Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen claimed pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, leading a Red Bull 1-2 as Sergio Perez narrowly beat Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari to the front row.
Verstappen did two laps good enough for pole in Q3 at the Yas Marina F1 circuit, and was the only driver to lap below 1m24s, taking pole by 0.228 seconds despite early-session troubles where his car switched off and delayed his first run.
Perez was only third, behind Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, after the first runs in Q3, but Perez used Verstappen’s slipstream on the second run to get onto the front row, beating Leclerc – his rival for second in the drivers’ championship – by just 0.040s.
Sainz improved marginally on his own final run, but slumped to fourth thanks to those better laps from Perez and Leclerc.
Ferrari looked in bad shape after final practice but was more competitive in the cooler conditions of qualifying. Conversely, having looked like Red Bull’s nearest challenger here Mercedes went backwards in qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton was fifth fastest, almost seven tenths shy of Verstappen and nearly three tenths behind the slowest Ferrari.
George Russell converged on Hamilton’s higher-downforce aerodynamic setup ahead of qualifying and finished only 0.003s further back as the second Mercedes rounded out the top six.
McLaren’s Lando Norris got amongst the Ferraris and the Mercedes in Q1 and Q2 but was predictably best of the rest in Q3, two and a half tenths adrift of Russell.
Esteban Ocon was eighth fastest in the best of the Alpines, less than a tenth adrift of Norris, while Sebastian Vettel was ninth for Aston Martin in his final F1 qualifying session before retirement.
Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren rounded out the top 10, less than a tenth behind Vettel, but Ricciardo will drop three places on the grid thanks to a penalty for wiping out Kevin Magnussen’s Haas in the Brazilian GP.
Fernando Alonso replied “OK” when Alpine informed him he missed the Q3 cut by less than three hundredths of a second to Ricciardo’s McLaren, which had itself sat in the elimination zone until the final runs in Q2.
Alonso was demoted from the top 10 by late improvements from Leclerc and Norris, who both briefly flirted with elimination as others tried to make the Q3 cut.
Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher and Lance Stroll were all in the drop zone after their first runs. All briefly made it inside the top 10 on their second runs before eventually being dumped out – along with Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo.
Stroll was almost four tenths slower than Aston Martin team-mate Vettel in Q2, despite producing what he felt was a strong lap.
Vettel and Schumacher were both in danger of Q1 elimination after the initial runs in that segment, before dragging themselves into Q2 with late improvements.
Alonso, Stroll and Tsunoda also made late escapes having fallen into the drop zone as others improved.
Alonso’s Alpine finished up only half a tenth clear of Brazil pole-winner Magnussen, who was knocked out along with the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly, the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas and Williams pairing Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi.
Bottas complained of his front tyres having no temperature and simply not working in Q1, as he spent basically his entire session stuck in the bottom five.
Gasly was within a tenth of escaping Q1; Bottas just over a tenth shy – while the Williams drivers were less than two tenths further back but separated by less than three hundredths of a second in Albon’s favour.