Max Verstappen takes stunning Abu Dhabi GP pole, Lewis Hamilton third

Verstappen Abu Dhabi pole
Kamran Jebreili/Getty Images

YAS ISLAND, Abu Dhabi — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen produced a stunning last lap and beat both Mercedes cars to take pole position for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday.

He was 0.025 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas and 0.086 clear of world champion Lewis Hamilton for his first pole of the season and third of his career.

“Mega, mega lap!” Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner yelled over the radio when Verstappen crossed the line under floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit.

“It’s a long season for everyone and this was a great final qualifying for the whole team,” Verstappen said. “We are all very happy and it’s great to finally get there after being close many times in 2020.”

Verstappen entered the session after topping the final practice leaderboard earlier in day.

Bottas led Verstappen and Hamilton after their first attempts in Q3, the final section of qualifying, and Hamilton then appeared on course for a record-extending 99th career pole as he led the split times on their second and final attempts.

But Verstappen showed why he is touted as a future world champion, and Bottas found some extra speed to score a rare victory over his illustrious teammate.

Hamilton went well wide in Q1 and went over the curb, while Verstappen complained over the radio that his hand had got stuck inside the cockpit.

Hamilton fared better in Q2, topping the charts. But Sebastian Vettel’s final qualifying session for Ferrari saw him among the five drivers eliminated , along with Renault drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon.

“We don’t really know why we struggled, it was a surprise for sure,” said Ricciardo, who has two podium finishes this season. “There is frustration that we could not do any better.”

Racing Point driver Sergio Perez starts his last race from a lowly 15th.

The popular Mexican driver won last Sunday’s dramatic Sakhir GP in Bahrain for the first win of his career and 10th podium finish. But he does not have a seat for next year after being replaced by Vettel, when Racing Point is renamed Aston Martin following a takeover.

Earlier, Verstappen was fastest ahead of teammate Alexander Albon in the third and final practice. He led Albon and Ricciardo, who is competing in his last race for Renault before joining McLaren next year.

Hamilton has won 11 races this year but missed last Sunday’s Sakhir GP in Bahrain as he recovered from the coronavirus. This denied the seven-time F1 champion the opportunity to equal Vettel’s single-season record of 13 wins, set with Red Bull in 2013.

Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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