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Max Verstappen takes a stunning pole position for the final race of the year! FP3 and Qualifying report from Abu Dhabi

While FP3 was largely uneventful, Qualifying was a straightforward thriller with Max coming out on top thanks to a handy bit of teamwork, and Lewis just behind in P2!

Max Verstappen has just taken a stunning pole position, beating out championship rival Lewis Hamilton by a massive 3 tenths of a second to achieve the upper hand on the Briton going into tomorrow’s race! Qualifying as a whole was a very interesting affair, so let’s dive straight into the events of Saturday!


FP3 was quiet for the most part, as the teams and drivers worked on perfecting their strategies and seeing how the car reacted to the wind and temperatures. Max set the initial pace, as tyre choices varied between drivers. Lewis then took over at the top, as the times kept tumbling down.

The extra heat of the desert was not what these ultra-sensitive F1 cars needed, as Lewis proved when he conveyed via the radio how he was struggling with tyre temperatures. Max then had a moment at the newly-reprofiled Turn 9, though avoided a spin.

The session ended with Lewis on top, followed by Max in P2 and Valtteri in P3. Perez was just behind in P4 while the AlphaTauris had a good showing, as did the Ferrari and McLaren cars. Alpine were a bit on the back foot in 12th and 15th, compared to their good showing yesterday. Now, let’s move onto Qualifying!




Q1 started with the championship contenders duelling it out for the top spot, while others fought to avoid getting eliminated early on. With just under 7 minutes to go, we had a red flag, as first Schumacher then Norris had managed to dislodge and set a bollard astray right in the middle of the final corner.

The session resumed after a brief stoppage, and there was a bit of a traffic jam in the end, and we had a surprise yet again, with Russell getting out-qualified by Latifi for only the second time in his entire career! Kimi was also a disappointing 18th, and the Haas cars lined up at the very back (shocker, I know!)


Q2 saw many drivers come out on the mediums, and it was incredibly close at the top, with Max and Lewis separated by a measly 0.004 of a second at the end of their laps! Max then locked up on his second push lap on the mediums, ruining that set of tyres and effectively ruling out a possible start on them. He was forced to do another lap on the softs, which means we now see conflicting strategies for tomorrow’s race as Lewis will start on the mediums while Max will start on the softs.

Many went out on second runs, and quite a few decided to run on the softs instead of the mediums. The traffic jam was unbelievable, with multiple drivers coming on the radio and complaining about the same! El Plan didn’t work out for Alpine in the end, as Alonso was out in Q2! Vettel impeded Alonso while the Spaniard was finishing his lap, but the German himself had to come to a complete halt on-track while waiting for a gap to form, so as to be able to do a clean lap! Traffic was a massive issue in Q2, and it saw a few surprise exits, notably with Gasly being unable to exit the bottom 5, while teammate Tsunoda managed to do so on the mediums!


Q3 was the finale. The Showdown. The final qualifying session of this rollercoaster, this brilliant up and down session. 720 precious seconds stood between the contenders, and pole position. Max and Lewis both eyed the coveted pole position, and all that would matter was who managed to get the cleanest- and obviously fastest lap on the board!

The Red Bulls went out in formation, with Checo Perez ahead of Max to provide Max with the slipstream. A few radio discussions later, both started on their lap. At Turn 9 however, Checo moved aside to let Max pass, which meant he was effectively used as a scapegoat for Max, as he provided him with the crucial slipstream, and moved out of the way at Turn 9 just before the slow and technical final sector began, so as to not affect Max’s lap with dirty air. So, what came out of it? A whopping FIVE TENTHS gap to Lewis, that’s what!

Max paid the favour back to Checo on the next lap, as he helped out his teammate in the same manner, which saw the Mexican sit in a provisional P3. Now, it was time for their second runs, and Lewis and Mercedes opted for a different strategy, sending Lewis out in absolute clear air, but without any slipstream. He improved further still, but it was too big of a gap to overhaul- Max had taken pole!

Lando managed to just jump ahead of Checo to line up P3 for tomorrow, while Sainz jumped Bottas to take P5! Max was improving on his second run, but once he made a mistake while pushing a bit too hard, he backed out of the lap, and still took pole. It was also a good effort by Tsunoda, whose first Q3 lap was deleted for exceeding track limits. Here’s how the grid will line up for tomorrow’s race:

1 33 Maxย Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:23.322 1:22.800 1:22.109 20
2 44 Lewisย Hamilton MERCEDES 1:22.845 1:23.145 1:22.480 19
3 4 Landoย Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES 1:23.553 1:23.256 1:22.931 20
4 11 Sergioย Perez RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:23.350 1:23.135 1:22.947 24
5 55 Carlosย Sainz FERRARI 1:23.624 1:23.174 1:22.992 22
6 77 Valtteriย Bottas MERCEDES 1:23.117 1:23.246 1:23.036 20
7 16 Charlesย Leclerc FERRARI 1:23.467 1:23.202 1:23.122 23
8 22 Yukiย Tsunoda ALPHATAURI HONDA 1:23.428 1:23.404 1:23.220 22
9 31 Estebanย Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 1:23.764 1:23.420 1:23.389 20
10 3 Danielย Ricciardo MCLAREN MERCEDES 1:23.829 1:23.448 1:23.409 19
11 14 Fernandoย Alonso ALPINE RENAULT 1:23.846 1:23.460 12
12 10 Pierreย Gasly ALPHATAURI HONDA 1:23.489 1:24.043 16
13 18 Lanceย Stroll ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES 1:24.061 1:24.066 17
14 99 Antonioย Giovinazzi ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:24.118 1:24.251 17
15 5 Sebastianย Vettel ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES 1:24.225 1:24.305 18
16 6 Nicholasย Latifi WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:24.338 8
17 63 Georgeย Russell WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:24.423 7
18 7 Kimiย Rรคikkรถnen ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:24.779 8
19 47 Mickย Schumacher HAAS FERRARI 1:24.906 9
20 9 Nikitaย Mazepin HAAS FERRARI 1:25.685 9

In Conclusion

Fantastic strategy and teamwork by Red Bull saw them take what is quite possibly the most important pole position of the year, with Checo not standing in Max’s way at all. If the 2021 F1 season was a movie, tomorrow will be the climax of it, with the two gladiators going head-to-head for one final duel this year. There is absolutely no way one must miss tomorrow’s race- it’s going to be record-breaking either way!

Also in other news, F2 saw two fantastic events occur in the same race- Oscar Piastri, the F2 rookie took the title in his debut season, and the pride of Indian motorsport, Jehan Daruvala won that very same race, his second F2 victory of the year!

Those in the junior ranks had a fantastic race today, and their performances must not go ignored. Jehan just needs that one final push to propel himself to the F2 crown next year, while Oscar will have to be contempt with being just a reserve driver for next year, though I’m certain that opportunities could open up for the Aussie in 2023!

With this, we cap off an eventful Saturday. The championship finale awaits tomorrow- and it’s certainly not one which must be missed for any reason whatsoever! So, for one last time, I say- Bring It On, Yas Marina!

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Sahil D.

Love sleeping, video games and aviation, but F1 is life! I'm addicted to F1 and it's happenings, and I really love open-wheel motorsport! Feel free to check out any of my articles- I try my best to write without an element of bias, so you as the reader can form your own opinion! :)

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