Qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may well be the most exciting of the year. On the considerably modified track, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have to go to extremes for the most important pole of the year. Whoever starts at the front has good papers to finish ahead of the other on Sunday and take the championship home. At 2:00 PM Dutch time, the cars will head out for Q1, and the final pole of the year will be decided.
Abu Dhabi, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, has a time difference of two hours with the Netherlands. However, the previous two races were held in the evening, so qualifying started late in Dutch time. In Abu Dhabi, however, it always works differently from the other night races: the driving starts at dusk, and the sun sets during the Grand Prix, which by the way produces beautiful images. Qualifying (and the race) will therefore start earlier than in Qatar and Jeddah. The qualifying start time this weekend is therefore comparable to that of a European race.
Good omens for qualifying Mercedes
Judging by the first and second free practice, the advantage in qualifying lies with Mercedes for the time being. In the short qualifying runs Hamilton was considerably faster than Verstappen on both the soft and medium tires. However, are these figures representative? According to journalist Peter Windsor, the Dutchman had to deal with traffic during his fast laps. Verstappen himself thinks that Mercedes drove with a higher engine position than Red Bull, but he also raises his own heart: the balance was simply not right with his own team, with a lot of understeer.
Of course, this could all be completely different tomorrow morning during the third free practice. You can bet that both Mercedes and Red Bull will also be working late into the night at the factory to get the most out of the cars and setups. Already on Friday, Red Bull was looking for the limits of the setup. After all, this Formula 1 season remains unpredictable. Time will tell who will go home with the last and most important pole: Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen.