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
|1||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||1:35.993||1:35.641||1:35.246||19|
|2||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:35.699||1:35.527||1:35.271||18|
|3||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:35.528||1:35.466||1:35.332||20|
|4||4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||1:36.016||1:35.849||1:35.497||17|
|5||23||Alexander Albon||THA||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||1:36.106||1:35.654||1:35.571||15|
|6||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||McLaren F1 Team||1:36.517||1:36.192||1:35.815||14|
|7||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:36.459||1:36.214||1:35.963||20|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||1:36.502||1:36.143||1:36.046||15|
|9||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||1:35.881||1:35.932||1:36.065||20|
|10||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:36.545||1:36.282||1:36.242||20|
|11||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Renault DP World F1 Team||1:36.783||1:36.359||12|
|12||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Renault DP World F1 Team||1:36.704||1:36.406||9|
|13||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Scuderia Ferrari||1:36.655||1:36.631||12|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing||1:37.075||1:38.248||12|
|15||11||Sergio Pérez||MEX||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||1:36.034||DNS||4|
|16||7||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing||1:37.555||6|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Haas F1 Team||1:37.863||9|
|18||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||1:38.045||8|
|19||51||Pietro Fittipaldi||BRA||Haas F1 Team||1:38.173||9|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1:38.443||7|