What the teams said - Qualifying in Abu Dhabi
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. After coming agonisingly close to an incredible pole last time out, Verstappen made sure no mistakes were made this time around. Helped out with a tow from his team mate, his first lap in Q3 blew the field apart and was so good that he was able to effectively abort his second effort, knowing pole was his. Perez was pipped by Norris late on, but played the team game out there. The only cloud on the Red Bull horizon is the fact both drivers start on the softs to their rivals’ mediums, with Verstappen locking up when running the yellow-marked rubber in Q2 and thus needing to set a lap on the softs to avoid starting on flat-spotted tyres.
Max Verstappen, 1st, 1:22.109
“It’s always good to have a performance like this one today, but there are no guarantees for tomorrow, I still expect it to be a really hard battle. I originally planned to start on the mediums but I flat spotted my tyres so I had to go onto the softs, I actually felt okay on the softs during the long runs so hopefully it will work out tomorrow in the race. So far, the car has been good and throughout the practice sessions we made some good improvements to the car. I think everything worked out well, especially with Checo’s help, it was nicely executed. He’s a great teammate and a real pleasure to work with so a big thank you to him. I hope we have a good start and from there on in we can have a great race.”
Sergio Perez, 4th, 1:22.947
“I think our teamwork today was great, especially for Q3 and I am pleased for the Team and the result, it was very nice to see Max taking the pole. Max and I talked about the tow together and with the Team, we managed to do a great one! It is very difficult to time it, if you are too close you can hurt the other car and lose some downforce. It worked perfectly; I think if we tried it again then it is very likely it would go wrong! This weekend has been a lot of work for everyone in the Team and we have been pushing extremely hard so I am just pleased we managed to work it out. Lining up fourth on the grid is not ideal for me but that wasn’t the main thing today. I lost out on P3 in the final corner but it’s not a disaster, there is still plenty of things I can do tomorrow. My aim will be to make a difference at the front, I will try to get Lando at the start so I can support Max early on. There is still a lot we can do starting on the soft tyre; it is a long game and we don’t think the starting tyre is going to dictate too much. I think there is a great race ahead of us.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“That was one of Max's best laps of the year, but now we need to try and convert that tomorrow. Both runs in Q3 were exceptional and it was great teamwork from Checo to give him the tow like he did, it was worth a tenth or two, but not half a second. Max has given it his all and is driving his heart out, he’s thrown everything at it today. Credit has to be given to Checo, he has been a real dutiful teammate and sacrificed his laps tonight, we can't ask for more than that. When we discussed strategies this morning we were very much 50/50, so we're not overly upset to be starting on the softs, the medium is a bit more robust but it'll be interesting to see how it plays out. Track position will also be crucial given the degradation. We've just got to get our heads down and run our best race tomorrow, as we know how good Mercedes are around this track, it's one of Lewis' strongest circuits, so we need to focus on ourselves and hopefully we’ll do enough to win it.”
Fastest in the final practice session, it looks like pole was Hamilton’s for the taking. But he didn’t have an answer to the pace of his rival, ending up three-tenths off. He nailed his final lap to grab second at least, and starts on the medium tyre to boot. Bottas wasn’t so lucky, he was beaten down to sixth and will be surrounded by soft-shod runners at the start. Mercedes didn’t opt to use the tow out there either, which was an interesting strategic decision.
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:22.480
"Well, firstly Max did a great lap today and we just couldn't compete with that time at the end there. It was a fantastic lap from him but we're in a good position, I'd like to think, with our tyres tomorrow and I hope that we can have a good race. On the first lap of Q3, I dropped a bit of time in the last corner and Turn 5, but my final lap was nice and clean, I just couldn't go any quicker. I don't know if it's tyre prep or whatever it may be, in terms of the out lap, but nonetheless I couldn't beat that time so he deserved the pole. I'm still on the front row for tomorrow, with the tyre difference and I'm grateful I can see where he is, so we can try and navigate from there."
Valtteri Bottas, 6th, 1:23.036
"I was hoping for more, it was a tricky Quali - a good Q1, decent Q2 but by Q3, I couldn't improve any more. My setup was definitely more focused on the race rather than Quali so as the grip levels increased, I couldn't improve my times and hit a bit of a limit. I'm happy with my setup for tomorrow which should make it exciting. Also starting on the Medium tyre tomorrow opens up different strategy options, we can go long in the first stint if we want to but on the Soft, you can't, so it'll be an interesting race. Overall, not the best result today but we can definitely make it up tomorrow, it's game on."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"On days like today, you have to take it like it is, it's 1-0 to them, they got the tyres in the perfect window in the last run, the tow functioned flawlessly and that's why they are on pole. I'm happy we'll be starting on the Medium tyre tomorrow. We will have a slight disadvantage on the start I guess, and the first six or seven laps, but we can go longer, or also go for an aggressive undercut and try to control track position. Overnight we'll be running lots of programmes and algorithms to help form our strategy for tomorrow.
"The pace was there in practice, obviously on the long runs you don't know, but whichever car is faster tomorrow will win the race. We just need to focus on that, recoup and then hopefully come out on top tomorrow. We are on the back foot and sometimes that's not bad as a starting point. Lewis will be super motivated for tomorrow and just go hunting, as always. For Valtteri, the gap between P3 and P6 was all within a tenth so its unfortunate he'll be starting in that gaggle but he just needs to make it through the first lap or two, and get back up."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It was a tricky qualifying for both drivers and unusually, the car felt at its best in the first session and seemed to get less competitive as we progressed. Of course it would have made tomorrow easier if we had pole but we're pleased to be starting on the Medium tyre and we've hopefully added some long run pace overnight. We've got a busy night going through the various strategy options for tomorrow but we've shown good race pace recently, along with an ability to recover positions and pass on track. We had a much bigger challenge in Brazil and showed what we are capable of, so we'll be doing everything possible to get ourselves into a position to bring home the win and the championships tomorrow."
Norris attempted to make it out of Q2 on the mediums, but had to settle for the softs in the end. That did mean he had two sets of the red-marked tyre for Q3 though, which he put to brilliant use, nailing his final flying run to grab an incredible P3 on the grid – although he did admit that he may try and keep clear of the championship fight ahead of him come race day. As for Ricciardo, he was never on the pace of his team mate and on his one fresh-shod run in Q3, couldn’t manage more than P10.
Daniel Ricciardo, 10th, 1:23.409
“It was a tricky session. The new tyre was my biggest problem, I just wasn’t able to take another step with it. I’ve got to look into whether there’s something I can do differently to get the tyre in the right window. It’s on me to try to figure that out.
“Otherwise, we’ll try to do something from where we start tomorrow. Hopefully, there’s a few things happening that we can make the most of. Lando was strong, I’m really happy for him in third. Obviously, we’d love to be further up there with him, but I just didn’t have it today.”
Lando Norris, 3rd, 1:22.931
"I'm very happy. I didn’t expect to be P3 today, but the car felt in a good position going into qualifying and I also felt like I did a very good lap when I needed to in my second run in Q3. Everything came together and I gave myself the best position for tomorrow to score some good points. So, I'm excited and looking forward to the race, which is going to be tough – but we’ll give it our best.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“A very good result from the final qualifying session of the MCL35M at the end of a long season. Lando pulled out a sensational final lap to take P3 – he’ll have a front row seat for tomorrow’s championship battle between Lewis and Max. Unfortunately, on Daniel’s side, he couldn’t extract the maximum from the new Soft tyre with his final attempt, which meant P10 for him.
“We’re looking forward to finishing the season on a high. We want to score good points, let’s go for it.”
Ferrari had looked quick all day, and ran the medium compound in Q1 to try and save a set of softs for Q3. It worked a treat, with both cars getting two flying runs in. Sainz set his last lap very late and it was a good one, pipping Bottas and grabbing a spot on the clean side of the grid. Leclerc couldn’t quite match that but at least out-qualified the second McLaren of Ricciardo as the team hunt down a seventh-straight double points finish.
Charles Leclerc, 7th, 1:23.122
"We had the potential to do better today. My first and second sectors were coming together very well, but I probably pushed a bit too much so that I had no grip left by the time I arrived at the last sector. It’s a shame, but that’s life. It’s going to be tough for us to fight back tomorrow, but we will do our best. We are strong in terms of our race pace, so hopefully we can put it all together one last time this season."
Carlos Sainz, 5th, 1:22.992
"I am pretty satisfied with my performance today, after yesterday was one of the most difficult Fridays in a long time and we’ve managed to recover well. We worked hard to put together a competitive car so my thanks to the entire team. This session confirms I’ve made solid progress in qualifying since the beginning of the year, so that’s another positive from today.
"Sector three was key: not pushing the tyres too much in the first two sectors and going for it at the end translated into a good lap. Looking at the timesheet, it could have been even better since Lando is only a few hundredths of a second ahead of me. Tomorrow in the race it’s not going to be easy to pass but we will try our best to give him a good fight and gain some positions. I want to end my first season with Scuderia Ferrari on a high. Let’s go racing!"
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"A solid qualifying session, especially in terms of our performance level. Right from the start of the season, we have seen that it’s very close behind the two teams at the front and it takes very little to find oneself ahead or behind a group that can be made up of between ten to 12 cars. Carlos and Charles gave it their best shot and were in the hunt for a place on the second row right to the end and their grid positions are a good starting point for tomorrow’s race.
"After races on two completely new tracks, we are at a circuit that has been significantly modified, making it much more flowing and I think the team has once again shown this weekend that it is capable of adapting quickly to anything new. Today, we went against the tide in our approach to qualifying, which will help us exploit our potential.
"Tomorrow, we will try and convert that into a good result, in order to achieve the goals we are still pursuing. We want to have a good race to end the season, to put a smile on the face of our drivers, and all of us who work hard every day, both at the track and back in Maranello and all the people from all over the world who follow Scuderia Ferrari with so much passion and enthusiasm."
Another team who looked so good in practice only to fail to deliver on their promise were AlphaTauri. Gasly had looked quick until brake issues derailed his first run in Q2. With it all to do on the last run, he struggled for brake warm-up and missed out on Q3 for just the fourth time this season. That paved the way for Tsunoda to shine though and the rookie duly delivered, making Q3 with ease on the medium compound tyre, the only midfield runner to do so. He lost his first flying lap time to track limits, which would have been good enough for sixth – but P8 is still a very handy effort.
Pierre Gasly, 12th, 1:24.043
“We were just too slow for Q3 today. Since the start of the weekend we’ve struggled, I’ve been losing a lot compared to Yuki and we’ve just not managed to find a solution to this problem. The whole season we’ve been incredible in qualifying, so we need to go away and look at the data to better understand what’s happened today and try to fix it for tomorrow. I will get to choose my starting tyre, which is for sure a positive, and we’ll see what we can do to make our way forward.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 8th, 1:23.220
“It’s been a good weekend so far but I’m of course a little frustrated today, it’s such a shame about the track limits in Q3 as I think it was a good lap especially without a tow. My confidence has really returned this weekend and it shows on track, it’s the most confident I’ve felt in the car since the first race in Bahrain, so that’s really positive. I’m really pleased with my Q2 lap and it means I’ll be starting the race on the Mediums, which is a really strong position to be in. It’s definitely a good way to finish the season, with a strong qualifying, and I just have to put it altogether when it counts tomorrow.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“Following the various set up directions investigated yesterday, and a useful number of laps completed, there was plenty of data to go through overnight, in order to improve the car. I think it’s fair to say that a reasonable step-up has been taken with car balance and performance on both sides of the garage, with both drivers confirming improvements in FP3, following some fine tuning of aero balance early in this session. This good start today meant the car changes made ahead of the last qualifying session of the season were pretty much limited to ensuring that the cars were rebalanced for the change in track conditions associated with the later qualifying here in Abu Dhabi.
"These adjustments were well anticipated and both cars looked reasonably well balanced in Q1, making the cut without any fuss. As expected, Q2 saw quite a few cars, including both of ours, move from the soft to the medium compound for the first run. Yuki managed to close a clean lap whilst Pierre was unfortunate with a snap at T9, which compromised this corner and the remainder of this lap. Both cars made a second run on the mediums in Q2, with Yuki completing a solid lap which put him in the top 10, while Pierre unfortunately struggled with out-lap traffic and could not execute a clean lap. This meant he missed out on Q3 on this occasion, ending the session in P12.
"Yuki's first run in Q3 was very good, but an excursion beyond the track limit at T16 saw this lap deleted, however his second run was clean seeing him line up for tomorrow’s race in P8. The grid positions we have for tomorrow provide us with options and our strategists will be working hard tonight, crunching the numbers, so that we are best prepared for a race which, in addition to deciding the 2021 Championships’, is also likely to provide another tight midfield battle. Our aim will be to add as many points as we can to the season total, building on what is already the highest total points score in the team’s history.”
Both Alpine drivers had looked exceptionally quick on the soft tyres yesterday, so ninth and P11 wasn’t quite what they would have hoped for. Alonso was caught out by the traffic chaos at the end of Q2, but at least has free tyre choice for the race. Ocon was caught dawdling on the arcing line in Q1 which the stewards had a look at, giving the Frenchman a fine for his troubles.
Esteban Ocon, 9th. 1:23.389
“I think it’s positive today. I’m happy to be in Q3 again in ninth place, which was probably the maximum we could achieve. Everything was there, we were improving run by run, little bits at a time, so there was not much more left. Overall, it’s positive to be in the top ten for tomorrow’s race and happy to end the year – from a qualifying perspective – with this performance. We chose to start on Softs for tomorrow, and I’m sure there’ll be some opportunities ahead. As always, the aim is to score points and we want to finish the season as strong as possible.”
Fernando Alonso, 11th, 1:23.460
“The car felt quite good so it’s a shame to miss out on Q3 after the issues at the end. The out-lap was wild in Q2 and there seemed to be no rules. It reminded me of what happened in Austria where there were penalties given out. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone to referee this. I expect we might climb a few places but let’s see where we start in the end. I am happy that I have the free tyre choice so it gives us the opportunity to play with our strategy a little and score some points tomorrow.”
Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director
“It was a very close qualifying today with different tyre strategies between teams and lots of traffic to manage. We are a bit disappointed with ninth and eleventh today, especially given the pace we showed yesterday. The drivers were less happy with the car in Free Practice 3 earlier in the afternoon but we were hoping that with a cooler track they would find better grip again. Fernando was improving in his last attempt in Q2 but met Daniel (Ricciardo) in the last corner and that compromised his lap, missing Q3 by a mere 0.012secs. Esteban qualified in ninth after a very well executed qualifying and extracted all he could from a slightly compromised car. Today’s result puts us in a decent position for tomorrow’s race. Esteban will start with Soft tyres and Fernando has free choice of tyres. It’s all to be played for and points will be there for the taking.”
Aston Martin have been off the pace all weekend so it was no surprise when both drivers failed to make the top-10 shootout. Vettel was lucky to even make Q2 after being balked by Ocon in Q1, and he then suffered more traffic issues towards the end of Q2, practically stopping out on track at one point. That traffic didn’t help Stroll either, but at least they have free tyre choice for tomorrow.
Sebastian Vettel, 15th, 1:24.305
“It was not our day – mainly because of problems with traffic. I was held up [by Esteban Ocon] in Q1, but just made it through to Q2 where there were even more problems. All the drivers were backing up at the end of the lap and we saw some drivers jumping the queues. I had to come to a standstill and, as a result, I lost too much tyre temperature, which ruined my final quick lap. I should have been more selfish because other drivers do not respect the agreement to stay in order before they start their lap. We all end up at the same place because we try to maximise the sessions [with the same timings] but then you have the same drivers who always jump the queue. So we start from P15 and hopefully we can overtake a lot of cars tomorrow. Our race pace should be competitive so let us see what we can do.”
Lance Stroll, 13th, 1:24.066
“I think P13 was around the maximum we could have achieved today. We made some changes to the set-up of the car today and I am happier with the balance, which is positive for tomorrow. We will have a free choice of tyres for the start of the race and plenty of options with strategy, so there are opportunities to move forward in the race. We should be fighting to score points. That would be a nice way to mark my 100th race in Formula One.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Both our drivers progressed smoothly through Q1 into Q2. Lance did well to end up 13th-quickest, from which position he can drive for points in tomorrow’s race. Sebastian was seriously compromised by traffic, and as a result he was prevented from driving a proper out lap, which meant that he was unable to generate enough heat in his tyres to lean on them on his fast lap. The result was that he was 15th-quickest. Without traffic he believes he could have gone significantly faster and be further up the gid.”
Not to be for Raikkonen in his last ever qualifying, a small mistake on his final run sending him wide as he ended up aborting what had looked a stunning effort to head off for an early shower. Giovinazzi did make Q2 but as others improved, couldn’t extract enough pace to compete with the rest of the midfield. They’ll be hoping for a chaotic race tomorrow if either driver wants to get in the points in their last outing with Alfa Romeo.
Kimi Raikkonen, 18th, 1:24.779
“I was on a pretty good lap on my final run of Q1, the time looked good, but I got sideways in Turn 13 and that was it. It’s a pity as the car felt nice. Tomorrow is another day, we start pretty far at the back but we will try to have as good a race as possible and bring home a good result.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 14th, 1:24.251
“I think we achieved close to the maximum we could today: maybe P12 or P13 were possible, but Q3 was a step too far. I had a run on medium as I wanted to try them, but my final run on softs was spoiled by the traffic at the end of the outlap: my tyres and my brakes were too cold in sector one and we couldn’t improve. It’s been a bit like this all season with the traffic, but it is what it is. We can still have a good race from 14th, with a good first lap and a good strategy to see what we can achieve from there. I want to enjoy this final race of the season and have a good result to say goodbye to the team.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“It’s very much a case of mixed feelings after today’s qualifying. Antonio probably achieved a result close to the maximum potential of the car, and broadly reflective of where we were throughout practice; Kimi, unfortunately, was setting a very fast time in his final run in Q1, probably the fifth or sixth fastest time, but all the advantage went in sector three. It’s disappointing as we could have had two cars solidly in Q2 on a day where there were very small margins. Still, we can take some comfort from a decent pace that should give us a fighting chance tomorrow. The objective remains the same, to finish the season on a high.”
Frustration for Russell who thought there was more pace in the car than he was able to show, chastising the team for the timing of his last run as he exited at the first time of asking. Latifi likewise couldn’t make it to Q2, but did get the beating of his team mate over one lap for just the second time in his F1 career, to end the qualifying part of the season on something of a high.
George Russell, 17th, 1:24.423
"The car was feeling great on our flying laps and I was really confident that we could progress into Q2. We went for one push lap at the end and unfortunately, the tyres weren't quite ready so we didn't improve our best time and that was a shame. However, the points are scored tomorrow and the most important thing is to secure P8 in the Constructors' Championship. I believe we can achieve that, but we know it's not over until it's over. We will be doing everything we can to finish ahead of Alfa Romeo."
Nicholas Latifi, 16th, 1:24.338
" think we were hoping for more on track today as the car felt decent. It’s rare that neither of us make it to Q2, it’s the minimum goal so to not achieve that as a team is frustrating. There are definitely things we could have improved; my lap time could have been better and we struggled a bit with traffic ahead of that last lap. It’s always an issue in Abu Dhabi when everyone is trying to get position in the final sector. It means you arrive at Turn One not really knowing what the car will do when you hit the brakes, so I expect we could have found some extra time there. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow, it’s a long race and the new layout should improve overtaking."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"We’ve had a difficult end to the season’s qualifying sessions. The car had the pace to get into Q2 but only if we could get the tyres into the perfect window. This worked well for George in the opening run, but Nicholas had a slightly more difficult out-lap. For the second run, we opted to split the cars, with Nicholas going early and George letting the main group go before setting off. Neither got a perfect out-lap, but George was in a great position until the very end of his out-lap when he had to let the early leavers past because the cars ahead started fanning out.
"It is frustrating not to have got a better result, especially as this is George’s last race weekend with us; we’ll review what we did and understand if we could’ve done something better. However, we have both cars ahead of Räikkönen, and Giovinazzi is only a couple of places ahead and so there is still a good opportunity tomorrow.
"Today we did what we have done all season: aimed for the small window of perfection in a bid to outqualify the basic pace of the car, but today it didn’t pay off as well as it has at previous races. That is the nature of Formula One, especially in Q1 when 20 cars are vying for a short piece of track."
Mazepin was forced to take avoiding action rot he second weekend running when coming up behind a slow-moving Hamilton, but other than that the rookie had a clean day. Schumacher likewise kept his sessions tidy, but both will be hoping for a much more competitive car over one lap next season.
Mick Schumacher, 19th, 1:24.906
“I’m happy that we had a good year overall with qualifying pace but I think today was not the best from my side – we didn’t really know what we wanted from each other, the car and I. Those things happen, we learn from them and we’ll go back and analyze what we did different and see how we can improve it. When we go back next year and we’re in the position to be going into Q2 more, we don’t have that. We had a pretty good car for qualifying, so hopefully we have an even better one for the race to go and fight.”
Nikita Mazepin, 20th, 1:25.685
“It’s tough but there are still opportunities to potentially be extracted. The race is always a different challenge, it offers you different opportunities than qualifying and I think on this new track layout, it will be an interesting one. I’m ready to race tonight – I don’t want to wait for tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Well, there’s a positive in that it was our last Saturday of the year qualifying the VF-21. It’s been a tough year being aware of the limitations of the VF-21 pace-wise, but that hasn’t deterred Mick and Nikita from pushing each time out – they went for it once again tonight. The team has worked hard all season long to see what we can get, and tomorrow’s final race will be no difference. We’ll seek opportunities and see how the race plays out. After that, it’s all eyes on 2022.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"This was an interesting qualifying session where tyre choice played a key role. We've seen a mixture of tactics, with the two title protagonists starting on different compounds and set to follow different strategies at the championship decider tomorrow. On paper, a one-stopper using the hard for the second stint is the fastest way. In theory, the soft should give a slight advantage off the line but the medium-hard combination should be a slightly faster option overall. If Max Verstappen manages to keep the lead off the grid, he can run in free air and reduce overheating by maintaining a consistent load through the tyres. We're expecting a tactically intriguing race, where tyre management will definitely be a factor. Last but not least, I'd like to congratulate Prema and Oscar Piastri for winning the F2 title in such spectacular fashion earlier today, and Max Verstappen for being the poleman of the year, with 10 Pirelli Pole Position awards."