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Qualifying report

F1 Abu Dhabi GP: Verstappen beats Leclerc for final pole

Max Verstappen took pole position for Red Bull at Formula 1’s 2023 season finale in Abu Dhabi, ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren driver Oscar Piastri.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar

In a final qualifying session where the soft tyres were good for just a single flying lap – unlike the multiple fliers seen last week in Las Vegas – Lewis Hamilton was also knocked out in Q2 for Mercedes and Sergio Perez rued a track limits mistake in the other RB19.

In Q3, Verstappen put in a 1m23.445s on his first of two runs, with the world champion well clear of the rest at this stage as he was the only one to use new tyres.

On the second goes, Verstappen ran at the rear of the group of leaders to this point, but was unable to improve his time.

The rest did, but not by enough, with Leclerc going from just over a second off after the first Q3 runs to shoot up to second on his final attempt – ending up 0.139s to Verstappen.

Piastri took third ahead of George Russell, who climbed the order with Q3’s quickest time in the final sector to rise to fourth.

Lando Norris had looked like Verstappen’s biggest threat but he blew his shot with the new tyres right at the end due to a massive sideways moment at Turn 13 coming out from under the Yas Marina track’s sector three-straddling W hotel, which cost the Briton 0.4s.

Then came Yuki Tsunoda, Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg, as Perez ’s final lap was good enough for sixth but he lost it for running too wide out of Turn 1, where he had had a wild sideways moment on the first Q3 attempts. That pushed Perez down to ninth, as Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: James Sutton / Motorsport Images

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Verstappen traversed Q2 with just a single run on new softs, while the rest took a sighter on used softs at the start of the middle segment.

Come the end with everybody bar Verstappen out on new softs, Russell’s improvement eliminated his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton, who complained on his way back to the pits, “there’s something wrong with this car”.

Then came Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo, with Albon having run off-set for his second run and completed his final flier well ahead of the rest – just as Williams had done at the end of the opening segment.

In Q1 where the entire field was covered by one-second, Perez’s last-gasp improvement moved him through in second behind Verstappen, which knocked out Carlos Sainz along with Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant.

The first four completed personal best efforts on their second and final fliers, with Sainz complaining about traffic impacting his last run, but Sargeant lost both his Q1 times for running beyond track limits at Turn 1.

His best of those two laps was his first, but that still would not have been fast enough to progress.

Gasly and Piastri faced a post-qualifying stewards’ investigation for a possible impeding incident late in Q3.

F1 Abu Dhabi GP - Qualifying results

Driver Info
Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Time km/h
1 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 Red Bull Red Bull


2 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 Ferrari Ferrari



3 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes



4 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes



5 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 McLaren Mercedes



6 Japan Y. Tsunoda AlphaTauri 22 AlphaTauri Red Bull



7 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 Aston Martin Mercedes



8 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 Haas Ferrari



9 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 Red Bull Red Bull



10 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 Alpine Renault



11 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 Mercedes Mercedes



12 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 Alpine Renault



13 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 Aston Martin Mercedes



14 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 Williams Mercedes



15 Australia D. Ricciardo AlphaTauri 3 AlphaTauri Red Bull



16 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 Ferrari Ferrari



17 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 Haas Ferrari



18 Finland V. Bottas Alfa Romeo 77 Alfa Romeo Ferrari



19 China Z. Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24 Alfa Romeo Ferrari



20 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 Williams Mercedes



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