Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing Photo)

Verstappen On Pole For Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Max Verstappen wheeled his Oracle Red Bull Racing entry to a 12th pole of the season ahead of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

The reigning Formula 1 champion had a best time of 1:23.445, narrowly topping Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri. 

Despite not improving his time in Q3, Verstappen squeaked away to the top spot. The 26-year-old was third during Friday’s practice.

“It’s very weird,” said Verstappen. “The whole weekend so far has been a bit of a struggle. We definitely improved the car for qualifying and from the first lap it all seemed a bit more together and we could push more. Of course, I’m very happy to be on pole.”

Mercedes’ George Russell ran fourth in a McLaren sandwich as Lando Norris qualified fifth.

It was a stellar qualifying effort for Yuki Tsunoda as he wheel his AlphaTauri to sixth-place on the grid.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso slotted in seventh ahead of Haas F-1’s Nico Hulkenberg. Sergio Perez ran ninth with Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10. 

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton missed Q3 and starts 11th. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz endured a Q1 exit after traffic hindered his performance. Sainz rolls off the grid 16th in the 20-car field.

“It was a challenging session for me today, I’ve been struggling with the setup of the car here in Abu Dhabi this weekend, although our cars are set up the same, so we need to understand what it is on my side of the garage that’s causing the lack of performance,” Hamilton said. “George managed to get the most out of the car today finishing in P4.

“It takes some good going for me to not make it into Q3 so we need to do a deep dive and try our best to move up tomorrow. The team here and back in the factory deserves a good result for the final race of the season so we will work hard as always and hopefully it will pay off and we can find improvements ahead of tomorrow.”

American Logan Sargeant failed to produce a lap time due to exceeding track limits in Q1.