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Verstappen thrilled with Yas Marina pole on ‘very weird’ weekend for Red Bull

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Max Verstappen expressed his satisfaction after bouncing back from issues with the handling of his Red Bull throughout practice to secure pole position for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen found himself on the backfoot when set-up struggles during Friday’s FP2 session carried over to FP3 on Saturday, leaving himself and Red Bull with plenty of work to do before qualifying.

READ MORE: Verstappen beats Leclerc to Abu Dhabi GP pole as Hamilton and Sainz endure early exits

However, the changes made appeared to pay off as Verstappen returned to form and went on to land pole, getting the better of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in the decisive Q3 phase.

“It’s very weird,” Verstappen said as he reflected on the result. “The whole weekend so far has been a bit of a struggle.

Qualifying Highlights: 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

“We definitely improved the car for qualifying and from the first lap it all seemed a bit more together and we could push more. Of course, I’m very happy to be on pole.”

Verstappen’s pole is his 12th of the season and he will now be bidding to turn that into a 19th victory in 22 races to see out what has been a remarkable, record-breaking year for himself and Red Bull’s RB19.

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

“I have no clue how good we are going to be in the race, [but] normally we are always quite decent,” the reigning triple world champion continued.

“It’s been a very special season, we’ve been enjoying it a lot and of course we are very proud of what we have achieved so far this year.”

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Verstappen beat Leclerc and Piastri to pole position under the lights at Yas Marina

As for Verstappen’s team mate, Sergio Perez, the Mexican will start back in ninth position after his final Q3 lap – which provisionally put him fifth – was deleted for exceeding track limits.

“It wasn’t an ideal one,” he said of his session after stepping out of the car. “It was a really tricky one, actually, to get that lap time deleted.

READ MORE: Horner details contact with Hamilton’s dad but denies ‘serious discussion’ over Red Bull move

“It hurts because we didn’t get the cleanest Q3, I ended up making a mistake into Turn 6, which cost me a few tenths. Other than that, at least we were starting P5, but now with the lap deleted, things get a little bit harder.”

He added: “I think tomorrow is going to be a long race and anything can happen. I think [tyre] degradation will be one of the main things tomorrow, so let’s see what we’re able to do.”

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