Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will start second on the grid on Sunday, behind his main title rival Max Verstappen at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale after a sensational strategy call from Red Bull. Verstappen and Hamilton are level on points heading into points in a winner-takes-all duel in the desert.
Mercedes had been fastest in second and third practice ahead of the qualifying session, but during the session, Red Bull ordered Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez to give the championship leader a tow around the Yas Marina circuit.
With the tow from his team-mate through the straights with the Mexican pulling aside before the final sector, Verstappen set a 1:22.109, almost four-tenths quicker than Hamilton’s fastest time at Yas Marina.
Speaking after the session, met with boos from Verstappen fans, Hamilton said: “Max did a great lap today. We just couldn’t compete with that time at the end there. It was looking really strong through practice.
“Firstly, we’ve got a great crowd here regardless of the boos, but I’m just grateful to see people here healthy.
“We just couldn’t we couldn’t answer to that lap. That was a fantastic laugh from him. So we’ll go we’re in a good position I’d like to think with our tyres tomorrow and I hope that we can have a good race.
“You saw the first lap, I dropped a little bit of time in Turn 5, but the last lap was nice and clean, I just couldn’t go any quicker.
“I don’t know if it’s tyre prep or whatever, it may be in terms of the out-lap, but nonetheless I couldn’t beat that time he did today, he fully deserves pole.”
Verstappen will start the race on the soft compound of tyre, with Mercedes starting on the medium tyre after the Dutchman flat-spotted his tyres during the second part of qualifying.
But regardless, the 24-year-old insisted he felt relaxed heading into the race on Sunday.