Max Verstappen ambushed everyone, even himself with a stellar lap to claim pole position for the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Red Bull showed their hand ahead of qualifying with a one-two in FP2 headed by Max, but Mercedes were keeping their powder dry and found around 1.7 seconds in between sessions. Max found about a second from morning to afternoon.
In those final frantic moments of Q3, Lewis Hamilton went fastest first, then Valterri Bottas and we all thought that was that… until Max popped up with an incredible 1:35.246s lap the did the business which stunned everyone witnessing the moment.
— Aston Martin Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) December 12, 2020
Himself included, “It was a very nice lap. I didn’t really expect to fight for pole today but it is very satisfying and at least we have one pole this year with the dominance Mercedes have had and we can be very pleased for that.
“Everyone is a bit tired at the end of such a tough season but I think for the mechanics and everyone in the Team this was a great boost. It wasn’t the most straightforward qualifying, of course initially I had my hand stuck under the wheel so I had a poor lap.
“After that with the medium tyre it was not so easy but on the second run we made a few changes and then it seemed a bit better. Then in Q3 we had quite a decent lap and everything came together.
“It won’t be easy tomorrow as they have two cars behind me that can do different strategies and try to put me under pressure but I’m going to give it all I have and have fun out there.
“We have a shot at the win but whatever happens today has been a great day,” added Max, whose team have won thrice at Yas Marina, the last time in 2013 with Sebastian Vettel.
Team boss Christian Horner was delighted, “Max put in a phenomenal performance today and strung together the perfect lap. He has just been mighty this year and you always know you can bank on him.
“He always gives it everything and he’s able to surprise you, like he’s done today, so now it’s important we convert that into a great result tomorrow.
“Everybody has worked so hard this year and as a Team it epitomises everything when it all comes together like it has today.
“The Team have kept improving the car this year meanwhile we’ve also had nine out of the top 10 fastest pit stops this year so the crew have just been remarkable,” added Horner.
In the other Red Bull car, Alex Albon was fifth fastest abeit three-tenths down on his teammate. He reported, “It was my best and most competitive qualifying of the year .
“Whilst I’m happy with my performance I’m also annoyed as I made a small mistake in the final Q3 run and that was my lap done. The car was really hooked up, we had a good balance and I was feeling strong after the first Q3 run but I wanted it a bit too much.
“In sector one I pushed too hard too soon and the tyres were done from thereon so whilst the track was getting faster and faster I didn’t have the grip and couldn’t improve my time. But it was super close out there and the gap was the closest it’s been all year so there are positives to take and on a personal note it’s been a strong weekend for me, it’s progress and that’s important.
“Now I’m just focused on taking that into tomorrow’s race as it’s all still to play for out there and I’m positive we can do something good. Max getting pole is obviously great for the Team too so well done to him and now it’s all eyes on tomorrow and the last race of the season.”
Horner noted, “Alex has also done a decent job today, it’s as close as he’s been in the past four or five races, and he will play an important role in tomorrow’s race.”