Max Verstappen qualified on pole position during Saturday’s session in Abu Dhabi. The Dutchman was of course very satisfied with the on-board radio after this unexpected result. Verstappen was able to use teammate Sergio Pérez’s slipstream during his first run in Q3 and the team made it clear over the radio that they would apply the tactic. Lando Norris, however, was not so satisfied with the Mexican.
Sebastian Vettel also had a lot of problems with the other drivers during the first two sessions of qualifying. The Aston Martin driver was dissatisfied with his team as he had to do a fast lap every time in traffic. ‘Man, what is he doing there?’ the German wondered after Esteban Ocon smashed into the road just before his first run in Q1. Later in the session, Vettel was again dissatisfied. “Traffic again, come on guys!”
During Q2, traffic did not resolve itself either. During the final few minutes of the session, several drivers could be found on the same patch of asphalt. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz was in the middle of a traffic jam. “It’s like a race here,” said the Spaniard. The driver’s engineer responded with a laugh: ‘Yes, they are pushing really hard.’ Vettel, however, will not be laughing about the traffic in Q2. ‘It’s another drama. Every time I suffer from the same ***,” Vettel told his team.
Hamilton and Verstappen’s mediums
The two title contenders, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, started Q2 on the yellow belt. The Mercedes driver received direct instructions from his engineer before he started his fast lap. “These tires need more temperature,” said Peter Bonnington over the radio. The Briton was the fastest on the mediums. That was partly due to a braking error by Verstappen in the first corner. ‘***, mega flat side’, the Dutchman reported to his team, before diving into the pit lane for the softs.
Red Bull’s tactics
The Red Bull Racing team tried an interesting tactic during the first run in Q3. Pérez gave Verstappen a tow on the second straight. “Make sure you don’t get in Max’s way. Do your own thing and let Max do his own thing. Let Max drive to you in the last sector,” said Pérez’s engineer before Verstappen’s timed lap. Red Bull will no doubt be happy with the Mexican’s help, but Norris was dissatisfied with the Red Bull driver. “That Red Bull ruined my lap.”
For Verstappen, the tactics that Red Bull had devised worked out perfectly. The Dutchman set the fastest time of the session with his first run and will start on pole position on Sunday. The Red Bull driver was elated over the radio. ‘I did not expect this!’, said Verstappen. Norris was not happy with Pérez for his first lap, but the Briton managed to qualify in third place and, like Verstappen, was happy about the radio. “Yeah baby, woohoo!”