen race season. Max had even jokingly removed the third place seat from the media area so he wouldn’t have to sit in it again this weekend.
“It was a very nice lap. I didn’t really expect to fight for pole today but it is very satisfying and at least we have one pole this year with the dominance Mercedes have had and we can be very pleased with that,” said Verstappen.
The Dutchman had gotten his hand stuck under the steering wheel through the early part of qualifying, but was able to make it to the top-ten shootout, Q3, and put in his best lap of the 2020 season.
“It wasn’t the most straightforward qualifying, of course initially I had my hand stuck under the wheel so I had a poor lap and then after that with the medium tyre it was not so easy but on the second run we made a few changes and then it seemed a bit better.” Max continued, “it won’t be easy tomorrow as they have two cars behind me that can do different strategies and try to put me under pressure but I’m going to give it all I have and have fun out there. We have a shot at the win but whatever happens today has been a great day.”
Max’s team-mate Alexander Albon will start tomorrow’s race from fifth on the grid, after describing his qualifying as the ‘best and most competitive’ session of the year. The top five were separated by only 0.325s.
“It was my best and most competitive qualifying of the year and whilst I’m happy with my performance,” said Albon. “The car was really hooked up, we had a good balance and I was feeling strong after the first Q3 run but I wanted it a bit too much. In sector one I pushed too hard too soon and the tyres were done from thereon, so whilst the track was getting faster and faster I didn’t have the grip and couldn’t improve my time.
“It was super close out there and the gap was the closest it’s been all year so there are positives to take and on a personal note it’s been a strong weekend for me, it’s progress and that’s important. Now I’m just focused on taking that into tomorrow’s race as it’s all still to play for out there and I’m positive we can do something good. Max getting pole is obviously great for the Team too so well done to him and now it’s all eyes on tomorrow and the last race of the season.”
Team Principal Christian Horner, praised Verstappen and Albon’s final performances of the season, whilst also commending the team’s hard work from the short, jam-packed season.
He said: “Max put in a phenomenal performance today and strung together the perfect lap. He has just been mighty this year and you always know you can bank on him. He always gives it everything and he’s able to surprise you, like he’s done today, so now it’s important we convert that into a great result tomorrow.
“Alex has also done a decent job today, it’s as close as he’s been in the past four or five races, and he will play an important role in tomorrow’s race. I think the race pace on the soft tyre versus the medium hasn’t quite got the distance but it has the pace early on so hopefully he can get a good start and fight at the front.
“Everybody has worked so hard this year and as a Team it epitomises everything when it all comes together like it has today. The Team have kept improving the car this year meanwhile we’ve also had nine out of the top 10 fastest pit stops this year so the crew have just been remarkable.”