Mercedes disappoint as Red Bull claim front-row lockout
The boos that rang out for Max Verstappen from the stands at Yas Marina following qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix were not overly shrill. A murmur rather than a chorus. But they still told a story. What a strange 12 months it has been since we were last here.
The undercurrent of discontent began that day, to be sure. Not that the controversial denouement to last year’s title race was Verstappen’s fault. Far from it. Verstappen was entirely blameless for then FIA race director Michael Masi’s decision to fudge the rules and withdraw a safety car with one lap remaining, effectively handing him the title at the expense of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen did the best job he could in the circumstances. And since then he has driven the wheels off his car: 14 victories this season - with a possible 15th on Sunday if he can convert his pole position - testament to his and Red Bull’s utter dominance. Yet back here in Abu Dhabi, back at the ‘scene of the crime’, it is difficult to escape the impression that Red Bull just want this season to be over. The poison that began to spread that day has continued to fester, lending the season a toxic atmosphere.
It is a sad situation in many ways. This should be Red Bull’s crowning moment of glory at the end of an incredible campaign. Yet even with both world titles in their back pocket, even with their first front row lockout of the year secured, with Sergio Perez 0.228sec slower than his teammate, even with the prospect of the team’s first ever one-two in the drivers’ championship should Perez finish ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, it still feels as if they are limping towards the finish line.
Much of that is of their own making. It has been a bruising month for Red Bull who have lurched from the budget cap row, to the Sky Sports F1 row, to last weekend’s team orders row in Brazil. Verstappen’s refusal to pull over for his teammate on the final lap at Interlagos sparked damaging stories in Holland that that refusal was “payback” for Perez’s crash in qualifying in Monaco in May, which Team Verstappen allegedly felt was done on purpose to secure the Mexican pole position. Perez has denied the allegation and the matter does not look like going any further with none of Red Bull’s rivals apparently up for lodging a complaint.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff even questioned whether Perez would have crashed on purpose in the way he did. “Would a driver really put his car in a wall and risk his gearbox in the way it was done?” Wolff asked. “You could be going all the way to the back of the grid with such an incident. For me, if you want to park your car, you do it in a different way.”
The truth is, though, he did not really need to stick the knife in. The damage to Red Bull has already been done. The row exposed cracks in Red Bull’s driver lineup, raised questions about the team’s leadership, and about Verstappen’s judgement and the advice he is getting from his close circle.
It undoubtedly contributed to the boos. It is a sad state of affairs, with the support at various races this season becoming unpleasantly partisan. Hopefully next year will see the championship we all hoped we would get this year, with Mercedes and Ferrari making it an exciting three-way battle.
In the meantime, Red Bull will hope to finish on a high. After topping the timesheets in practice, they carried that speed through to qualifying and showed a united front afterwards.
Verstappen had promised to help Perez secure second in the title race if he could, and the Dutchman was as good as his word, giving Perez a tow on the Mexican’s final flying lap. It was not enough to get Perez pole, with Verstappen still too quick for him. But it has put Red Bull in the perfect position for the race.
Behind them, the Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were quicker than the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell with Wolff commenting afterwards: "I've just heard today is World Toilet Day and I think that's one to put in the toilet." Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel was ninth in the final qualifying session of his career.
Red Bull leading the way
That concludes our coverage from Abu Dhabi today. They have dominated the weekend and are in a strong position to finish the season on a high.
Re-live qualifying below and join me again for the race from 11.30am on Sunday.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff reacts
I've just heard today is World Toilet Day and I think that's one to put in the toilet.
'Bouncing is back with vengeance'
Telling comments from Hamilton. A bumpy track and low sea level in Abu Dhabi is cited as the cause of Mercedes' woe by Damon Hill.
I think it was coming alive. I felt really comfortable at the end of Q1 and then Q2, so I would have to have another set in Q3 but all in all I think it was a good session for us and we could qualify the car in a decent spot.
I’m still in the zone now, but it was a bit emotional before qualy, but I’m sure it will be a big day tomorrow. We have a task on our hands as well, we try to beat the Alfas and score as many points as possible to maybe get sixth in the constructors’ championship.
No pole positions for Hamilton this season and he will need a miracle to get his first win tomorrow...
It’s a good starting place. I didn’t make that final step in Q3, especially the first run wasn’t that good, so we were a bit behind. It’s good to lock out that front row for tomorrow.
Max did a great job also for me, we worked together as a team really strongly on that final run. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, which is the day that really matters. I think it’s going to be a very interesting one, given how strong Ferrari will be, and Mercedes.
It was a bit of an up and down qualifying. It started off quite well. Q2 was a little bit messy. I don’t know why but on those tyres I couldn’t get the grip together.
But then in Q3 it all felt a bit more normal. We had a bit of a scare, the car turned off before the first run, so we had to reboot everything. Then we went out and both of the laps were good enough.
I’m very happy that both cars are on the front row, because of course we want to win the race, but we also want to finish second with Checo in the championship, so that’s definitely a great start before tomorrow.
It always sounds great. For sure today was amazing, I still expect it to be a a good battle tomorrow, but at least we have both cars there and we can do what we want.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 19, 2022
Q3: POLE FOR VERSTAPPEN
Red Bull one-two as Verstappen goes quicker again with a 1:23.824.
Perez follows him into second +0.228 behind. Ferrari takes third and fourth, Leclerc rounding out the top three.
Disappointment for Mercedes as they can only manage fifth and sixth.
Q3: Verstappen give Perez a tow
Red Bull team work as they aim to provide a slipstream for the Mexican.
Q3: Final lap for Vettel
Vettel has the whole track for himself as he goes around in qualifying for the last time.
And he completes a 1:24.961 for P7.
Q3: A beauty from Verstappen
Provisional pole for Verstappen on a 1:23.988. That was a lovely lap.
He is followed by Sainz +0.293, Perez +0.328 and Leclerc +0.355.
Q3: Mercedes first to cross the line
Hamilton sets the first time of Q3 with 1:24.678 followed by 1:24.694 from Russell.
Perez looks favourite for pole. But will Verstappen deny him again? Can Mercedes find some pace from somewhere?
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 19, 2022
Q2: Vettel books himself a Q3 place
Great pace from the Aston Martin means the German will qualify in the top 10. The Ferrari's split the Red Bull by finishing 2nd and 3rd. The Mercedes are trailing going into the Q3.
Out in Q2
Q2: 'Three tenths?'
Hamilton can't believe he's so far behind Perez when informed by his engineer.
Q2: Hamilton improves
Better from Hamilton as he puts in the fastest final sector to go second. Still comfortably behind Perez.
Q2: At risk drivers
Q2: Perez quickest
Perez is on fire. He puts in a 1:24.419. That is 0.443s ahead of Verstappen.
The Red Bulls are followed by Sainz, Norris, Leclerc and Russell.
Q2: Mercedes go out on used tyres
Russell is currently fastest on 1:25.363 with Hamilton 0.409 behind.
Q2: Hamilton not happy
The brakes is still the problem
The second qualifying session is now under way.
How things change in a week
Pole last week for Magnussen and today he can only manage 16th fastest.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 19, 2022
Q1: Vettel up to fifth
Cometh the hour, cometh the man!
Vettel goes fifth with a superb time.
Q1: Vettel in danger
Final runs coming up and Vettel is at risk of exiting...
Q1: As things stand
Max VERSTAPPEN 1:24.754
Sergio PEREZ +0.066
Carlos SAINZ +0.336
Charles LECLERC +0.457
George RUSSELL +0.791
Lando NORRIS +0.828
Lewis HAMILTON +0.840
Esteban OCON +0.981
Daniel RICCIARDO +1.016
Yuki TSUNODA +1.099
Pierre GASLY +1.105
Fernando ALONSO +1.162
Kevin MAGNUSSEN +1.414
Guanyu ZHOU +1.445
Lance STROLL +1.488
Sebastian VETTEL +1.506
Mick SCHUMACHER +1.511
Valtteri BOTTAS +1.746
Alexander ALBON +1.753
Nicholas LATIFI +1.992
Q1: Red Bull repairs required
Sainz now goes third with his first effort, 0.336s down on Verstappen.
On his way back to the pits, the Dutchman reports that he thinks his headrest is broken over the radio.
Q1: The big guns make their make mark
Leclerc breaks into the 1:25s. But Perez puts in a 1:24.820. Verstappen then goes fastest with 1:24.754.
Hamilton can only manage sixth, 0.840 behind.
Q1: Tsunoda quickest
Tsunoda sets the fastest time early on with a 1:26.135. Schumacher, Stroll and Vettel complete the top four.
The Red Bull's, Ferrari's and Mercedes are now on track.
Will Verstappen be smiling at the end of qualifying?
Here we go!
The green light in the pit lane is on and the cars are starting to filter out with Latifi leading the way.
No chance of rain...
Less than 10 minutes to go - who do you think will take pole? Let me know what you think in the comments...
World champions meeting world champions
Squad pic for the champions of 2022 🏆🏆 pic.twitter.com/yoMfNsNerL
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) November 19, 2022
Relief for Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton will not be penalised for the incident in final practice as the stewards deem he took "every reasonable action" to slow down for the red flag.
The stewards reviewed telemetry, found that Hamilton lifted 100 per cent off throttle and applied firm braking pressure but was going 162km/h faster than Magnussen at the time, hence still overtook him. So breached rules but took "every reasonable action" to comply safely.
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Formula One has announced the creation of a new, all-female driver academy intended to help prepare women for motorsport’s top categories.
Daniel Ricciardo sits down for a Q&A about his career ahead of what could be his final race in Formula One.
Max Verstappen’s ‘disrespect’ of Sergio Perez has created a completely avoidable problem
Saying goodbye to a legend
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) November 19, 2022
Ricciardo is set to rejoin Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo is set to rejoin Red Bull as the team's reserve driver with team principal Christian Horner hailing the Australian as one of the biggest names in Formula One.
Ricciardo, who has won eight times in F1 - seven with Red Bull between 2014 and 2018 - has been dropped by McLaren after an underwhelming two-season spell.
But the 33-year-old has been handed a temporary lifeline by Red Bull and will serve as backup to double world champion Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Helmut Marko, Red Bull's motorsport adviser, revealed to German television in Abu Dhabi that Ricciardo, who discussed a reserve role with Mercedes, has signed a contract with the Milton Keynes team.
"We have not signed anything yet, but in Helmut's enthusiasm, he has announced it, so I guess that means Daniel will be joining us unless he chooses not to sign it," said Horner.
"Daniel is a big character and it has been disappointing to see his performances this season, but he is still one of the biggest names and biggest characters in Formula One.
"With the demands on the race drivers, from a marketing perspective alone, to have a driver of Daniel's profile and history with the team within the group is only an asset for us. He keeps in touch with Formula One and we will be using him on the simulator and attending some events."
Can Mercedes take the fight to Red Bull?
Hello and welcome to coverage of the final qualifying session of the year from Abu Dhabi.
Both championships have been wrapped up for a while but there is still much to play for throughout the grid. Sergio Perez will be hoping for a strong session - with or without the help of his team-mate Max Verstappen - as he aims to finish second in the drivers championship.
In third practice earlier today, Perez finished fastest with Verstappen 0.152seconds back. Hamilton was two tenths adrift of Verstappen, and one spot ahead of Mercedes team-mate George Russell, four tenths slower than the Red Bull. Charles Leclerc, level on points with Perez, took sixth, half-a-second back from Perez.
Hamilton, who has not won a race this season, is being investigated after failing to slow for a red flag during final practice. The seven-time world champion overtook two cars at Turn 5 as the session was temporarily suspended when Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture.
McLaren's Lando Norris was heard on the radio saying: "Hamilton overtook the Haas as well under the red flag." The incident was noted by the stewards and the FIA confirmed an investigation will be launched with Hamilton and Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows summoned to the stewards at 4pm local time (12pm UK).
Meanwhile, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who is competing in the final race of his career, finished in ninth and will be aiming to end the season on a high.
"There's lots of other things in my head as well, other interests and ideas outside racing," Vettel said Thursday. "Obviously I've done this for so long and it's central to my life. So it would be difficult to say that I'm not going to miss it."
But before qualifying gets underway at 2pm (UK time), some big news from Red Bull...