What the teams said - Qualifying in Abu Dhabi
Mercedes looked very evenly matched on pace with Red Bull in final practice, but come qualifying Hamilton showed why he is leading the all-time pole count in F1. He was perfect throughout all three segments, making the medium tyres work in Q2 and then nailing a lap when it mattered in Q3 to put the pressure on his rivals. His fifth pole of the season, and first since Germany, was a brilliant effort. As for Bottas, Mercedes let him compete even though he starts from the back tomorrow thanks to grid penalties, and he came close to, but couldn't quite match, his team mate.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:34.779
"It was a very good qualifying session for us. Qualifying hasn't been the easiest this year, but it's been something we've just been chipping away it. Yesterday was a bit difficult for me, I had to re-centre myself for today. But it's the best thing when you get to Q3 and you pull out two good laps. A big thank you to the entire team for their continued effort. Even though we have both titles won, we continue to push and strive to be better and that's so inspiring to me. It's been an incredible journey with this car this year, so to finish the year off with a pole is a great feeling. It's not even half the job done, but this result puts us in the best position possible for tomorrow when we've got to battle with the Ferraris and Red Bulls."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:34.973
"Congratulations to Lewis - 88 pole positions, that's an impressive number. My lap was good, but it felt like Lewis was a bit too quick today. We used different set-ups inqQualifying and overall I felt a bit more comfortable in the car yesterday. Anyway, my main focus is on the race tomorrow as I knew going into Qualifying that I'd be starting the race from the back owing to the grid penalty. I still pushed as hard as I could, but I only did one run in Q2 to save a set of tyres for tomorrow. I think it'll be an entertaining race tomorrow and I'll try to make up as many places as possible. It'll be a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it."
James Allison, Technical Director
"We were hopeful after Friday that there was some good pace in the car. It seemed like we had some strength, but we could also see from Max's running and from the Ferraris, that they were capable of threatening us. So we went into qualifying with no idea where we would be - it could be the front row, or fifth and sixth. It was very gratifying to see, as qualifying unwrapped, that we were strong in each session and have been able to finish Qualifying for the year in the same vein that we started it - with a dominant first and second on the grid. Of course, it's sad that Valtteri will start from the back of the grid, but I'm really excited to see how the race pans out for both our drivers."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"It's fantastic to conclude qualifying for the season with a 1-2, a perfect result for us. It's been a little while since Lewis was last on pole back at Hockenheim, but he really got into the rhythm today. This is a track that seems to suit us well and it clearly suits him too. Valtteri did a great job too and it's a shame he will have to start the race from the back. It's going to be exciting to watch him go through the field tomorrow. We've got our drivers at either end of the grid, but our aim tomorrow will be to end this remarkable season in style with both of them."
It was a bit of a mixed bag for Red Bull. Verstappen topped FP3 and looked to have the pace to compete with the Silver Arrows. He took the fight to Mercedes all the way, but a messy last corner on his final flying lap cost the Dutchman, and he finished third - but will start second thanks to Bottas' grid penalty. As for Albon, he at least managed to finish ahead of the midfield but in sixth, and was a disappointing half a second off the time set by his team mate.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:35.139
“I’m pretty pleased with qualifying and we got the most out of the car. Of course you always want to be ahead or a little closer to pole but I think this was the best we could do and there wasn’t much more in it. There are always tracks on the calendar where certain cars work better than others and it’s easier to find a good set-up. This is a Mercedes track and for us it was a bit more tricky to get everything out of the last sector. With Valtteri’s penalty I will start from the front row which will help in the race. The start will be important as overtaking is difficult around here but it’s a long race and we will of course be going for the win as always. Mercedes will be quick and it won’t be easy but as a Team we will make it as hard as possible, put them under pressure, and fight them until the end.”
Alex Albon, 6th, 1:35.682
“Qualifying was pretty average for me and I’m not all that satisfied with my result. I struggled from the beginning of Q1 and just didn’t get the most out of it which is frustrating. It was tricky out there and quite slippery but the race pace looks ok for tomorrow. Mercedes look quite fast so they’ll be strong and I expect Valtteri to make his way through the field, so we’ll need to get a good start. I think the degradation is quite high which is why most of us are starting on the medium tyre but it will be interesting with Seb who starts on the soft. We’ll give it everything tomorrow and try to make something happen.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“I think it was a really solid qualifying with P3 for Max and P6 for Alex, which with Valtteri’s penalty, will be P2 and P5. I think both drivers did a very good job today with good grid positions to hopefully attack tomorrow. We elected to start the race on the harder compound whilst Ferrari went down a different route with the soft so that will make for an interesting and tactical race tomorrow. We’ve equalled our best qualifying result here at Abu Dhabi in the hybrid era so that’s really encouraging and we tend to have good race pace so hopefully we can challenge the Mercedes tomorrow.”
Ferrari opted to run the soft tyre in Q2 but were slower than their rivals despite being on the quicker compound. Leclerc opted to switch to the mediums and made that work, but Vettel stuck with the original plan. Roll on Q3 and both drivers got tangled up in traffic. Leclerc missed the chequered flag and wasn't able to set a last flying lap. And although Vettel did make it across the line, his preparation lap was far from ideal and he haemorrhaged time in the first sector as a result. They line up on the second row, side by side, but surely there won't be a repeat of their coming together last time out?
Sebastian Vettel, 5th, 1:35.339
“I will start from P4 tomorrow but today’s Q3 was not ideal. We are struggling a lot in the final sector where there are some corners in which we are simply not quick enough. It’s probably not the best track for us, but we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.
“In the last part of the session it was a pity because everybody was so slow. As a result, my tyres were too cold when I started my lap and I lost the car immediately in the first corner. And Charles wasn’t even able to start his lap.
“The reason why we are slow in the last corner is maybe that we are sliding more than the others, because we are struggling to get the tyres working correctly.
“Tomorrow we will do our best, but it won’t be an easy race. But we are looking for opportunities. That’s why we have chosen a different tyre compound and will see if we are right to start on Softs.”
Charles Leclerc, 4th, 1:35.219
“Qualifying was tough today. The lap I did on the first run for fourth place was good, but you can always do better. It’s a shame that we didn’t manage to get back out in time to do another lap. Though pole seems to have been out of reach today, I do believe that we had an opportunity to have a better result, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.
“Ahead of the race, we will mainly have to work on making improvements in the last sector. That’s where we lacked the most in terms of our performance.
“It is the last race of the year, the last chance to get third place back in the championship, which will not be easy. I will have to take some risks at the start to fight for it and will give it my all. Let’s see what we can do.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
“We went into qualifying today knowing that, all weekend we were not fast enough in the third sector, so we had to come up with something.
“In the first run in Q3 we were still a long way off pole so we decided to really go for it at the end, when the track was improving, by going out at the very last minute, aiming to have the track in the best conditions. We knew it would be tight and we were well aware of the risk we were taking, but we had to take it. Unfortunately, we encountered some traffic and that meant it didn’t work out for us.
“The call concerning which tyre to start the race on was very tight and here again we went for different strategies in order to make sure we’ll have the most opportunities tomorrow.”
McLaren said they needed to improve overnight and they did so, sailing through qualifying to get both cars into the top 10 for the sixth time in the last seven races. With their drivers tied at 10 apiece thus far this season, there was plenty at stake and Sainz came out on top comfortably on their first runs. But as the clock ticked down, the Spaniard got caught up in traffic and Norris seized the moment to grab a 'best of the rest' seventh and the qualifying head-to-head to end his rookie qualifying season in style.
Carlos Sainz, 9th, 1:36.459
“I’m very disappointed with that P9 when I’d been very strong in Q1 and Q2. I was looking forward to putting another good lap together in Q3, but the out-lap was far from ideal. We got ourselves into trouble with the Mercedes and Ferrari and my last attempt was compromised.
“It’s a shame, because matching my Q2 lap would have put us P7 easily. I expect a tough race tomorrow and we need to switch our focus quickly.”
Lando Norris, 7th, 1:36.436
“A good quali for me, Carlos and the team. We achieved P7 but a P6 grid start taking into account the Bottas penalty, so I’m happy. It’s been a pretty good couple of days. I’ve generally been fairly comfortable with the car, which has been positive.
“We knew quali was going to be tough and our aim was to get into Q3 and we did that. We’re ahead of the midfield guys we wanted to beat, so that’s a bonus. It couldn’t have been any better in terms of positions – it’s a good way to end the season.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“After a challenging Friday, the team here at the track, together with the support we got from the factory, made the right calls on improving the performance of our cars overnight. The team executed well again today in quali, both drivers pulled it off when it counted and it’s great for us to finish the last quali of the season with both cars in the top 10.
“Starting tomorrow in P6 and P8 gives us a good chance to climb further up the standings in the Drivers’ Championship which will be our focus. We’re looking forward to an exciting last race of the season and sending the MCL34 into retirement in race mode with a good result.”
Renault improved in final practice, with both drivers looking more comfortable in the R.S.19 than they did yesterday. And so it proved, with Renault getting two cars into Q3 for the first time since Russia. Hulkenberg went for the traditional two runs, but couldn't improve sufficiently on his second effort. Ricciardo tried a different strategy, going for just the one flying lap but midway through the segment when the track was empty. It proved fruitful, with the Australian grabbing eighth ahead of his team mate's P10.
Nico Hulkenberg, 10th, 1:36.710
“We’ll take tenth today. I was pleased with the laps I produced throughout all three sessions. It was a bit tricky at the start, I was chasing the feeling in the car and I did the best I could. We were on the backfoot a little bit after yesterday, but we recovered well and found some performance overnight and today. It’s positive for the team, with both cars in Q3. I think it’s going to be exciting and tight tomorrow. We’re in a race for fifth and it’s all to play for.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 8th, 1:36.456
“I’m really happy with today’s qualifying. It’s cool for both cars to be in Q3. We’ve made a good turnaround from Friday and that’s what I’m most proud about. The jump we made is really strong and encouraging and credit to the team for working hard overnight. It was close out there again today but we’re in the mix inside the top 10. There’s a bit of pressure in the fight for fifth and there’s a job to do. We delivered today and now we have to deliver tomorrow.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It was a slick qualifying and everything went perfectly to plan; traffic management, timings, garage turnarounds and driver performance. We did our homework and got both the balance and tyre temperatures under control for FP3 and qualifying. With solid sessions from both drivers and also the race crew in the garage, we can be pleased with that outcome. It’s given us a good basis for the race tomorrow.”
There was some last minute drama on Kvyat's side of the garage, with the team forced to make some late fixes to the Russian's STR14. He managed to take part in qualifying and made Q2, but could go no further. Gasly was disappointed to also exit at the second part of qualifying, but both at least have the silver lining of free tyre choice for tomorrow.
Daniil Kvyat, 14th, 1:37.141
“The car didn’t really feel great today and I was sliding around in qualifying. I never really found good grip on the tyres and the car didn’t click. The only decent lap I got in was the first lap of Q2, the rest I just had a bad feeling in the car. We hope things will be better tomorrow, the race is different to qualifying, you can play with the strategy and, if everything works well, there’s always a chance to move up the grid.”
Pierre Gasly, 12th, 1:37.089
“It was a bit of trickier session for us in qualifying compared to the rest of the weekend. We were sliding a lot and we weren’t as competitive as this morning. We’ll try to understand the reason for this tonight, but all in all it’s not bad because we start from 11th position tomorrow and have a free choice of tyres. We knew we had more degradation with the soft compound, so hopefully this will play in our favour during the race as our long runs looked strong yesterday.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“Following on from a productive Friday, FP3 was again positive with both sides of the garage fairly happy with the setup going into qualifying. Qualifying itself was ‘okay’ but nothing more, as we were having to chase the balance more than ideal in Q2, which means we have potentially slightly under delivered on the potential tonight. However, the differences in tyre life across the compounds here means that lining up outside of the top 10 with a free tyre choice potentially provides some extra chances to battle the cars ahead. As such, we are very focused on making best use of our two cars to take whatever opportunity presents itself in what we expect it could be another exciting battle in the midfield tomorrow.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“Max produced a good lap to qualify third and he inherits a front row starting position because of Bottas’ penalty. Alex also moves up one place to fifth on the grid and both these positions mean we can hope for a strong finish to the season tomorrow night. The Toro Rosso drivers missed the cut into Q3, but starting from 11 and 13 on the grid, they can still fight for points and, importantly, they have a free choice of tyre. It’s the last race of 2019 and we want to end this season in the best possible way with both our teams.”
Racing Point looked to be in the midfield fight in FP3 despite a brief moment of concern when Perez's car lost some oil exiting the pit lane. Both cars comfortably made it out of Q1 at the start of qualifying, but Stroll couldn't find enough pace to escape Q2. Perez might have done, but had a poor final flying lap and aborted his run. The Mexican is well-placed in P11, though, to take advantage of free tyre choice, with those immediately in front forced to start on the soft compound tyre.
Sergio Perez, 11th, 1:37.055
“Unfortunately I lost the rear end in Turn 1 on my last run, which meant that I missed my final chance in Q2. I don’t really know what happened. With the penalty for Bottas, we should start from P10 tomorrow, which is not a bad place to be with a free tyre choice. I think we can move forwards from there because our race pace should be stronger. We just want to end the season on a high note.”
Lance Stroll, 13th, 1:37.103
“We didn’t quite make it to Q3 tonight, but I think it was still a good effort by the team. I wasn’t happy with my Q1 performance, but I still made it through to Q2. To be starting from P12 gives us a good chance of a solid result tomorrow. We can think hard tonight about the strategy and we’ve got a free choice of tyres for the start tomorrow. There were maybe a few tenths of improvement I could have found in Q2, but I’m quite happy heading into tomorrow knowing that we have a good car in race conditions.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Small margins were the story of the day with Sergio and Lance separated by less than a tenth of a second by the end of Q2. We expect to start from P10 and P12, which gives us every chance to bring home good points tomorrow. I’m optimistic our race pace will allow us to progress from our qualifying positions. The target is to end the year on a positive note.”
Haas had looked strong yesterday, especially Grosjean, who was running a series of modifications to his VF-19. Sadly these were damaged in the collision with Bottas and on the older spec today, the Frenchman lacking the same pace and exiting in Q1. Magnussen couldn't make it much further, and unless those two can extract some extra pace, they might have their work cut out to make it into the points tomorrow.
Romain Grosjean, 16th, 1:38.051
“It was very close and very far today. After three sessions where we were sixth, seventh and 11th, I think we were ready for qualifying. We were thinking we could be around tenth or 11th. We got out there and the car just behaved very differently. Obviously, we didn’t run the same package as yesterday with the same track temperatures, that surely didn’t help us. It’s been the story of our season. You get things set up and then you go into qualifying and the car just doesn’t behave the same. I’m disappointed with that, but there’s nothing the guys could have done differently. We’ve done the best job we could. I’m looking forward to next year.”
Kevin Magnussen, 15th, 1:37.254
“We didn’t know what to expect, as always. It’s hard to say, but after FP1 and FP2 Romain (Grosjean) had been showing good pace with his car, and I was very positive. He obviously then had to go back to what I was running. Ultimately today we’re both down qualifying in P15 and P16. That’s not good but I’m hoping we can do something tomorrow. We’re going to have a bit of fun and enjoy the last race of the season, let’s see if we can try and grab a point or two.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Our expectations weren’t high for qualifying, and we were right. Finishing up 15th and 16th is the best we can do at the moment. I’m happy that it was the last qualifying session of the year, and I’m also happy that tomorrow’s the last race of the year. As always, we’re looking forward to going racing, even if we know our chances for points are slim.”
Alfa Romeo lacked the pace to compete today, and lost both cars in Q1, which was a return to Earth after their stellar performance last time out in Brazil. It looked as if the team had slightly misjudged their timing, with both drivers finishing their flying laps as the rest started theirs, and thus were unable to take advantage of any late track evolution.
Kimi Raikkonen, 18th, 1:38.383
“It’s a disappointing result as we were hoping to get something more out of qualifying. The car hasn’t lost much speed compared to last time out in Brazil, but we couldn’t find the grip we needed over a single lap. Hopefully this should be easier over a race distance, so we can hope to make progress in the race. Overtaking is not easy here, especially from where we start, but we are going to give it a good try.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 17th, 1:38.114
“The car felt pretty good but we lacked something today. It’s a pity as our race pace didn’t look bad, so a good starting position would have helped. Instead, tomorrow will be a bit of a challenge: we need a good start and to make the right strategy calls if we want to make up some places and get back in the fight.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“After such a positive weekend in Brazil, to lose two cars in Q1 falls definitely short of our expectations. We struggled to bring the tyres to the right temperature window today and that affected the grip we had on track. We have a busy night ahead trying to understand the causes for this and to turn our fortunes around in the race. We are confident in our race pace, but starting towards the back means we will have a fight ahead of us to get back into the points tomorrow.”
Williams are the only team who failed to get a driver out of Q1 this season, and once again propped up the field. Russell added a footnote in the F1 history books by out-qualifying his team mate at every race this season, this time by a healthy half a second.
Robert Kubica, 20th, 1:39.236
"It wasn’t an easy session. We had a small issue on the first run, so I lost a bit of confidence and knowledge about the conditions. In the end, I managed a reasonable lap, but it was qualifying as expected and unfortunately the pace is what it is. The race is long, and we have to make sure we do our best. It will be tough, but we will see what happens and try to enjoy tomorrow."
George Russell, 19th, 1:38.717
"It was a good final qualifying session for us. Prior to the weekend, and after yesterday, we were anticipating being a second away from the next car. I think we ended up being three tenths, and a second from Q2. You have to take the small victories and be pleased that we did the maximum with the car. Tomorrow we will do our best, it is our last opportunity until next year."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"Using the information that we gathered yesterday evening, we made some small changes to the cars for qualifying, which enabled us to significantly close the gap to Alfa Romeo in Q1. Overall the pace of the car was as expected but, once again, the team did a good job to get the most out of the car and both drivers put in strong performances.
"Our high fuel pace in FP2 was more competitive than our low fuel pace. We don’t expect that the changes we made to the car overnight will affect this, and so we go into tomorrow looking to challenge both Haas and Alfa Romeo."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"With a wide pit stop window, tomorrow is set to be a tactical race and the strategy has already begun with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel taking a different approach to the other frontrunners by opting for the soft tyre in Q2. The medium runners should be able to go for a longer first stint, but the soft runners – making up the majority of the top 10 on the grid – should be quicker at the start. Under race conditions, the performance gap between medium and soft should be something in the region of half a second per lap. This provides an interesting mix, so it should ultimately come down to strategy to make the difference."