Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen took his 12th pole position of the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship season, beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by just over a tenth of a second as both Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton failed to make Q3.
At the start of Q1 Verstappen set the pace at 1:245.160 ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon, with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda looking swift in P5 ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez.
At the other end of the order Williams’s Logan Sargeant, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg had it all to do ahead of the final runs, with all three seeing their opening laps deleted for track limits infringements.
Verstappen had his final time deleted for a track limits infringement in Turn 16, but with no serious threat coming from behind his opening lap kept him in P1 despite improvements elsewhere.
One of those who needed to improve was Pérez. The Red Bull driver was one of the last on track for the final runs and as other times came in he plummeted into the drop zone in P16. The Mexican was setting personal bests through each sector, however, and when he crossed the line he jumped up to P2 just 0.049s behind team-mate Verstappen.
The Mexican jump up the order meant that Sainz, whose final flyer was hampered by traffic, was bounced out qualifying. Also ruled out at the end of Q1 were Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Zhou, while Sargeant, under pressure, went over the track limits in Turn 1 for a second time and exited in P20.
For the first runs of Q2, the bulk of the field took to the track on used Softs tyres, but Verstappen emerged on fresh rubber and he used the better grip to take P1 with a lap of 1:23.740. Pérez slotted into P2 a little under four tenths off his team-mate but the Red Bulls were split by Norris, who posted a lap of 1:23.920.
Verstappen opted to sit out the final runs and again there was no substantial threat from behind and he eased through to Q3 in top spot. Norris held onto P2 ahead of Leclerc and Mercedes’ George Russell. Alpine’s Pierre Gasly went through in P5 ahead of Pérez, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso ahead of Tusnoda, Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.
The Australian driver’s 1:24.278s meant that there was no place in Q3 for seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver exited in P11 ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Williams’ Alex Albon and AlpahTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo.
At the start of the top-10 shootout Verstappen found three tenths of a second over his Q2 lap, posting a time of 1:23.445 to take provisional pole. Norris pushed to get close and stopped the clock at 1:23.816, a superb lap given that the McLaren driver was on used tyres.
In the final runs the McLarens were first on track ahead of Leclerc and with Verstappen fourth on the road. Norris went purple through the first sector and set a personal best through the second sector but in the final corners the McLaren driver slid wide and his hopes of pole position evaporated.
Piastri was next, but he too failed to beat Verstappen time and as the times flooded in no one managed to topple the three-time champion. Leclerc got closest to take P2 a little over a tenth off P1 but in the end the Dutchman’s opener proved unbeatable and he took his 12th podium of the year and his fourth in a row in Abu Dhabi.
Behind Leclerc, Piastri took fourth place ahead of Russell, while Norris was left to rue his error in fifth place. Tsunoda took an excellent sixth for AlphaTauri ahead of Alonso, while Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg put in a super final lap to take P8.
Pérez might have ended up fourth on the grid, but the Mexican driver went over the track limits in Turn 1 and his final flyer was deleted. He qualified in P9 ahead of Gasly.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:23.445 - -
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23.584 0.139
3 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:23.782 0.337
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:23.788 0.343
5 Lando Norris McLaren 1:23.816 0.371
6 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:23.968 0.523
7 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:24.084 0.639
8 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 1:24.108 0.663
9 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 1:24.171 0.726
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:24.548 1.103
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.359 0.914
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:24.391 0.946
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:24.422 0.977
14 Alexander Albon Williams 1:24.439 0.994
15 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri RBPT 1:24.442 0.997
16 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:24.738 1.293
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:24.764 1.319
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:24.788 1.343
19 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:25.159 1.714
20 Logan Sargeant Williams - -