ABU DHABI: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the final pole position of the Formula One season today with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc joining the triple world champion on the front row at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit.
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri qualified third for McLaren, although the Australian rookie faced a stewards hearing for allegedly impeding Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, with Mercedes’ George Russell fourth.
McLaren’s Lando Norris dropped from a provisional second after the first flying laps to an eventual fifth when he clipped a kerb on his final effort.
“The whole weekend so far has been a bit of a struggle so we definitely improved the car for qualifying,” said Verstappen, who can end the year with a record-extending 19th win in 22 races.
“From Lap 1 it all seemed a bit more together and we could definitely push more.”
Red Bull have won 20 of the 21 races so far, another F1 record, and Verstappen has won in Abu Dhabi for the past three years.
Both titles have already been clinched.
The 26-year-old Dutch driver had complained in practice about his car’s setup, saying it had been bottoming and jumping around.
Russell had been fastest in two of the practice sessions and Leclerc in the other, raising hopes elsewhere that Verstappen might not have it all his own way and raising doubts even within Red Bull.
“Well done mate. You’ve just won me €500 off (Red Bull motorsport consultant) Helmut (Marko) which is like getting blood out of a stone,” a jubilant team boss Christian Horner told Verstappen over the team radio.
“Helmut lost a bet? What world are we living in?” replied Verstappen.
“The bet was for you to be on the front row, mate,” said Horner.
The pole was Verstappen’s 12th of the season, equalling 1992 champion Nigel Mansell’s career haul of 32 – which is seventh equal in the all-time lists.