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"Weird" for Verstappen to claim F1 Abu Dhabi GP pole after struggles

Max Verstappen says it feels “very weird” to be on pole position for Formula 1’s 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after struggling with the Red Bull for “the whole weekend”.

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, arrives in Parc Ferme

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, arrives in Parc Ferme

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The three-time champion signed off his season’s qualifying efforts with a 12th pole, having pipped Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc by 0.139 seconds despite failing to improve with his final Q3 attack.

But Verstappen had called out the behaviour of the dominant RB19 throughout practice, even leading Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko to wager €500 that his driver would not hit the front-row.

As such, Verstappen reckoned it was “very weird” to have topped the timing screens given the struggles to tame the car.

Verstappen, who missed FP1 so that Formula E champion Jake Dennis could contest the session as a rookie for Red Bull, said: “Very weird. I mean, the whole weekend so far has been a bit of a struggle.

“We definitely improved the car for qualifying. From lap one, it all seemed a bit more together. We could definitely push more.”

After snatching pole, Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase radioed “I reckon you owe this [beep] box an apology” in deference to his driver’s less than complimentary comments about the car.

Verstappen added: “Around here already with the tyres, if you do little slides and whatever, it can cost you a lot of lap time. That was what was happening for us in practice.

“But then in qualifying, it all just was a bit more connected…

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

“I have no clue how good we're going to be in the race. Normally we are always quite decent.

“It’s been a very special season. We've been enjoying it a lot.”

Verstappen reckoned the RB19 had been sliding about too much during practice, with FP2 featuring only a quarter of an hour of running due to red flags for crashes for Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.

Speaking on Friday night after FP2, Verstappen said: “We had limited track time in FP2, so we weren't able to learn as much as we wanted to.

“I didn't expect the balance to be so far off, there was a lot of understeer and jumping.

“We need to make some big improvements to be good in qualifying."

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