Max Verstappen scored his seventh pole position of the year as Sergio Pérez benefited from a tow from the world champion to secure a front-row lock-out for Red Bull Racing as the Mexican’s rival for P2 in the Driver’s Championship finished third.
At the start of the opening segment of Qualifying, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda set the early pace with a lap of 1:36.135, but the Japanese driver was soon deposed by Leclerc who took P1 by almost a second. Pérez then jumped to P1 with a lap of 1:24.820. Verstappen was close behind his team-mate on track, though, and he crossed in 1:24.754 to take P1.
The times of both were good enough to hold the top two spots until the end of the segment, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Leclerc, while McLaren’s Lando Norris took fifth ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.
At the other end of the timesheet there was no way through to Q2 for Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, who went out in P16 ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Williams’ duo Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi.
In the opening runs of Q2, Mercedes' George Russell established the early benchmark with a lap of 1:25.363. That was beaten by Sainz, however, with the Spanish driver setting the pace at 1:25.039 ahead of Norris who also went quicker than the lead Mercedes.
Verstappen then went almost two tenths clear of the Ferrari driver. However, Pérez was finding more time on his first run and after putting in the fastest middle sector he took P1 with a lap of 1:24.419. Hamilton then split the Red Bull duo eight hundredths of a second ahead of Verstappen who complained of a lack of grip.
In the final runs, Leclerc set a fastest first sector to rise above Hamilton as Pérez started his final flyer. The Mexican went over track limits in Turn 1, however, and his final time was deleted, though with Leclerc a tenth back he was assured of both a Q3 berth and top spot in the segment. Sainz took third place ahead of Verstappen while Hamilton went through in fifth ahead of Norris, Russell and Vettel. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon took ninth and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo claimed the final Q3 spot in P10.
The McLaren driver’s lap of 1:25.068 was just enough to get him through and he edged Alpine’s Fernando Alonso out of the top 10 and the session by just under three hundredths of a second. Also out after Q2 were 13th-placed Tsunoda, Haas’ Mick Schumacher, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu.
In the first runs of Q3, Sainz set the pace with a lap of 1:24.281. Pérez might have challenged that as he put in another fastest middle sector but a mistake in the final corner cost him time and he posted a lap 1:24.316, 0.035s off Sainz. Verstappen, though, was flying and at the end of his lap he took provisional pole with a lap of 1:23.988, almost three tenths clear of his rivals.
In the final runs, Verstappen headed out on track ahead of his team-mate, with the intention of providing a two. And the champion delivered a strong final lap that not allowed Pérez to power through to the front row, but which also propelled Verstappen to pole position. In the end, Pérez crossed the line just 0.040s ahead of Leclerc. Behind Leclerc, Sainz qualified in fourth place ahead of Hamilton and Russell. Norris finished in P7 ahead of Ocon and Vettel and the top 10 was rounded out by Ricciardo.
2022 FIA Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:23.824 6 226.803
2 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 1:24.052 0.228 0.272 6 226.188
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:24.092 0.268 0.320 6 226.080
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:24.242 0.418 0.499 6 225.678
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.508 0.684 0.816 6 224.968
6 George Russell Mercedes 1:24.511 0.687 0.820 6 224.960
7 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:24.769 0.945 1.127 5 224.275
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:24.830 1.006 1.200 6 224.114
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:24.961 1.137 1.356 3 223.768
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:25.045 1.221 1.457 3 223.547
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:25.096 0.677 0.802 6 223.413
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Red Bull 1:25.219 0.800 0.948 6 223.091
13 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:25.225 0.806 0.955 6 223.075
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:25.359 0.940 1.113 6 222.725
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:25.408 0.989 1.172 6 222.597
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:25.834 1.080 1.274 9 221.492
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Red Bull 1:25.859 1.105 1.304 9 221.428
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:25.892 1.138 1.343 6 221.343
19 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1:26.028 1.274 1.503 9 220.9a93
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:26.054 1.300 1.534 9 220.926