Max Verstappen took pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix while his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez beat Charles Leclerc to second.
Red Bull were the team to beat throughout qualifying, with Verstappen setting laps good enough for pole on both of his Q3 runs. Perez crucially edged Ferrari driver Lerclec in the final moments, with the pair heading into Sunday’s race tied on points for second in the standings.
But Mercedes were unable to repeat its winning form from last week’s Brazilian GP, finishing over half a second off the pace in fifth and sixth, while Sebastian Vettel will start his final F1 race in ninth for Aston Martin.
Red Bull locked out the top two positions in the opening session with Verstappen leading from Perez with a 1m24.754s. Carlos Sainz was third ahead of Ferrari team-mate Leclerc, while Lando Norris (McLaren) and Vettel made late improvements to finish fifth and sixth ahead of Mercedes duo George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.
The battle to avoid the bottom five and elimination proved very tight, with several drivers improving late on. One of those was Kevin Magnussen, who moved up to 15th in the final moments, only to be displaced by Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, who made it into Q2 by 0.052 seconds.
Magnussen’s Haas team-mate Mick Schumacher avoided elimination with a late lap that moved the German up to 11th. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas also improved on his final effort, but his time was not quick enough to make it through, finishing 18th behind AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Williams duo Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi were the slowest two runners in 19th and 20th.
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo
19 Alex Albon Williams
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams
Perez set a 1m24.419s to top session two, while Leclerc and Sainz improved on their second runs to demote Verstappen from second to fourth. Hamilton was fifth ahead of Norris and Russell, while Vettel made it through to Q3 in his final F1 qualifying with the eighth quickest time ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo moved up to 10th into Q3 on his final lap, demoting Alonso into 11th by 0.028s. Despite briefly moving out of the drop zone on his final run, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was also eliminated in 12th, with Schumacher, Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) and Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo) also failing to progress.
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri
13 Mick Schumacher Haas
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin
15 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo
The Mercedes drivers were the first two to register a time, with Hamilton’s 1m24.678s edging Russell by 0.016s. But they were soon displaced by the two Ferraris, who lapped over 0.3s quicker, with Sainz setting a 1m24.281s to pip Leclerc by 0.062s.
Perez then split the Ferrari duo on his first flying lap, before Verstappen went fastest overall with a 1m23.988s, the Dutchman having been briefly delayed with an issue in the garage before heading out on track.
Leclerc improved on his second to run to move into second behind Verstappen, who also improved on his second run to a 1m23.824s. But Perez sealed a front-row lockout for Red Bull by edging Leclerc on his final effort, while Sainz finished fourth.
Hamilton ended up fifth by 0.003s from Russell, who could only manage sixth despite improving on his final lap. Vettel and Ricciardo held seventh and eighth positions are their sole runs, but the pair were demoted by Norris and Ocon late on.
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m23.824s
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.228s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.268s
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.418s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.684s
6 George Russell Mercedes 0.687s
7 Lando Norris McLaren +0.945s
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.006s
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1.137s
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1.221s
Featured image credit: @f1 official twitter