Red Bull locked the front grid of Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez finishing 1-2 in the twilight qualifying at Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday.
Verstappen, the double world champion, is seeking 15th victory of the year, thereby extending his own record of 14 race wins, which for now is the most results bagged in a single season.
During the qualifying, Verstappen had issues with his engine, which he termed a “scare” but the situation was under control and he finished with a timing of 1:23.824.
“It was a bit of an up and down qualifying. It started off quite well. Q2 was a bit messy. I don’t know why but I couldn’t get the grip together. But in Q3 it felt more normal. We had a bit of a scare when the car turned off before the first run, so we had to reboot everything. Then we went out and both of the laps were good enough,” the Dutchman said.
Though the drivers’ and constructors’ championships have been decided, Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc are level on 290 points behind Verstappen. And the champion has assured full support to his teammate.
“That’s good teamwork. I am very happy that both the cars are in the front row. Of course, we want to win the race but also want Checo (Perez) to finish second in the championship. So, this is a great start for that. I expect it to be a good battle tomorrow (Sunday). But at least we have both cars there and we can do what we want,” Verstappen said.
Perez, who was .228 seconds behind Verstappen, is hoping to grab the second position of the drivers’ championship.
“It’s a good starting place. I just didn’t make that final step in Q3. But it’s good to lock out the front row for tomorrow (Sunday), and Max did a good job for me,” he said.
The Mexican driver received huge cheers from the capacity crowd at the circuit.
“Thank you to all the fans that are here. I hope we can have a strong race. It should be an interesting one,” Perez said.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished third and is looking forward to the race, with his teammate Carlos Sainz behind him aiming for a second-place finish in the championship.
“I locked up in Turn 6 and 7 but we are in the position we deserve. Red Bull were stronger. It should be interesting with Checo tomorrow (Sunday). I’m sure we can work together with Carlos and maximise the team result,” said Leclerc.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were fifth and sixth. Hamilton, the seven-time world champion, will be eyeing a podium finish, which will help him ensure a win in each of his F1 seasons. McLaren’s Lando Norris was seventh ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. The two teams are fighting for the fourth spot in the constructors’ standings. With 167 points Alpine is in the driving seat and has a 19-point advantage over McLaren.
Significantly, four-time champion and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel is P9. The German is poised to finish among the points in the final race of his career.
There’s a lot riding on the climax race of the season, and fans can brace for all the wheel-to-wheel racing, overtaking, and nail-biting moments, with the race under the lights starting at 5 pm.