Max Verstappen secured pole position for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday, with rival Lewis Hamilton enduring a difficult qualifying session. Meanwhile, Ferrari and McLaren battle for second place in the constructors’ championship.
Verstappen dominates qualifying
Defending world champion Max Verstappen delivered an outstanding lap in Q3 to take his 20th pole position of the season. The Red Bull driver set a time of 1:23.824 around the Yas Marina Circuit, beating Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari by over two-tenths of a second.^1
Verstappen said he "had a good feeling with the car from the start" and praised his team for providing him with a well-balanced RB19.^2
Meanwhile, Hamilton could only manage fifth place for Mercedes after struggling with grip and balance issues. He was knocked out in Q2, unable to improve his time on the soft tyre runs as Sergio Perez and the Ferrari drivers progressed.^3
Teammate George Russell fared slightly better in fourth, but Mercedes appear to lack one-lap performance compared to Red Bull and Ferrari.
|Gap to 1st
Qualifying Results (Top 10)
Hamilton aiming to end difficult season on high
The Abu Dhabi event marks the final race of a below-par 2022 campaign for Mercedes and seven-time champion Hamilton. Despite scoring his best result of the year in Brazil last time out, Hamilton admitted the team have not been able to unlock the W13 car’s full potential.^4
Hamilton is also recovering from recent back problems, though he said his physical condition was improving. Looking ahead to Sunday, he believes Mercedes have an opportunity "to end the season on a high".^5
Battle for second down to the wire
Behind runaway constructors’ champions Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes are separated by just 19 points in the battle for second place.^6
Ferrari have the advantage thanks to Charles Leclerc’s front row start, with Carlos Sainz lining up eighth on the grid. However, Sainz could play a pivotal role in the race after showing strong race pace on Friday practice.^7
Meanwhile, Mercedes need a strong team result, but Russell is the only driver starting near the front. The controversial safety car restart in 2021 means tensions will be high between the championship protagonists.^8
The 2023 calendar has already been confirmed, with a record 24 races scheduled starting in Bahrain on March 5. Several driver lineups are also set to change, including the arrival of Nico Hulkenberg at Haas and Logan Sargeant at Williams.^9
For Red Bull, the focus turns to securing a new power unit partnership. Verstappen will be aiming to claim a third straight championship, while other drivers and teams target closing the gap to start a new era of closer competition.^10
First, the 2022 title protagonists have one last on-track battle. All eyes will be on the start at the Yas Marina Circuit, with Verstappen and Leclerc leading the pack into Turn 1. Racing gets underway at 2pm local time on Sunday.^11
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