What the teams said – Qualifying in Abu Dhabi
He’s threatened all year, but finally at the last time of asking Verstappen grabbed a 2020 pole position. He wasn’t quicker than Mercedes in any particular part of the lap, but was able to extract the maximum from his tyres to nail every single corner and cross the line narrowly ahead. After the first runs in Q3 it looked like Albon was right in that fight at the front, but he faded on his second run and had to make do with fifth.
Max Verstappen, 1st, 1:35.246
“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 and then 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.”
Alex Albon, 5th, 1:35.571
“It was my best and most competitive qualifying of the year and 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.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“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. 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. I think the race pace on the soft tyre versus the medium hasn’t quite got the distance but it has the pace early on so hopefully he can get a good start and fight at the front.”
After looking at their usual efficient best yesterday, the Silver Arrows dropped off the pace in FP3. Once the temperatures cooled, they were still expected to be the dominant force under the lights – but it was not to be. Both drivers were beaten by a great lap from Verstappen, but at least picked up the spoils with the midfield closing in from behind. Bottas pipped his team mate by half a tenth, but neither driver will be fully satisfied with their final qualifying of the season.
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:35.271
"Congratulations to Max on pole position, he did a good job today. We saw in FP3 that the Red Bull was pretty quick; they managed to optimise their car and really extract the maximum from the soft tyre, which is something we struggled with all weekend. As the track cooled down towards the end of the session, I started to suffer with understeer, which made it tricky to improve the lap times. I think I still managed to get everything out of the car, but we simply weren't quick enough today. We looked stronger on the medium tyres, but you need to be quick on the softest compound to be on pole. The points are given out on Sunday though. We have a strong car and will start the race on the mediums, so it's all still to play for. I think it's going to be a good battle between Max, Lewis and myself and anything can happen as we've seen in F1 lately. I'm looking forward to an exciting season finale tomorrow and will fight hard to end the year on a high."
Lewis Hamilton, 3rd, 1:35.332
"It's definitely been a difficult weekend, getting back into the rhythm and finding the momentum again but I'm super grateful to be back with the team and trying to close out the strong season that we've had, in style. I've struggled with the balance of the car and we weren't really gelling together, so it was a battle to get a lap together in qualifying. I still gave it my all and it was so close between us. Obviously, it's disappointing to be P3, but congratulations to Max, he's been driving great this year. Hopefully we'll give Max a good run for his money tomorrow, with both Valtteri and myself starting right behind him. It makes it more exciting, that's for sure, and there's still some unknowns with the long runs. This is a tough track to overtake on but there's still strategy to play with, and the start and first few laps are going to be important. So, there are opportunities and I'm excited to see how it'll play out."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was an exciting qualifying session and it came down to very fine margins with less than a tenth of a second between the top three at the end. We had a tough session in FP3 and were quite a long way off in terms of performance, so it was a pretty good recovery to end up P2 and P3 this evening. I was pleased to see a strong lap from Valtteri, who has had a difficult few weeks recently, and we are all very happy to see Lewis in the car and back out on track doing what he does best; after ten days away, his level of performance was impressive. Looking ahead to tomorrow's race, we have two cars in the mix, so that will give us some options on strategy and a chance to put pressure on Max in front. We're looking forward to an exciting final Grand Prix of the season - and we will be going flat out to try and finish the year on a high."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"After we put in good times on a single lap yesterday the struggle we had today came as a bit of a surprise. It was evident from the word go in final practice that we were lacking grip and losing time to ourselves, especially in the final sector. It was a bit better in qualifying, in so much as we were at least fighting for pole, but the midfield teams were much closer than normal and Red Bull were able to sneak ahead. We did manage to get both cars through the second session on the medium compound which gives us the best chance for the race although Max is also on the same rubber. It does seem like we've not managed to land the soft compound in quite the right window today and that's something that we need to understand going forward. However, our car seems to be working well on the other compounds so we will be looking at the strategy tonight to understand how we can put our drivers into a position where they can challenge for the win tomorrow."
Norris has looked strong all weekend, something clicking here for the youngster. Add in the newer power unit in his MCL35, and he was absolutely flying in qualifying. He wound up an impressive fourth, just over two-tenths off pole and looks well set for the race. As for Sainz, he had to concede the qualifying head to head to his team mate, but does start on the mediums to his team mate’s softs. That means it could still be game on down at McLaren in the intra-team rivalry tomorrow.
Carlos Sainz, 6th, 1:35.815
“A very good day for the team. I think the main thing is that we got the two cars into the top six on split strategies as well. I started off strong, using only one set of tyres to make it into Q2. I had a good feeling with the Medium tyre yesterday and I wanted to give it a go in Q2, managing to put together a strong lap and qualifying for Q3 on that compound. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put together my best lap on my final run in Q3. Some overheating on the rear axle and a couple of mistakes on my side meant I couldn’t qualify further up.
"I wanted to get the highest possible result in my final quali session with the team and maybe I pushed too hard! It’s a shame, but overall I’m happy with what we did in Q1 and Q2 with the Medium tyres, which puts us in a good spot for tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to fighting for McLaren one last time and hopefully bringing home a good result. Vamos!”
Lando Norris, 4th, 1:35.497
“Very happy, I felt like I did a really good job. I was very comfortable in the car and felt like I nailed my lap on that final run. I definitely took another step forward in Q3, which I’m really pleased about. We're ahead of a few people we didn’t expect to be ahead of, so great work by the team at track and at the factory to get us in this position.
“I’m on a Soft start tomorrow and some other cars around me are going to be on the Medium, so I think it’s going to be an interesting race. It’ll probably be quite tough in the first stint, but starting from the second row gives us a great chance to score some decent points. We had good pace today and we'll do our best to carry it into tomorrow.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“Congratulations to the entire team, both drivers and our colleagues at Renault for one of the best qualifying sessions we’ve had this year. There was a clear plan today, it was executed well in the garage, and the drivers were able to deliver the laps when it mattered. Carlos did a great job to get through Q2 on the Medium tyres, which will give him a small advantage tomorrow, and Lando put in a brilliant final lap in Q3 to start P4.
“Having said that, the car has been competitive all through practice, and the team has been able to improve it step-by-step. It’s testament to a lot of great work that’s gone in back at the factory this year, continually pushing development and improving the car throughout the season.
“We won’t get carried away with one good Saturday, because the points are distributed tomorrow. We’ll focus on preparing for this final race of 2020 in the same way we've prepared for the previous 16. It should be a compelling Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”
Perez was always starting from the back of the grid thanks to a raft of power unit penalties, and so took the minimum part in qualifying. That was a shame for everyone watching, as it would have been incredible to see where he could have ended up tonight. It was left to Stroll, as the only Pink Panther in the top 10, but the Canadian couldn’t quite nail his lap as the chequered flag fell, and had to make do with eighth.
Sergio Perez, 15th, No time set in Q2
“Today was my last qualifying session with the team and it was definitely a bit emotional. It’s a shame that we couldn’t do qualifying properly but there’s no point using up tyres or taking risks when we will start at the back of the field anyway. I think we have really strong pace this weekend and I felt great on my Q1 lap, so I’m confident we could have fought for a very strong result in normal circumstances. We knew this penalty was coming so our focus has been entirely on making sure we have a strong package for the race tomorrow. The goal has to be to work our way up well into the points because today has shown just how close the battle for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship will be. My fresh powertrain is a couple of tenths per lap quicker than those towards the end of their life, which should be of big benefit in the race. McLaren has both cars in the Top 10 and Renault has the free tyre choice, so it’s going to be a long race tomorrow where anything can happen. It’s now sinking in that tomorrow is going to be my last race with the team. I’m determined to leave here on a high with a great result for myself and everyone in the team. There’s a lot to play for and I’m excited to get going tomorrow.”
Lance Stroll, 8th, 1:36.046
“It wasn’t the easiest qualifying session this year because I found the car a little bit tricky to drive out there. It’s too early to explain exactly why it was difficult, but I’m confident we can go away tonight and find the answers we need. We started strongly in Q1 with a good lap time but we just weren’t able to make progress relative to our rivals in Q2 and Q3. The positive is that we are starting comfortably inside the Top 10. It’s a long race, it’s the end of the season and anything can happen in the Grand Prix. The two McLarens might be ahead, but If we make a good start and make the right calls on strategy, I think we can move forward and fight hard to keep hold of P3 in the Constructors’ Championship. We’ll go away and look over the data tonight and find improvements in the car, but also look into how the race is likely to play out tomorrow. We’ll come back strong tomorrow and aim for good points.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“A very close fight in Q3 tonight with Lance ending the session in P8. He’s shown strong pace all weekend and can take the fight to the cars around him to score good points tomorrow. Sergio will start near the back of the grid due to the power unit change [and resulting grid penalty] so there was no sense in doing unnecessary mileage in tonight. There’s a really close battle in the Constructors’ Championship so we need to help Sergio move through the pack and score points too. There’s plenty at stake and a long race ahead of us, but we will do all we can to bring home the results we need tomorrow.”
They had looked short of pace all weekend with respect to their midfield rivals, but AlphaTauri excelled when it mattered to get both cars into Q3. Gasly had been struggling for balance so it was no surprise to see him in P10, but Kvyat picked up where he left off in Sakhir. Another blistering lap from the Russian, who has saved his best form for the end of the season, was enough to secure seventh on the grid.
Pierre Gasly, 10th, 1:36.242
“It has been quite hard this morning in FP3, so we didn’t really expect to be in Q3 today. I’ve been struggling all weekend with the balance, but we made a small step forward in quali, probably not as much as we would have wished though. I couldn't really put in the lap I wanted but it was good enough to get us to P10 in the end, which is still a decent position to start the race tomorrow. We know it’s not going to be easy to start with the option and the first stint will be tricky, but many drivers are in the same situation, so we’ll just have to be a bit better than the others as for the tyre management. Given it's the last race of the season, it would be nice to finish it with a few more points in the pocket.”
Daniil Kvyat, 7th, 1:35.963
“I think that’s probably the best qualifying lap of my life! I’m very happy with today, it feels great to put it together here in Abu Dhabi as it’s a long track with many corners. We knew we could be competitive, but it was hard to understand the tyres this weekend. I think we did a good job in understanding everything at the right time for qualifying, so I’ll enjoy the feeling for another hour or so. Then, my focus will turn to tomorrow’s race. Starting from P7, we’ve given ourselves a good foundation and hopefully, we’ll be able to capitalise on today’s result. When I get a car to my liking, I can be very fast and now I hope everyone can see the result I can achieve. I like the car the way it is now, so let’s finish this season on a high.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“The final Saturday of the season was very busy, with very small lap time differences between the midfield cars meaning there was no margin for error. However, the hard work of the drivers and the guys in the garage paid off and we managed to get both cars into Q3 for the final qualifying of the season. Today's result was good, although personally, I quite liked the idea of a prime tyre start!
"The points are awarded tomorrow, so our attention now shifts to race preparations, with the target remaining the same as it has all season: to score as many points as possible with both cars in what we expect to be a very tight race. It’s been an intense season for everyone, but we are all looking forward to tomorrow’s race and ending the season on a high.”
It was another mixed bag for Ferrari, with Vettel bowing out in Q2 in his final qualifying for the team. Leclerc made Q3 and was looking strong, but instead was left bemused as his pace faded away in the top 10 shootout. He also has a three-place grid drop earned last time out for causing the first lap collision in Sakhir, so winds up starting just ahead of his team mate.
Sebastian Vettel, 13th, 1:36.631
"Obviously it is not nice to start my final race with the team from 13th on the grid. The result itself is quite bad, even if I was happy with my own performance on the lap. Maybe putting together the perfect lap would have got me as high as tenth, but no better than that. My plan for the race tomorrow is simply to try and do my best. I guess we won’t have an easy race.
"I think it will be special since it is the last one. I want to enjoy this race and feel very close to the people in the garage, the mechanics, the engineers, everyone. It will be very emotional."
Charles Leclerc, 9th, 1:36.065
"I am not so happy about today. Even though Q1 was good and Q2 was very, very good on medium tyres, in Q3 we lost the rhythm, especially in the last sector and it didn’t work out for us. Unfortunately, we have a three-place grid penalty to take tomorrow so it won’t make much difference that I am starting on mediums, as I expect people around me at the start to go for medium or hard tyres. We were quite competitive in FP2 even though our long runs were affected by the red flag, so our pace shouldn’t be too bad tomorrow.
"It’s going to be a tricky race because here in Abu Dhabi it’s always very warm so tyre management will be a big thing, more than usual. I want to stay sixth in the drivers’ championship so for this last race of the season I’ll do all I can to make up as many places as possible."
Laurent Mekies Sporting Director
"Today’s qualifying result was pretty much in line with the rest of the season, but it’s worth looking at it more closely as there were some positives to be drawn from it. Our main aim was to get into Q3 on the medium tyre, especially with Charles, to minimise the effect of his three-place grid penalty from the previous round.
"Thanks to a great lap, Charles managed to make the cut but after that, he didn’t get the same feeling for the soft that he had found in Q1, where he was one of the quickest. A shame, as we have seen very often this year how the mid-field is very evenly matched and it doesn’t take much to be at the front or the back. Last week in Sakhir we led this group of cars, but today we are in the middle. Unfortunately, Sebastian only managed to qualify 13th.
"Yas Marina has never suited our cars, especially the third and slowest sector, although today we are among the quickest on this part of the track, which is interesting looking to the future. We can as usual expect the race to be closely fought and difficult, with a lot of cars bunched together, given that the performance gaps are down to a few tenths."
Ocon had impressed yesterday, and then in FP3 it was the turn of Ricciardo to finish in the top three. As such, Renault went into qualifying as the midfield favourites and yet saw both cars ejected in Q2 in a shock result. At a loss to explain why their pace went away as the sun set, the team do at least have free tyre choice and will inherit a place when Leclerc’s penalty is applied. But it was a far from ideal session and will lead to some overnight head scratching to work out just what happened to their pace tonight.
Daniel Ricciardo, 12th, 1:36.406
“It’s a shame finishing 12th today as we looked quick this morning with third and fourth and we were aiming for much higher than that. We got through to Q2 quite comfortably with just one fast lap on the softs, but then we struggled to match the pace on both medium and soft tyres. I don’t think we know why yet, so we’ll take a look at it tonight. I don’t like starting 11th, but we both have tyre choice tomorrow so that’s a positive from today as strategy is going to be key in the race. We saw last weekend how starting on the medium tyres can pay off, so we have options tomorrow. It’s my last race with the team too and I want to make sure we end this on a high.”
Esteban Ocon, 11th, 1:36.359
“We have to dig into that as it wasn’t quite what we were aiming for today. We’ve been in the top 10 all weekend, third and fourth in Free Practice 3, and then we seemed to lose the rear, the grip and the tyres were not working as well as they have been. It’s something we need to understand because it’s been a solid weekend other than this session. It’s not all over, though, and tomorrow it’s all or nothing. We need to come back, we need to score good points and we do have the free starting tyre choice, which does give us something to work with. We aim to finish this season well and inside the points.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“Obviously, it was a disappointing qualifying session for us. The car was working very well earlier in Free Practice 3, so we need to have a close look and learn from this. There were no particular balance issues but both cars were lacking overall grip. On the plus side, we will have a free starting tyre choice and we saw what can happen from eleventh on the grid last weekend. We will give everything in this final race to score a good haul of points and end the season on a positive note.”
The Alfa Romeo qualifying head to head was tied at eight-all going into today’s session, and it was all on the line at the end of Q1 with Raikkonen in P15 and Giovinazzi in the drop zone. But the Italian improved late on to knock his team mate out and seal the battle in his favour.
Kimi Raikkonen, 16th, 1:37.555
“The car didn’t feel too bad, but my final lap in Q1 wasn’t great. The first part was ok, but I hit some kerbs in the last sector and ruined my time. It is what it is and we will need to do a good job in the race. We struggled a bit in FP3 earlier, but I am confident our race pace will be ok come tomorrow.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 14th, 1:38.248
“I am happy with another Q2, especially as I think my final lap in Q1 was pretty good. It’s a pity to have my fastest lap in the second segment deleted, as I was pushing a lot and went a bit wide, but in the end it wouldn’t have been enough to make it to Q3, so it would not have made any difference. To have another car in Q2 is good motivation for the team. We have been making it into the top 15 more often in the final part of the season, which is a sign we have been improving the car lately: now let’s see what we can achieve tomorrow. Our target is to have a good first lap and be in the fight for the points.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“It was a good result for us to wrap up our qualifying efforts for 2020. It was really positive was seeing we had the measure of our direct rivals and we could fight to be in Q2, but of course is disappointing to lose a car in Q1. It’s been a very balanced qualifying fight for Antonio and Kimi and in the end it was Antonio who got the edge, both today and throughout the season. P14 and P15 on the grid, as it will likely be tomorrow, means we have a good chance to be in the fight for the points. It’s up to us to do our best to convert those positions into a top 10 finish.”
It was Magnussen’s final qualifying for the team and he tried his best but the VF-20 didn’t have the pace to compete today. Given the Dane starts from the back after taking on some new PU components, he was set for a long race tomorrow regardless. Fittipaldi couldn’t match Magnussen this evening but once again put in a respectable performance for the team in only his second qualifying.
Pietro Fittipaldi, 19th, 1:38.173
“We made some changes after FP3, the engineers really did a great job. I really felt confident with the car in qualifying. We were about a tenth off of Kevin (Magnussen) on my first run but we knew we could make steps forward. Unfortunately, we were trying to do three runs in Q1 and when I came in after my first run I got called to the FIA weigh-bridge. We lost a lot of time there and we were just trying to catch up after. The second run was a bit of a wash – it was rushed. I then had traffic in the last sector on my final run, and Latifi spun on the exit of the last corner ahead of me. So, basically my third run wasn’t a proper one. At the end though, I was still really competitive in comparison with Kevin – as I said last week, he’s a great reference for me. I’m really happy with the step forward we made today.”
Kevin Magnussen, 17th, 1:37.863
“The car was fine, I just didn’t really have the qualifying session I should have had, especially on the last run when I had a tow. It wasn’t great, but we knew it didn’t matter as I’m starting last no matter what. It’s always really cool to drive a Formula 1 car though, especially in qualifying spec – it’s always enjoyable. The car has actually felt pretty good all weekend. I’m looking forward to the race now. It’s tough starting last but I’ll go out and try and have some fun in my last race with the team.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“No real surprises again in qualifying today. Clearly, we’re not happy to be where we are, it’s not something we can be comfortable with as a team – and we’re not. Focusing on the positives from the session, Pietro (Fittipaldi) looked confident in the car in Q1 and he was right up with Kevin (Magnussen) at the end of his first run. We obviously knew it didn’t matter where Kevin qualified, he’ll be at the back of the grid tomorrow due to the penalties incurred. That just about sums up our season. That said, there’s no lack of effort from everyone on the team, Sunday’s race will see us continue to work hard and hope that something comes our way to end the year.”
Neither driver could fully get to grips with the Pirelli compounds, struggling to get the tyres in their working window. Latifi spun on his final flying effort which relegated him to the back of the grid. That at least meant Russell kept his record of always out-qualifying the Canadian going, but it is scant consolation after the highs of last weekend as he finds himself back down the field and out in Q1.
George Russell, 18th, 1:38.045
"It was really tricky out there. We really struggled with the tyres, Nicholas was also struggling, which was a bit strange as in FP3 the car was good. It’s the last race of the year tomorrow though and that is where it counts. The aim is to try and overtake and move forward where we can. We usually have strong Saturdays and struggle on Sundays so hopefully a poor Saturday means a good Sunday!"
Nicholas Latifi, 20th, 1:38.443
"It was quite a disappointing qualifying. On the first set of tyres there were some mistakes, so there was a lot of margin to improve. There was quite a big queue on my second set in the last sector to start the lap, everyone was going excessively slow to try and get their gap and the tyre surface temperatures must have dropped quite low. When I got on the gas there was no grip at all and there was such a big snap that it caught me completely off guard and I spun. I felt there was a decent amount to improve from the first set, but it is what it is. However, I am excited for the last race of the season and I hope we can end the year on a high."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"In the evening qualifying session, both drivers struggled with tyre temperature whilst also trying to manage the traffic around them. This left them struggling for grip on both axles. Nicholas underestimated just how low the tyre grip was and span before he crossed the line to open his final lap. George had a better lap but was unable to replicate the performance from FP3 when the tyres were working well. It was a frustrating way to end the final qualifying session of the season. However, we will gain a couple of places on the grid tomorrow and will aim to race hard and finish the season as strongly as we can."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"Qualifying is always a very important part of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with more than half the races held here having been won from pole. The medium yellow tyre is a very interesting compound to start the race on, with five of the top 10 qualifiers in Q2 setting their best times with this compound and four more trying to. We have noticed less improvement in terms of lap times in comparison to last year, perhaps also because of the absence of Formula 2 and Formula 3 support races, which means less rubber left on the track. But with the top three all starting on the medium and some very fast cars on the soft right behind them, we're set for a tactically intriguing race: especially at the start."