F1 Abu Dhabi GP: Max Verstappen grabs pole position for season finale

The Dutchman was followed by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri making the top 3 drivers

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Ashwani Kumar

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Sat 25 Nov 2023, 8:18 PM

For a fourth year in a row, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start in the pole position at the 2023 season-ending Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The reigning world champion was the fastest in all three qualifying sessions. The Dutchman was followed by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri making the top 3 drivers.

“Very weird, the whole weekend has been a bit of a struggle. We improved the car for qualifying, and I was very happy to be on the pole. I have no clue how good we will be in the race, normally we are quite decent. It’s been a very special season,” Verstappen said after the qualifying round of the only twilight race in the F1 calendar raced at the iconic Yas Marina Circuit.

Leclerc said he was happy with the result but noted that his focus will be on beating Mercedes for the second spot in the constructors’ championship.

“I did not expect this. In the last lap, I had to put everything together. In Q1 and Q2, I was worried about going through, and in the end, a front row is amazing. Our target is to beat them (Mercedes) in the constructors’ championship. I hope Carlos can join me in the fight and let’s try to put both of our cars in front of them,” Leclerc said.

While Sainz was eliminated in Q2 and got relegated to 16th position, Lewis Hamilton didn’t make the cut for Q3 and will start 11th, which means the Ferrari-Mercedes constructors’ championship battle will go down the wire.

Meanwhile, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri said that it was an extremely tight session with some mistakes made in every lap.

“It was a difficult session, extremely tight this weekend. A bit of a messy one, with lots of mistakes. 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. Q1 messy, Q2 got it together finally, Q3 – happy with that, close by not quite close enough.”

Now, all eyes will be on the Sunday’s race with Verstappen searching for his 19th win of the year and fourth consecutive victory in Abu Dhabi.

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