Max Verstappen scored his first pole position of 2020 and the third of his career with in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with the Dutchman putting in a phenomenal final lap in Q3 to beat Mercedes Valtteri Bottas by 0.025s. Lewis Hamilton finished third ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Bottas set the pace in the opening segment of qualifying, with the Finn setting an early benchmark of 1:35.699. Hamilton slotted into second place but his lap was swiftly deleted for violating track limits at Turn 20.
Verstappen, meanwhile, had a tricky start to the session when Williams released Nicholas Latifi into his path in the pit lane. The Dutchman was forced to lock-up and flat-spotted his tires.
He went out and set a time but in the final minutes of the session he dropped to P10 and was forced to run again. He immediately vaulted to P2 behind Bottas with a lap of 1:35.993. Verstappen was eventually shuffled to P4 as Hamilton grabbed top spot in the final runs and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took third ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris. Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez was sixth and Alex Albon in the second Red Bull progressed in seventh place with a lap of 1:36.106.
At the other end of the timesheet, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen was eliminated in 16th place after being beaten to P15 by team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian eclipsed his Finnish team-mate by almost half a second to edge their private qualifying battle 9-8. Räikkönen was followed out of the session by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Williams’ George Russell, Haas’ Pietro Fittipaldi and Latifi.
In Q2 the Bulls and the Mercedes went out on medium tires but Albon had his opening lap deleted for a track limits infringement at Turn 21. He dropped to P13 on the timesheet in the closing stages and it meant that he needed a run on soft tires to guarantee progress.
Verstappen, meanwhile, opened with a time of 1:36.236. That landed him P5 and he admitted dissatisfaction with the lap, saying the tires had gone off in the final sector.
He went for another run, on mediums, and in the final moments he jumped to P3 behind Hamilton and Bottas with a lap of 1:35.641. Albon followed him across the line with a good lap of 1:35.654 to take P4.
Somewhat surprisingly Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo were eliminated in P10 and P11 respectively, with the Renault being edged out Q3 by the AlphaTauris of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly. Also eliminated at this stage of the session were 13th-placed Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari followed by Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Pérez. Facing a back-of-the-grid start due an engine change, Pérez failed to set a time in Q2.
In the final top-10 shootout, Verstappen signaled his intent with his opening run as he posted a lap of 1:35.519 to split with the Mercedes as Bottas took provisional pole.
When the final runs began Hamilton was the first out and after setting purple times he took P1 with a lap of 1:35.332. That looked impressive but then Bottas snuck past the benchmark by six hundredths of a seconds and it looked like Mercedes might be heading towards another front row lock-out.
Verstappen, though, had other ideas and with a perfectly constructed lap the Dutch ace found the time required to edge past Bottas to claim his and the team’s first pole position of the year.
Behind the top three, McLaren’s Norris took an impressive fourth place to edge Albon by seven hundredths of a second. Sixth place went to Carlos Sainz in the second McLaren with Kvyat an excellent seventh for AlphaTauri’s ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, Leclerc and Gasly.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Verstappen Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:35.246 6 209.923
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:35.271 0.025 0.026 6 209.868
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.332 0.086 0.090 6 209.734
4 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1:35.497 0.251 0.264 6 209.372
5 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1:35.571 0.325 0.341 6 209.209
6 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 1:35.815 0.569 0.597 6 208.677
7 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 1:35.963 0.717 0.753 6 208.355
8 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1:36.046 0.800 0.840 6 208.175
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:36.065 0.819 0.860 6 208.134
10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:36.242 0.996 1.046 6 207.751
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:36.359 0.893 0.935 6 207.499
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:36.406 0.940 0.985 6 207.397
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:36.631 1.165 1.220 6 206.914
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:38.248 2.782 2.914 6 203.509
15 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 1
16 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:37.555 2.027 2.122 6 204.955
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:37.863 2.335 2.444 9 204.310
18 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:38.045 2.517 2.635 8 203.930
19 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas/Ferrari 1:38.173 2.645 2.769 9 203.664
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:38.443 2.915 3.051 7 203.106