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Max claims twelfth pole of 2023: 'Never bet against me'

Published on 25 November 2023 by Stefan Meens

Max Verstappen will start the final Grand Prix of the 2023 Formula 1 season from pole position after securing his twelfth pole of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was second fastest, more than a tenth adrift with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri completing the top three. Max’ Oracle Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez qualified in ninth.

“The whole weekend was a bit of a struggle. We definitely improved before qualifying and from lap one it all felt a bit more together, so I’m happy to be on pole”, Max said after qualifying.

His pole meant team boss Christian Horner earnerd himself an extra €500 after winning a bet with Helmut Marko. “I don’t think Helmut thought I’d be on the front row”, smiled Max. “But that’s a good lesson for him; never bet against me!”

Reflecting on the weekend thus far, Max said: “Around here with the tyres, little slides can cause you to lose a lot of lap time, which is what happened in practice. In qualifying it was all a bit more connected. But for the race, let’s see as I’ve got no clue how good we’re going to be. Normally we’re pretty decent in the race. Regardless, it’s been an amazing season, we’re enjoying it a lot and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved.”

The start of qualifying is a sign of things to come with Max setting the pace early on ahead of Leclerc and Norris. Further down the order, lap times are only tenths apart with the majority of the grid worrying about progressing to Q2.

In the end, the biggest (negative) surprise is Carlos Sainz stranding in Q1. The Ferrari driver is joined in the bottom five by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, the two Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou and Logan Sargeant. The Williams driver experienced a frustrating session with both his lap times deleted.

Whilst Max comfortably progressed, Lewis Hamilton was the biggest casualty in Q2. Throughout the weekend, the seven-time champ struggled with his Mercedes. His worries were confirmed when he finished eleventh, less than a tenth slower than Piastri in P10. Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin, Alex Albon’s Williams and Daniel Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri all joined Hamilton in failing to progress to the top ten shoot-out.

In the final part of qualifying all drivers bolt on used softs for their first attempt. Max clocks a 1:23.445. The two McLarens of Piastri and Norris slot in behind Max, four tenths off the pace.

On his second attempt, this time on a brand-new set of the red side-walled softs, Max does not improve his lap time. Nevertheless, the Dutchman’s first timed lap in Q3 is enough to secure his twelfth pole position of the season.

Behind Max, Charles Leclerc is quickest after a close fight for second with Oscar Piastri. George Russell (Mercedes) splits the McLarens with Lando Norris starting tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in fifth.

Sergio Perez endured a though Q3 with his second lap time deleted, resulting in the Mexican starting Sunday’s race in ninth.

Contest GP Abu Dhabi: win a by Max Verstappen signed Racing cap!

Results qualifying Abu-dhabi:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:24.1601:23.7401:23.445
2Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:24.4591:23.9691:23.584
3Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes1:24.4871:24.2781:23.782
4George RussellRUSMercedes1:24.3371:24.0131:23.788
5Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes1:24.3681:23.9201:23.816
6Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:24.2861:24.2071:23.968
7Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes1:24.5011:24.1311:24.084
8Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari1:24.4251:24.2131:24.108
9Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:24.2091:24.1161:24.171
10Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault1:24.6001:24.0781:24.548
11Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:24.4371:24.359
12Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault1:24.5651:24.391
13Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes1:24.4051:24.422
14Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes1:24.2981:24.439
15Daniel RicciardoRICAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:24.4611:24.442
16Carlos SainzSAIFerrari1:24.738
17Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:24.764
18Valtteri BottasBOTAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:24.788
19Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:25.159
0Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes---