Formula 1

Verstappen steals pole from Mercedes in F1’s final qualifying of the season

3 Mins read
Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen took a shock pole position at the final race of the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with Valtteri Bottas following mere hundredths behind at the spectacular Yas Marina Circuit.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was in third position with Lando Norris 0.195s behind on the second row. Alexander Albon, Carlos Sainz Jr., Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll, Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly completed the top 10 positions.

This starting will be important for the race tomorrow night, (which has clear skies forecast) as the track is expected to restrict overtaking. The three Pirelli tyre compounds for the race are a step softer than those at Sakhir, with the C3, C4 and C5 sets being utilised this weekend.

Q1: Pit-lane pileup

The first part of Qualifying was marred from the outset with some pit-lane troubles after Williams F1 Team’s Nicholas Latifi forced practice-leader Max Verstappen to slam on the brakes- causing flat spots on the RB16. It didn’t harm the Dutchman though, as he advanced to the fastest fifteen with no heartache other than a bad temper.

Verstappen wasn’t the only one struggling at the start, upon his return after missing the Sakhir GP, Lewis Hamilton started a scruffy lap by mounting the curb at the penultimate corner, scraping the floor in doing so. The floor of the car was checked but no damage was found, and the Brit made it through to the second part of qualifying without any further issues after fitting another set of tyres to his Mercedes.

The slowest five featured the usual suspects, the two Williams’ (George Russell ahead of Latifi), the two Haas F1 Team cars of Kevin Magnussen ahead of Pietro Fittipaldi in his second grand prix, and Kimi Raikkonen, beaten by his team-mate for the eighth time.

Q2: Disaster for Renault

The second part of qualifying was a gamble for the teams in terms of strategies. Those looking to start tomorrow on a better race compound opted to set their laps on the yellow-walled mediums, whilst others decided to utilise the C5 softs to ensure their place in the pole-shootout.

A number of laps were deleted in the second session as race director Michael Masi stayed true to his clamp-down on track limits. Alexander Albon had his lap-time good enough for fourth invalidated as well as Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in his final race for the French marque.

Even though he made it through to the final part of the session, Max Verstappen had a tough time of it in Q2. He referenced high tyre drop-off on his first lap and was also pulled in for a random visit to the weigh bridge.

In his final race for the prancing horse, Sebastian Vettel could not make it into the top ten, marking a disastrous year for the German. The disappointment continued as neither of the Renaults could make it into the fight for pole either. Antonio Giovinazzi was eliminated along with Sergio Perez who will start from the back tomorrow.

Q3: Verstappen masterclass

The final (and most important) twelve-minute shootout started with the Mercedes drivers in a class of their own in the fight for pole position, as Hamilton and Bottas set the pace with the first of the one-minute-thirty-fives.

Bottas took provisional pole early, ahead of Verstappen who split the two Mercedes. The McLaren F1 Team pair occupied the third row in their last Qualifying as team-mates, and the final runs were eagerly anticipated to see who could master the marina.

Out of nowhere, Verstappen put in a stupendous lap to steal pole by the finest of margins whilst the two Mercedes’ were fighting each other. It marks the first non-Mercedes-powered pole of the season and Verstappen’s first pole in Abu Dhabi.

Bottas and Hamilton finished second and third, closely followed by Lando Norris after a strong lap put him fourth. Albon completed the top five in the other Red Bull after a relatively mediocre performance.

2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying

Pos#DriverNat.TeamQ1Q2Q3Laps
133Max VerstappenNEDAston Martin Red Bull Racing1:35.9931:35.6411:35.24619
277Valtteri BottasFINMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:35.6991:35.5271:35.27118
344Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:35.5281:35.4661:35.33220
44Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1:36.0161:35.8491:35.49717
523Alexander AlbonTHAAston Martin Red Bull Racing1:36.1061:35.6541:35.57115
655Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPMcLaren F1 Team1:36.5171:36.1921:35.81514
726Daniil KvyatRUSScuderia AlphaTauri Honda1:36.4591:36.2141:35.96320
818Lance StrollCANBWT Racing Point Formula One Team1:36.5021:36.1431:36.04615
916Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1:35.8811:35.9321:36.06520
1010Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauri Honda1:36.5451:36.2821:36.24220
1131Esteban OconFRARenault DP World F1 Team1:36.7831:36.35912
123Daniel RicciardoAUSRenault DP World F1 Team1:36.7041:36.4069
135Sebastian VettelGERScuderia Ferrari1:36.6551:36.63112
1499Antonio GiovinazziITAAlfa Romeo Racing1:37.0751:38.24812
1511Sergio PérezMEXBWT Racing Point Formula One Team1:36.034DNS4
167Kimi RäikkönenFINAlfa Romeo Racing1:37.5556
1720Kevin MagnussenDENHaas F1 Team1:37.8639
1863George RussellGBRWilliams Racing1:38.0458
1951Pietro FittipaldiBRAHaas F1 Team1:38.1739
206Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing1:38.4437
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Sixteen-year-old Motorsports Journalist covering Formula One for TCF, follow at @jamesthomasf1 on Twitter
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