The Saturday in F1 Abu Dhabi GP was a mixed bag as Red Bull stayed on top with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes following on behind.
The Saturday in F1 Abu Dhabi GP was a lot smoother and the results were pretty much same especially with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen taking pole. But it wasn’t as straight as his first lap was the one that got him pole and not the second one.
It was a good job done on the first and enough gap to beat others. His teammate Sergio Perez did decent job in fifth but track limits cost him and he ended up ninth. While everything is sorted at Red Bull, it isn’t the same for Ferrari and Mercedes.
Charles Leclerc was nowhere after his first lap but he recovered well to end up second, while teammate Carlos Sainz was knocked out in Q1 itself. He noted about traffic situation and wrong strategy of going late in the run which cost him.
Mercedes too had their share of troubles where Lewis Hamilton was out in Q2 after he didn’t get enough grip while his balance was off too unlike George Russell, who managed to get himself in the Top 10 and close to Leclerc to stop him from scoring well.
McLaren had two halves situation but it was down to driver error from Lando Norris, who was livid with himself again to have made the mistake. It didn’t cost him much as he is still fifth, while Oscar Piastri made the most to be third.
Verstappen: “What a turnaround! Because in practice it was not looking that good. I was struggling a lot with the balance, so luckily I think we made the right changes on the car for Qualifying – because I think from lap 1 it all just felt a lot more connected and, around here, where it’s a lot about tyres, and how they behave, if you have tiny slides here and there, they overheat, so in Qualifying it definitely felt all-in a bit better. Yesterday, FP2, today, FP3 in the morning was all bad, so I don’t really think it had anything to do with that. You know, of course the track grips up a bit, but I think the issues I had were more severe than a little bit more rubber here and there. In Q3, I just run out of front tyre. It was improving after the first sector and halfway through the second sector and then I don’t know, it just went away from me a little bit.
“A bit more front locking, and then immediately the grip is gone. This track, well this track/tyre combination is extremely sensitive to that. And that’s also what was happening to us in practice. And when you have these kind of like mini-lockups or slides, understeer, it can go away from you. I mean, it was still a good lap. I think it was still within a couple hundredths, but it was just going away from me in the middle of the lap to the end. I have no clue how the car will behave in the race. I have not really done any long running, so I guess we’ll find out throughout the race. But, I mean, so far, most of the races we have been quite strong. Tomorrow, I just have to ease myself into it, I guess. A little bit.”
Leclerc: “I said that last weekend, so last weekend felt like a really, really good lap, this quali felt like a really good lap as well. So yeah, it was a bit of a surprise this one, because Q1 and Q2 I was on the limit of making it through. I mean, not on the limit, but it was quite tight and I was actually worried to go through this Q1 and Q2 but then in Q3 I managed to put a good lap together and everything felt good, so I’m really happy with that, because I definitely did not expect to be on the front row this weekend. Considering how much we struggled, I mean FP2 was really good. But then FP1 and FP3… I didn’t do FP1, but as a team, I think we struggled massively, so it’s a good surprise. Our car is very picky because on the scrubbed tyres it was as scrub as the other drivers and I was behind everybody basically and then you put new tyres on the car, suddenly it becomes great and I was feeling much more at ease with the car and the lap came together nicely apart from the last corner where I have overpushed but I think this is a tendency for everybody on this track.
“You arrive with very overheated tyres so I don’t think there was much to gain anyway on that lap. But yeah, we’ve gained like crazy from scrubbed to new and much more than everybody else. I hope this is not a negative sign for tomorrow when we have to do long runs but I’m sure we will do a good job. I don’t know about the race. But I mean the only thing that matters to me is that we challenge the Mercedes and that we take the second place in the Constructors’ because in the Drivers’, honestly finishing fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh in the Drivers’, I don’t care. But second in the Constructors’ would be nice. So we just need to beat the Mercedes, but of course if there’s an opportunity to beat Max tomorrow, I’ll take it. However, on a track like this, with hot conditions like this, I expect us to struggle a bit more than Las Vegas, than what we’ve seen in Vegas on race pace. So, but let’s see. We’ve been good with the tyre management in Vegas in very different conditions. In FP3, I had quite a good feeling during the race simulations, so I hope we can reproduce that tomorrow.”
Piastri: “I think we knew Vegas was going to be a bit of a struggle for us going into the weekend. I think we got a few things wrong in qualifying that made it seem worse than it actually was. But we knew here would be a lot better. You know, the pace has been good the whole weekend, I would say. It was a bit of a surprise for me just how tight everything was at the start of qualifying. I think it was like four tenths from first to 15th in Q1, so you couldn’t afford to make a mistake but no, at the pointy end and nice to back in the top three. We’ve been quick in sector one all weekend. That seems to just be our happy place around here. But yeah, everything else is a bit up and down. You know, Russell’s been looking extremely quick in all of the practices and, you know, Max said he was struggling a bit. So it’s been a bit hard to get a read on where everyone actually sits. But the normal stuff that we like, the medium-speed corners, the high-speed corners, that’s where I think we’re strongest. And the slow stuff is where we struggle a bit more.”
Norris: “I don’t know. If it was for P1, maybe but I don’t think it would’ve been P1. But you never know. And, okay, if you just make any mistake in qualifying when you’re fighting for a good position it’s frustrating. But the thing is, I just make so many mistakes on Saturday at the minute. Every other lap, in Q1, Q2, were some of my best laps. My first lap in Q3 was very strong. It’s just this one little mistake. I don’t know why it happened, I’ve not done that all weekend. So it’s just frustrating because I’m just doing a shit job on Saturday. If I’m fighting for P2 and I end up P5 I’m too soft on myself.”
Perez: “It wasn’t an ideal one. It was a really tricky one, actually, to get that lap time deleted. It hurts because we didn’t get the cleanest Q3, I ended up making a mistake into Turn 6, which cost me a few tenths. Other than that, at least we were starting P5, but now with the lap deleted, things get a little bit harder. I think tomorrow is going to be a long race and anything can happen. I think [tyre] degradation will be one of the main things tomorrow, so let’s see what we’re able to do.”
Sainz: “Clearly, the pace all weekend hasn’t been the strongest and we needed a perfect Q1 and Q2 given how tight the field is. And we had a very scrappy Q1. We went out very late and the last run we had a problem on the front wing, which sent us the last car out. And once I opened my last lap, I found myself in a load of traffic in sector one and two and I lost a couple of tenths there that probably caused me to disappointing Q2. It’s difficult to say, but there were cars out there today and between us drivers we know that if you do a corner two seconds in front of another car, one second or two seconds in front, you’re going to make him lose a tenth or two in that corner. And I see people, as the weekends have gone by, relaxing a bit on that. When it’s tight in Q1 and Q2 I see people giving a bit of dirty air on purpose in some corners to maybe make the others lose some time in corners. Which we don’t consider impeding, because it’s not like you need to lift. But you’re giving him dirty air and you’re giving him a bad run in that corner.
“The Turn 3 felt better, a lot better. There was basically almost no bump today. It was easy flat. It hasn’t even been a corner all these years, Turn 3, but for some reason yesterday, I bottomed out, and the car gave me a huge snap. So it didn’t make me lose any confidence or anything. Because it’s not even a corner for us in quali. So yeah, nothing to worry about on that front. As for the race, I’m hoping it will be better. I feel like for some reason this weekend I struggled on the soft tyre, but the long runs haven’t looked too bad. So we just know what we need to do tomorrow, which is a good recovery, and see if we can get back in points and score points.”
Hamilton: “It’s just very loose. This car’s unpredictable at every corner – in one corner it’s one way, in another corner it’s another. It’s not a consistent car. Poor balance, and no set-up change I can make seems to get it right. It’s a struggle just to get out of Q1. Yeah, I mean these last two races have been a disaster for me, particularly in qualifying – I’ve had two 11th places. It’s very rare but, yeah, it’s the last race.”
The fallout of big names helped few into the Top 10 where AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda led the way in sixth. The Japanese driver has looked good all-through and continued his momentum, even though teammate Daniel Ricciardo dropped out in Q2.
Tsunoda is in a good position as they fight Williams to clear a seven points deficit especially with Alexander Albon only 14th and teammate Logan Sargeant allowed to race despite not getting a lap in after track limits lap deletions both the times.
Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg surprised with a Top 10 qualifying after skipping FP1, crashing in FP2 and only getting some running in FP3, but his big challenge will be to retain his position considering the lack of pace and higher degradation.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was surprised by a Top 10 result after not looking so good in practice, while Alpine’s Pierre Gasly was satisfied with consistent running. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas was disappointed to be out in Q1 after looking good in practice.
Tsunoda: “Starting P6 is a great position. It won’t be easy because there are a couple of fast cars behind. Obviously, we have to put it all really, really together. So far, the team did a fantastic job. It wasn’t easy yesterday we struggled a lot, so made it a lot better overnight and the car felt really, really good. So, we will see how it goes tomorrow. Anything can happen, especially the degradation seems quite higher than expected, so see how it goes. And 100 per cent, so far hopefully Franz is happy. I think he is happy especially as tomorrow we are starting P6. And we know that we have to end up P6 and I think a P7 would be the best gift for him. It’s not impossible and I just want to see his happy face, especially as without him I would not be able to develop like this as a driver. So, I just want to appreciate him with the result. I’ll do all I can.”
Alonso: “I was expecting less, actually. After final practice, I think we were 14th and 15th. We had some concerns about the pace of the car and the set-up and we were thinking what to do into qualifying. Even in Q1 I only went through P13. So I thought it was a tough Saturday for us. But then we followed the track evolution, we got more confidence with the car and then P7 is definitely the best result we were hoping for.”
Hulkenberg: “It’s not bad, and pretty unexpected, to be honest. Yesterday was obviously a really bad day with [first practice] – I sat out, that’s normal, that’s not the cause. Then obviously I did a mistake in FP2 and only did one lap on the medium. So that was a bit worrying coming into today. But FP3 somehow I came off on the good foot with the car, had a good rhythm, had good confidence which allowed me to push and kept that feeling all the way through quali, which is very nice. I think our own predictions were that we probably were going to be out in Q1, so it was a nice little surprise there.”
Gasly: “I’m really pleased with today’s result. We knew it would be tight and very close to reach Q3 and it even proved challenging to make it out in Q1 such were the fine margins. My Q2 lap was very strong, I was happy with that as it meant we comfortably made the top ten. Q3 was slightly messy for us and I feel like we did not maximise the session. We will analyse what happened, what we can do better, but still, I was certainly satisfied to be in Q3 again. We’re starting in a good position for tomorrow and our target is to get some points. It will be a tough race and it’s the last one of the year. I will give it my all and it would be good to end the season with a positive result.”
Albon: “The track wasn’t really getting quicker and quicker throughout qualifying. You could tell from Q1 run one that the grip was there on the track, and it never really changed. For me what’s frustrating is Q2 we were a tenth and a half slower than we were in Q1. We had a mis-shift in Turn 6, so I lost that time in that corner, but I couldn’t really go quicker than my Q1 lap. We often overheat our tyres and today was another case of that. Our race pace was okay, not bad at all. I think we have a good car. It’s strange, this weekend it feels like no-one’s slow – the AlphaTauri, the Alfa Romeo, the Haas, the whole grid is bunched up. And relatively we feel like we’ve got a strong race car considering, a normal weekend for us. But it seems like everyone else is also having a good time. Lap times are close, as you see. It’ll be a close race tomorrow, I think.”
Bottas: “Today’s results are definitely disappointing, as up until the final practice session it looked like we had a chance to progress all the way through qualifying. In terms of feeling, we had actually made an improvement from yesterday, and our laps were decent. Unfortunately, I think there wasn’t much more we could have brought out in terms of pace today. We’ll be looking into the causes of this result overnight, to see what can be done to improve. Tomorrow will be a difficult one, starting from the last rows; hopefully, a clean start and some unexpected circumstances, like a Safety Car, can help us play our cards in the best way. It’s the final race of the season, and we still want to wrap our year up in a decent way: we’ll be giving it all out until the final corner of the final lap to achieve that.”
Here’s how F1 Abu Dhabi GP qualifying panned out