Sports Desk, Dec 12 (efe-epa).- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) will start first on the grid for the Formula One Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi after a brilliant performance Saturday in qualifying.
The 23-year-old Dutchman not only ended a string of Mercedes front-row lockouts on the final weekend of the season, he became the first non-Mercedes driver since 2013 to take pole position at the Yas Marina track.
He prevailed with a lap of 1:35.246, 0.025 seconds better than Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and 0.086s faster than the Finn’s teammate, Briton Lewis Hamilton, who last month clinched his seventh world championship, matching the mark set by Michael Schumacher.
Verstappen’s first pole of the 2020 season came as Hamilton, 35, made his return to competition after missing last week’s Sakhir Grand Prix due to a positive Covid-19 test.
With a win on Sunday, the Red Bull driver will overtake Bottas for second place in the driver standings.
Also at stake in the Abu Dhabi GP will be the third spot in the constructor standings. Mercedes have already won the title for a seventh consecutive year and Red Bull are assured of second.
Racing Point are currently No. 3 with 194 points, just 10 more than McLaren.
Both McLaren drivers did well on Saturday. Briton Lando Norris took fourth, while Spaniard Carlos Sainz – headed to Ferrari in 2021 – will start from P6.
Thai driver Alex Albon (Red Bull) turned in the fifth-fastest time in qualifying as he worked to convince team management to renew his contract for next season.
Russia’s Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri) and Canadian Lance Stroll (Racing Point) will share Row 4 on the grid.
Frenchman Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) and Monaco’s Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) completed the top 10.
Stroll’s teammate, Sergio “Checo” Perez, winner of the Sakhir GP, will have to start from P19 because of multiple changes to his car’s engine.
Only the second Mexican driver in 50 years to win a Grand Prix remains without a ride for next season and says that he will take a year off from F1 if Red Bull don’t offer him Albon’s spot.
“I said before I went to qualifying it’s going to be the final send of the season and we did that so very happy with that,” Verstappen said afterward. “It was quite a tricky qualifying in the beginning, to get your laps in, especially at this track, the last sector, there are so many corners where you can make a mistake. But luckily everything came together in that final lap.” EFE