Lewis Hamilton looked content after taking pole in F1 Abu Dhabi GP but Ferrari seemed lost while Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen is up for fight.
Continuing their dominant form through from Friday, Mercedes lined up in the first two spots in F1 Abu Dhabi GP as qualifying drew to a close, with Hamilton leading the team, and ending his pole position drought – one which has effected him since Germany.
The six-time champion was thrilled to have an 88th pole, particularly after such a long run without lining up first. “It definitely was a very good qualifying session for us,” said Hamilton. “It’s not been the easiest in terms of qualifying for us throughout the year.
“It’s been something we’ve just been chipping away at. Considering we’re not developing the car currently, I think we just tried to see what we could pull out of the car this weekend, and it’s well suited to the track and it’s been feeling good.
“Friday was a little bit difficult. I had to re-centre myself in qualifying. I think the best thing is when you get to Q3 and you pull out two good laps. I think my first lap, it felt special, and then the second one obviously was an improvement, so I can’t complain.”
His teammate Valtteri Bottas was also happy with his efforts, stating that he was happy with his own performance, despite the fact that Hamilton edged him out, partly because of his penalty, which had him set for the back of the pack regardless.
“The lap was OK,” said Bottas.”I think still it felt like Lewis was a bit too quick and I think we were slightly different with set-up as well by the end of the qualifying. Honestly, I felt a bit more comfortable with the car overall.
“But obviously for me, anything I was trying to keep in my mind was for the race because, in any case, whatever happens I knew I’m going to be starting last with my penalty. I tried, obviously, as hard as I could. In Q2 I did only one run to save a new tyre set for the race.”
Mercedes’ main competition this year, Ferrari, contrasted the German team in the sense that they were frustrated to have been so far off the pace – up to six tenths off in sector three. Sebastian Vettel is to start one position behind Charles Leclerc.
“Qualifying was tough,” said Leclerc. “The lap I did on the first run for fourth place was good, but you can always do better. It’s a shame that we didn’t manage to get back out in time to do another lap. Though pole seems to have been out of reach, I do believe that we had an opportunity to have a better result, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.
“Ahead of the race, we will mainly have to work on making improvements in the last sector. That’s where we lacked the most in terms of our performance. It is the last race of the year, the last chance to get third place back in the championship, which will not be easy. I will have to take some risks at the start to fight for it and will give it my all.”
Even making it to the line in Q3, however, Vettel’s qualifying was still a disappointment, as the German driver spun in Q1 and was unable to put together a fast enough lap, which he put down to their final sector pace, or lack there of, as well as tyre troubles.
“We are struggling a lot in the final sector where there are some corners in which we are simply not quick enough,” said Vettel. “It’s probably not the best track for us, but we’ll see what we can do. In Q3 it was a pity because everybody was so slow.
“As a result, my tyres were too cold when I started my lap and I lost the car immediately in the first corner. And Charles wasn’t even able to start his lap. The reason why we are slow in the last corner is maybe that we are sliding more than the others, because we are struggling to get the tyres working correctly.
“We will do our best, but it won’t be an easy race. But we are looking for opportunities. That’s why we have chosen a different tyre compound and will see if we are right to start on Softs.” And finally, Red Bull had a mixed-bag result, with Alexander Albon upset with his sixth place result while Verstappen is up for a fight.
“I think that was the best that we could do,” said Verstappen. “I think we all know that. Mercedes is quite dominant here. We tried everything we could. I think overall pretty happy. Still good to start on the front row alongside Hamilton.
“Of course I would have liked to actually qualify there. In Q3 it was almost half a second and on the medium it was sixth-tenths. So, its not a big deal. It’s going to be hard. I’m not going to lie but like I said, we’ll try everything we can as a team.”
Albon, in contrast, rued the missed opportunity, and mentioned his everlasting struggle for grip after Q1. Looking to tomorrow though, the Thai driver is optimistic concerning what lie ahead, particularly with the soft-tyre degradation providing a potential opportunity.
“Qualifying was pretty average for me and I’m not all that satisfied with my result,” said Albon. “I struggled from the beginning of Q1 and just didn’t get the most out of it which is frustrating. It was tricky out there and quite slippery but the race pace looks ok.
“Mercedes look quite fast so they’ll be strong and I expect Valtteri to make his way through the field, so we’ll need to get a good start. I think the degradation is quite high which is why most of us are starting on the medium tyre but it will be interesting with Seb who starts on the soft.”
Here’s how Lewis Hamilton took pole in F1 Abu Dhabi GP
The story was written by Duncan Leahy and edited by Darshan Chokhani