Advantage Max Verstappen for Sunday’s title showdown as he beats Lewis Hamilton to pole by 0.3s at Yas Marina; Verstappen’s fastest lap utilised the tow from team-mate Sergio Perez; Lando Norris third for McLaren; Verstappen and Hamilton on front row for the winner-take-all race on Sunday
Max Verstappen will start on pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton for the winner-takes-all Abu Dhabi GP title decider after a masterful and unexpected performance in qualifying from the Dutchman and Red Bull.
Trailing Hamilton and Mercedes coming into qualifying and for much of the hour-long shootout, Verstappen was very much the outsider heading into the critical Q3 finale but he and Red Bull then combined raw pace with clever teamwork to outpace Hamilton in second by a whopping 0.371s.
Verstappen’s fastest lap, a 1:22.109, was posted at the start of Q3 when utilising the ‘tow’ from team-mate Sergio Perez, as the Mexican sacrificed his own lap to give the championship contender a slipstream and straight-line speed advantage.
Attempting to respond, Hamilton was half a second down on his first lap before improving slightly at the end of Q3, neither of his laps using the tow. However, highlighting Red Bull’s improvement, Verstappen’s second solo effort also would have been enough for pole before he backed out.
It means the championship protagonists, who are locked level on points, start on the front row together for Sunday’s race, which is live on Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase from 1pm.
Whoever finishes ahead of the other in the top eight will be F1 2021’s champion, though if they are still level at the end of Sunday Verstappen will emerge victorious due to the countback on race wins.
Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying Result – Top 10
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3) Lando Norris, McLaren
4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
5) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
6) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
7) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
8) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
10) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren