Verstappen spoils Mercedes party with first pole of 2020
By Mat Coch
Sunday 13th December, 2020 - 1:19am
Max Verstappen has handed Red Bull its first pole position of 2020 at the season-ending Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
A strong final lap saw the Dutchman deny Mercedes top spot, in doing so ending the German marque the chance of having its power units claim every pole position of the season.
Valtteri Bottas will line up second after a late charge saw him pip Lewis Hamilton, with Lando Norris completing the second row for McLaren.
Daniel Ricciardo failed to progress to Qualifying 3, neither Renault making the cut and will line up with Esteban Ocon 11th ahead of his team-mate in 12th for Sunday’s race.
Hamilton had his first timed lap in Q1 deleted after running wide at the penultimate corner, riding the sausage kerb in the chute leading to the final turn.
The Mercedes driver carried on, recording a slow lap to recharge his hybrid systems before completing another timed lap on the same set of soft compound tyres to record a 1:36.669s, enough to leave him seventh fastest.
Verstappen also went for a second flying effort midway through the opening phase after a comparatively sluggish opening lap followed an incident in the pit lane when Nicholas Latifi was released into his path.
It forced the Red Bull driver to jump on the brakes, the Dutchman reporting a flat spot as a result.
Eliminated from the session at the first hurdle were Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), Kevin Magnussen (Haas), George Russell (Williams), Pietro Fittipaldi (Haas), and Latifi (Williams).
Hamilton ended up topping the phase with a third run, while Latifi was unable to improve as he spun exiting the final corner as he looked to commence a final flyer.
Alex Albon had his first timed lap in Q2 deleted, as did Ricciardo, for running wide at the penultimate and final corner respectively.
Perez ran out of sequence, as has become the norm for Racing Point, emerging with just under five minutes left on the clock.
Along with Albon and Ricciardo, he was the only other driver not to have recorded a time in the session.
The Mexican headed out on soft compound tyres, but immediately returned to the pits without beginning a timed lap.
Penalties for taking on new power unit components mean he will start from the rear of the grid regardless of his efforts in the session.
As the chequered flag fell in Q2, Ocon (Renault), Ricciardo (Renault), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), and Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) miss the cut, joining Perez (Racing Point) on the sidelines for the session.
It marked the first time Ricciardo had missed Qualifying 3 since the Spanish Grand Prix, with neither Renault progressing.
Albon made the grade after using a set of soft compound tyres, locking himself to that set for the start of Sunday’s race.
Red Bull’s first preference was to use a set of mediums, but his excursion at the penultimate corner forced the team to play a more conservative game as it looked to have the Thai driver move on to Q3.
The final phase of qualifying began with Daniil Kvyat first to set a time, only for that to be promptly bettered by Norris who shot to the top of the timing screens.
Sainz in the sister McLaren then went 0.173s faster before both Mercedes lowered the benchmark, a 1:35.415s for Bottas the provisional pole time.
Splitting them was Verstappen, 0.104s down on pole with Albon 0.156s down in fourth place, Hamilton 0.135s off his team-mate in third.
The front four were 0.4s clear of the rest of the pack, while both AlphaTauris found themselves a second away from the outright pace at the foot of the top 10.
Kvyat and Hamilton were the first back out for their second runs, leading the field out with just under four minutes remaining.
Hamilton was lightning fast through the first third of the lap, a tenth up on the session’s best to the split.
He gained marginally in the middle sector too, stopping the clock on the lap at 1:35.332 to push Bottas off the top of the tree.
The Finn immediately hit back, improving in the final sector to edge Hamilton by 0.061s.
It didn’t last long, Verstappen usurping the Mercedes pair with a 1:35.246s to claim Red Bull’s first pole position in over a year.
The top three were split by less than 0.1s, with Norris (McLaren) fourth from Albon (Red Bull), Sainz (McLaren), Kvyat (AlphaTuari), Lance Stroll (Racing Point), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), and Gasly (AlphaTauri).
Pole position for Verstappen marks his third in Formula 1, and the first time Mercedes has not claimed the spot at Yas Marina in the turbo-hybrid era.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the 2020 F1 season, is scheduled to get underway at 00:10 AEDT Sunday night/Monday morning.
Result: Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:35.993||1:35.641||1:35.246|
|4||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Renault||1:36.016||1:35.849||1:35.497|
|5||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:36.106||1:35.654||1:35.571|
|6||55||Carlos Sainz||Mclaren Renault||1:36.517||1:36.192||1:35.815|
|7||26||Daniil Kvyat||Alphatauri Honda||1:36.459||1:36.214||1:35.963|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point Bwt Mercedes||1:36.502||1:36.143||1:36.046|
|10||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Honda||1:36.545||1:36.282||1:36.242|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:37.075||1:38.248|
|15||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point Bwt Mercedes||1:36.034|
|16||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:37.555|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:37.863|
|18||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:38.045|
|19||51||Pietro Fittipaldi||Haas Ferrari||1:38.173|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:38.443|