Max Verstappen charged to pole position in an absolute lightning fast lap as Perez and Leclerc completed the top 3. The literally undefeatable combo of a fast RedBull and a swift Verstappen continues to dominate and decimate everyone else as he takes pole by almost 0.25 seconds ahead of his RedBull teammate and almost 0.8 seconds clear of the Mercedes pair! While the Mercedes pair were looking strong during Free Practice, that RedBull gained nearly 6/10ths on the straights alone showing just how far ahead they’ve been the entire season.
It seemed to be a normal enough qualifying with Magnussen down to P16 in a surprise exit from Q1 as he outgoing teammate made it to Q2 in P11. Magnussen was dropped to P16 from a comfortable P14 by Alonso and Tsunoda. Interestingly, Alonso made it to Q2 even when he couldn’t even give his best lap at all. Bottas was another shock exit who had a terrible qualifying and couldn’t even go to Q2 as his lap suffered. The man who stole all the thunder though, was none other than our retiring 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel who pulled out a master lap in Q1 going 6th fastest just behind Lando Norris in P5. P6 wouldn’t have been anything for Seb Vettel till 2020 but in that Aston martin, this was an unbelievably fast lap and the crowd didn’t let that go unnoticed.
Drivers eliminated: Magnussen, Gasly, Bottas, Albon, Latifi
Q2 was a little more intense, especially for Alpine’s Alonso and Mclaren’s Ricciardo who is also on his last race from Formula 1 having no seat available for next season. But, a driver like him with multiple grand prix wins, he is sure to find a seat for 2024. At the beginning of the end of Q2, it was Tsunoda and Schumacher at the cusp of losing out in Q2 and that exactly happened as Alonso, Ocon and Ricciardo made strides jumping into the top 10. Ocon found superb pace during the penultimate lap putting himself in P6 while making it very important for Leclerc to bust out the best lap he could. He did and moved straight to P2 as Ricciardo JUST made in to Q1 in P10.
Drivers eliminated: Alonso, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Stroll, Zhou
This was it. 10 drivers battling out on track to give the best laps possible at the circuit and for Hamilton, having to go through it after last year’s nightmare. In fact, this could very well be the first win-less season in Lewis Hamilton’s illustrious career but, who knows what Abu Dhabi holds! Abu Dhabi proved last season that if a track cannot produce good races for the audience, politics sure can.
The Mercedes team were again on to something unique as they went out in the beginning to set their times in order to avoid any yellow flags or red flags in the race. Though, the Ferrari pair followed them as did the two RedBulls. Verstappen’s car had some issue with the transmission which held him in the pits for longer and Perez was asked to keep an eye for any issues in his car as well. Hamilton slotted into P1 as Russell slotted right behind with a gap of 0.016 seconds. Russell has been really impressive this season although, Hamilton has edged out Russell in Abu Dhabi every where except in FP2.
The Mercedes pair were soon pushed down by about 0.4s by the Ferrari twins as Sainz edged out Leclerc with a 0.062 second margin. Then came the RedBulls quickly showing just how good and undefeatable they have been this season. Perez’ mistake at the final corner meant his lap was ruined and still he was able to split the two Ferraris who had a gap of just 0.062 seconds! Max Verstappen set the pace as he went 0.3s ahead of Sainz in P2.
During the final laps of the race, the Mercedes were back to their bouncing ways lacking almost 6/10ths to the Redbulls as their overall deficit increased to about 8/10ths. This was after the fact that Lewis had a purple first sector. Max and Redbull’s impeccable combo did it again. Here are the final standings:
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RBPT||1:24.754||1:24.622||1:23.824||17|
|2||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing RBPT||1:24.820||1:24.419||1:24.052||18|
|7||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Mercedes||1:25.387||1:24.903||1:24.769||17|
|8||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:25.735||1:25.007||1:24.830||17|
|9||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:25.523||1:24.974||1:24.961||18|
|10||3||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren Mercedes||1:25.766||1:25.068||1:25.045||15|
|11||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:25.782||1:25.096||12|
|12||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri RBPT||1:25.630||1:25.219||15|
|13||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:25.711||1:25.225||15|
|14||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:25.741||1:25.359||15|
|15||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:25.594||1:25.408||12|
|16||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:25.834||9|
|17||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri RBPT||1:25.859||9|
|18||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:25.892||6|
|19||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:26.028||9|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:26.054||9|
Note – Ricciardo penalised 3 grid places for the Grand Prix for causing a collision in Brazil.