Verstappen beats Perez to Abu Dhabi pole ahead of Ferraris · RaceFans

Max Verstappen beat Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez to take pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, ahead of the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Verstappen secured the final pole of the season by just over two tenths of a second, while Perez secured an all-Red Bull front row. Both Ferraris locked out the second row of the grid, ahead of the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Q1

With the sun having already disappeared below the horizon, conditions were starting to cool when the opening phase of the final qualifying session of the season began. Teams took their time in sending their drivers out onto the track, with only the Aston Martins, AlphaTauris, Williams and Haas cars taking to the track.

Yuki Tsunoda set the early benchmark of a 1’26.135, before the front-running teams headed out for their first runs of the session. Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes all took to the track on soft tyres, and the world champions held a comfortable early advantage, Verstappen going quickest on a 1’24.754, just over half-a-tenth quicker than team mate Sergio Perez.

The two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc were third and fourth, while the two Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton well down in in fifth and seventh, split by Lando Norris’s McLaren.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Yas Marina, 2022
Brazil sprint race pole winner Magnussen went out in Q1 this time

All 20 cars returned to the pits with five minutes remaining in the first phase of qualifying. In his final qualifying session of his career, Sebastian Vettel was at risk of being eliminated in 16th position, as was Mick Schumacher, Valtteri Bottas and the two Wiliams of Alexander Albon and Nicholas Latifi.

Vettel was the first driver over the line to start his final lap and despite coming across a several slow-moving cars at the end of the lap set a time quick enough to go safe in fifth. The Williams pair failed to improve and were eliminated at the back of the grid, while Bottas could not get his tyres into the right temperature window in the queue and was knocked out in 18th.

Schumacher did put in a better lap at the end of the session and moved safe in 11th, which left Haas team mate Kevin Magnussen eliminated in 16th. In his final qualifying session for AlphaTauri, Pierre Gasly was knocked out in Q1 down in 17th place.

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Q1 result

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Q2

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Yas Marina, 2022
Alonso was eliminated in Q2

Mercedes wasted no time in sending both Hamilton and Russell out onto the circuit the moment that the second phase of qualifying began. Both drivers enjoyed an entirely clear track in which to set their first flying laps, which they did with used soft tyres. Hamilton posted a 1’25.772, but was comfortably beaten by team mate Russell by four tenths of a second.

While Ferrari headed out on used soft tyres, Red Bull sent both Verstappen and Perez out on new rubber. Leclerc briefly went fastest on his first effort, but was immediately bested by team mate Sainz by three tenths. With their fresh tyres, the Red Bull pair then went quicker than everyone, Perez almost half a second up on his team mate as he took the top spot, despite admitting to a mistake through the long left-hander of turn nine. Verstappen said he felt a lack of grip at the rear of his car.

As the field returned to the pits, Mercedes sent their cars back out on a clear track, this time on new soft tyres. Hamilton improved to go second with his final effort, while Russell move up to fifth place with his second run.

Entering the final four minutes, the drop zone consisted of Tsunoda, Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, Schumacher and Zhou Guanyu down in 15th place. Zhou could not improve on his position and was the first car eliminated in 15th, while Stroll failed to match team mate Vettel’s time and was knocked out in 14th.

Vettel reached Q3 in his final session despite repeatedly encountering Perez’s Red Bull in the final sector. “How is that possible?” the four-times champion fumed on his radio the last time it happened. “Three times in a row I get these people? And they don’t back off. It’s a tenth in the last corner.”

Schumacher could do no better than 13th in his final qualifying session with the Haas team, while Tsunoda missed out on Q3 by two tenths of a second and was out in 12th. With Ricciardo improving to go tenth and earn a berth into Q3, Alonso was the unexpectedly eliminated in 11th place.

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Q2 result

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Q3

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Yas Marina, 2022
Vettel reached Q3 in his final qualifying session

After being quicker than Verstappen in both the final practice session and in Q2, Perez appeared to have a genuine shot at fighting his world champion team mate for pole position as the final phase of qualifying began. But with Verstappen looking to secure a hat trick of poles at the Yas Marina circuit, it would be a tall order for Perez to deny his Red Bull team mate.

When the session began, Mercedes once again took to the track first, with Perez heading out expecting his team mate to join him. However, Verstappen remained in the garage, Perez being informed his team mate had been delayed with a problem.

“What happened?” Perez asked. “Yeah, Max’s car had a little problem,” race engineer Hugo Bird replied. “Still in the garage. Just getting going now. We’ll do our thing. You know your targets.”

Hamilton set the initial lap time and was only hundredths of a second quicker than his team mate. But both Mercedes were easily beaten by Leclerc, who was three tenths of a second ahead of Hamilton, before Sainz set a new provisional pole time with his first lap, beating his team mate by half a tenth.

Next it was the turn of the Red Bulls to complete their first flying laps, but Perez was not able to beat Sainz’s time and moved into second place. Verstappen was last across the line and was easily quicker than all of his rivals, taking provisional pole by almost three tenths with a 1’23.988. He skirted close to the track limits at the final corner, but the stewards were content he had remained within the confines of the circuit.

Ferrari were the first out for their second and final flying lap of the session, with the Red Bulls behind them and the two Mercedes last across the line. Leclerc improved across all three sectors but could not beat Verstappen, moving up to second place. Sainz was unable to match his team mate’s time and remained in third position.

Verstappen was next across the line and improved his own provisional pole time to a 1’23.824, with Perez failing to beat his team mate but moving up into second place. Only the Mercedes could deny Verstappen pole, but neither Hamilton nor Russell even matched the Ferraris. That clinched pole position for Verstappen, with Perez securing an all-Red Bull front row.

Leclerc leads a Ferrari second-row ahead of Sainz and both Mercedes in fifth and sixth. Lando Norris secured seventh place for McLaren, ahead of Esteban Ocon in eighth. In what could very well turn out to be their final qualifying sessions of their career, Vettel and Ricciardo rounded out the top ten with ninth and tenth on the grid, respectively.

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Q3 result

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2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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