Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen could have a say in the Formula 1 championship showdown between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton after qualifying on super-soft tires in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Ricciardo and Verstappen both managed to get through Q2 on the red-ringed Pirelli compound, with the majority of the field favoring the quicker ultra-soft tire.
Both drivers were able to use the ultra-softs in Q3, with Ricciardo qualifying third behind Hamilton and Rosberg on the front row.
However, by starting on the super-softs, Ricciardo and Verstappen may have more strategy options on offer in Abu Dhabi, with both set to complete a longer first stint due to the increased durability offered by their chosen compounds.
“We’ve got to try something I think,” Ricciardo said after the session.
“Seems to be a bit of a trend this year, if we’re in a position to maybe qualify on a different tire then we’ll try and see if it gives us an opportunity. See what it does tomorrow, hopefully it puts us in the fight.”
Rosberg requires a top-three finish in Abu Dhabi to win his first F1 championship, but if Hamilton won the race and the two Red Bulls closed out the podium, the Briton would take a fourth crown.
Ricciardo was pleased with his qualifying display, finishing as the ‘best of the rest’ despite his lap being eight-tenths of a second slower than that of pole-sitter Hamilton.
“Pretty slow starting qualifying session for me. But we chipped away at it,” Ricciardo said.
“In Q3 when it mattered, I felt like I put in some good times. I’m happy. Third was the target, hopefully we can be somewhere up here tomorrow.”
Verstappen will start the final race of his sophomore F1 season from sixth place on the grid, paying the price for a mistake on his last lap in Q3 that sent him off the circuit at Turn 11.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.