Lewis Hamilton praised Max Verstappen after the Dutchman took pole position for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, although he says it is still game on for the title after joining his rival on the front row of the grid.
Verstappen edged out the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver by more than three-tenths of a second to take pole position, but whereas the Red Bull Racing driver will start on the soft tyre on Sunday, Hamilton will begin on the medium compound.
Hamilton says he could not get the time he needed to take pole position at the Yas Marina Circuit, but he will be doing everything he can to take what would be a record breaking eighth World Drivers’ Championship on Sunday.
“Well, firstly Max did a great lap today and we just couldn’t compete with that time at the end there,” said Hamilton. “It was a fantastic lap from him but we’re in a good position, I’d like to think, with our tyres tomorrow and I hope that we can have a good race.
“On the first lap of Q3, I dropped a bit of time in the last corner and Turn 5, but my final lap was nice and clean, I just couldn’t go any quicker. I don’t know if it’s tyre prep or whatever it may be, in terms of the out lap, but nonetheless I couldn’t beat that time so he deserved the pole.
“I’m still on the front row for tomorrow, with the tyre difference and I’m grateful I can see where he is, so we can try and navigate from there.”
“We can definitely make it up tomorrow” – Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas was disappointed to qualify only sixth, with the Finn feeling his peak performance came in Q2 and he was unable to better that in Q3.
Bottas, in his final Qualifying with Mercedes before he moves to Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN in 2022, says his set-up was more aimed for Sunday’s race rather than Saturday’s Qualifying, and he still believes he can move up the order and fight for the podium tomorrow.
“I was hoping for more, it was a tricky Quali – a good Q1, decent Q2 but by Q3, I couldn’t improve any more,” said Bottas. “My setup was definitely more focused on the race rather than Quali so as the grip levels increased, I couldn’t improve my times and hit a bit of a limit.
“I’m happy with my setup for tomorrow which should make it exciting. Also starting on the Medium tyre tomorrow opens up different strategy options, we can go long in the first stint if we want to but on the Soft, you can’t, so it’ll be an interesting race.
“Overall, not the best result today but we can definitely make it up tomorrow, it’s game on.”