Abu Dhabi GP 2023

NOVEMBER 25, 2023

Qualifying Report - Verstappen takes final pole

Max Verstappen
© Red Bull

By Mark Karp

In the final qualifying of the 2023 Formula 1 season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen showcased his dominance by securing pole position in a highly contested qualifying session in his Red Bull-Honda.

Verstappen’s performance was nothing short of stellar, especially during the critical moments of Q3, where he clocked a 1m23.445s on his initial run. This lap set a high bar, leaving his competitors in a fierce battle for the remaining top spots.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc emerged as Verstappen's closest challenger. He made a significant leap in his final Q3 attempt, closing the gap to just 0.139s behind Verstappen, thus clinching the second spot on the grid.

The young McLaren driver Oscar Piastri with a strong performance, finished third and solidified his reputation as a rising star in the sport.

One of the biggest surprises of the session was Lewis Hamilton's early exit. The Mercedes driver, typically a frontrunner in qualifying, was knocked out in Q2, a development that raised questions about his car's performance. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s teammate at Red Bull, also faced difficulties. A mistake with track limits on his RB19 during a crucial moment in Q3 cost him, relegating him to a lower position than expected.

Lando Norris, driving for McLaren, initially appeared to be a strong contender for a top position. However, a significant error at Turn 13 under the Yas Marina circuit's iconic W hotel during his final run cost him precious time, ultimately affecting his final standing. This mishap highlighted the razor-thin margins and the high stakes of Formula 1 qualifying sessions.

The qualifying round also saw commendable performances from Yuki Tsunoda, Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg, and Pierre Gasly.

Verstappen’s strategic approach was evident in Q2, where he required only a single run on new softs to advance, in contrast to his rivals who utilized multiple attempts.

George Russell, in the Mercedes, improved his times on new softs.

In Q1, Carlos Sainz, along with Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, and Logan Sargeant, faced elimination. Sargeant, in particular, struggled with maintaining track limits, leading to the disqualification of both his Q1 times.

Additionally, a post-qualifying investigation was initiated concerning an incident involving Gasly and Piastri.