Nico Rosberg thinks that Red Bull Racing will mainly focus on the race in Abu Dhabi. After the third free practice, the single world champion saw that the team from Milton Keynes already knows that they will lose qualifying anyway, and so bet on Sunday. He does expect Max Verstappen to be able to conjure up something in Q3.
“It seems as if Red Bull is already throwing in the towel before qualifying,” the German said in his analysis for Sky Sports F1. “As if they think: we can’t beat Hamilton, then second in qualifying.” In the third free practice, Verstappen again finished behind Hamilton. The Englishman’s gap to his Dutch title rival was two tenths in favor of the Mercedes.
Red Bull therefore focuses on Sunday and is satisfied that they have to leave pole position to the German competitors. Rosberg saw proof of this in the final minutes of the session: ‘That’s why Verstappen also practiced his test start on the dirty side of the grid on soft tires. I think they want to start on the red belt and then dive on the inside at the start at Hamilton.”
Rosberg: ‘You can never write off Verstappen’
What also plays in favor of Mercedes is the fact that the circuit will cool down. ‘Let’s not forget that the third free practice took place in the afternoon. It is cooler in the evenings, so the times of the session are not necessarily representative of what it will look like,” emphasizes Hamilton’s former teammate. “The cooler conditions will work in favor of Mercedes.”
“So the advantage lies with Hamilton, but last race weekend Verstappen was suddenly four tenths faster in qualifying. So you can never write him off,” concludes Rosberg, who does not rule out the possibility that Verstappen can also challenge Hamilton’s pole position in Abu Dhabi under his own power. In Saudi Arabia, he appeared to be heading for pole position, but made a mistake in the last corner of his fast lap. It cost him the front row there.