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Final 2023 Qualifying In Abu Dhabi: Max Verstappen Takes Pole

Written by Maria Fashchevskaya, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

As the final race weekend in Formula One unfolds, Max Verstappen will start on pole at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tomorrow, in his shining blue Red Bull. Two shocking knockouts headlined the session — Carlos Sainz out in Q1, followed by Lewis Hamilton in Q2 — the Dutch driver was followed by Charles Leclerc and McLaren driver Oscar Piastri in second and third, respectively.

But beforehand, viewers were greeted by an adorable sight of Kevin Magnussen’s daughter helping the Haas driver put on his gloves, and shut his helmet’s visor.

Max Verstappen takes the final pole in Abu Dhabi; Image Credits:

As the green light was out for the first qualifying session in Abu Dhabi, the track wore a deserted look, with no activity on track. Everyone seemed to wait for another driver to go out and “clean up the track”, while the track temperatures were decreasing.

With 14 minutes to go till the end of the session, all the 20 drivers drove out to set their respective lap time for Q1.

Max Verstappen – to be crowned World Champion – was the first out on track, flying to set the fastest lap. A helping hand from a slipstream behind the Alpine of Pierre Gasly later, he clocked out a time of 1:24.160s.

Alex Albon followed in his Williams, only four-tenths slower than the Dutchman. However, his team mate Logan Sargeant was unlucky. Exceeding track limits on turn one, his lap time was deleted by the stewards, forcing the American rookie to leave it late into the session.

With ten minutes to go, most drivers had completed at least one flying lap. The exceptions were Logan Sargeant, Nico Hulkenberg, and Zhou Guanyu, as their respective lap times had been deleted for track limits.

With seven minutes to go, the drivers returned to set another – last for the session – timed lap. Lando Norris went fastest in sector one, but was beaten by Charles Leclerc almost immediately. With a lot of traffic on the pit exit, and the rule of ‘no overtaking’ in the tunnel, a lot of traffic forced drivers to be slow, and emerge later onto the track.

Logan Sargeant went out to set a time, and drove 0.4s better on his second flying lap than on the previous one. However, the story repeated itself, as he had exceeded track limits at turn one, and subsequently, his lap time was deleted, leaving him without a lap time set in Q1. As he pitted shortly before the end of the session, he was out of qualifying.

Sainz – surprise elimination in Q1. Image Credits:

As the session ended, a battle among the drivers in the elimination zone ensued. Who could squeeze through to Q2? After Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso finished their flying laps to rise to 10th and 11th position respectively, Ocon pushed out Valtteri Bottas into the bottom five. Kevin Magnussen could not improve further on his time, confining him 17th on the grid tomorrow.

Driving his timed lap in the last stages of Q1, Carlos Sainz’s marginal improvements weren’t enough either, with Perez knocking the Ferrari driver out in Q1. Sending frustrated messages over team radio, the Spaniard commented after the session: “We went out too late. It was our fault. We had a problem with the front wing.” Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant completed the bottom five in Q1.

Lewis Hamilton Out In Q2

The second session around the Yas Marina circuit commenced, with cars going out on the track right away. As the green light for Q2 was on, Alex Albon and both Mercedes were the first to set timed laps. With traffic once again at the end of the pit lane, all cars except both Red Bulls went out on used tyres.

After the first round of flying laps, Verstappen headed the timesheets, followed by the two McLarens and his teammate Sergio Perez, splitting the Papaya-boys. Three minutes till the end of the session, most of the drivers went out to set a new time on fresh tyres, leaving only Max Verstappen – sure in his performance– in the pits.

The battle ensued again among the drivers in the drop-out zone: both Aston Martins and Mercedes tried to clock a better lap. As Alex Albon had been the first to try a second run, he was later knocked out of Q2, as all of the drivers improved their time.

As Fernando Alonso squeezed into Q3, the same wasn’t the case for Lance Stroll. An unexpected tough performance came from Mercedes too: Lewis Hamilton missed shortly the last stage of qualifying, starting from 11th position tomorrow. “Not great. Just struggling with balance”, the Brit said to Sky Sports afterwards.

Lewis Hamilton out of Q3 for the first time in Abu Dhabi; Image Credits:

Max Verstappen Grabs Yet Another Pole

Under the lights of the Yas Marina circuit, it was Max Verstappen who first tried to seal a pole in Abu Dhabi Saturday evening. His 1:23.445s was the time to beat, and Lando Norris was the first to challenge the Dutchman. Being 0.371s off of Verstappen, Norris was followed by Australian teammate Oscar Piastri, clocking a 1:23.949s on his first flying lap in Q3.

It was the question: Could McLaren – Lando Norris – put pressure on Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi? But, on the final round of flying laps, Norris made an unfortunate error in the final sector, costing him a P2 finish.

He was surpassed by Piastri, who sealed a P3 finish in the end, losing out to Charles Leclerc for P2. The Ferrari driver finished an impressive timed lap, getting him onto the front row.

George Russell separated the McLaren drivers in P4, letting Norris start from fifth tomorrow. Impressive performance led Yuki Tsunoda – only 0.523s off Verstappen – to start from sixth position in the Grand Prix, followed by Aston Martin’s Alonso and Hulkenberg in the Haas.

Perez and Gasly had their lap times deleted, rounding out the top ten for Sunday’s race, the season finale.

The top three for the final Grand Prix in 2023; Image Credits: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Max Verstappen came home to grab the pole for tomorrow’s Grand Prix. Celebrating over team radio, Red Bull Team principal Christian Horner said: “Well done mate. You have just won me 500 euros out of Helmut (Marko) which is like getting blood out of a stone.

With the correction, the bet was about Verstappen being on the front row on the last race of the season.

Next to the Red Bull will be the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, after an impressive qualifying with a gap of only 0.139s after the Red Bull champion. “Considering the weekend we've had until now, I did not expect it at all. The last lap, I had to put everything together”, Leclerc said after Q3.

Yet another McLaren has completed the top three in tomorrow’s race: Oscar Piastri out-qualified his teammate Lando Norris yet again in 2023. “My final lap had a small mistake but it was a big ask to make the front row. I went into qualifying having not done a clean lap all weekend”, the Australian reflected on his qualifying.

However, his position wasn’t yet safe, as he was summoned to the stewards over an incident with Pierre Gasly in the last stage of Q3. However, the stewards declared no action over the incident, which means Piastri keeps his top three starting position.

Who is going to win the last race of the season? Leave your thoughts in the comments!


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