Having dominated the practice sessions this weekend, Red Bull and Max Verstappen in particular looked to dominate qualifying at the final Formula One event of the season in Abu Dhabi. Yet it was not plain sailing following the first qualifying session where Max and Sergio were respectively P1 and P2.
The second session was a struggle for the world champion, his best time was only good enough for P4 as Max reported to the team “Dunno what happened. I had zero grip. So weird”.
Perez queries the team
As qualifying 3 began, Sergio Perez left the garage and asked the team when he was on track, “what happened?”
The Mexican’s engineer Hugo Bird replied, “Max’s car had a little problem,” he was told. “Still in the garage. Just getting going now. We’ll do our thing. You know your targets.”
Clearly Sergio Perez was expecting his team mate to leave the garage at a similar time to presumably attempt “the tow” effect. This is where Verstappen ahead of Perez on track would create a slipstream effect for his team mate behind down the two long back straights at the Yas Marina circuit.
Max reveals “scare”
Verstappen revealed his final run had been delayed by needing to restart his car. “We had a bit of a scare, they had the car turned off before the first run,” he said.
“So [we had] to reboot everything and then we went out and we have both of the laps are good enough, so of course very pleased with that.”
Verstappen described the qualifying sessions as “up and down.”
“It started off quite well, Q2 was a bit more messy [with] the tyres, I just honestly couldn’t get the grip together. But then in Q3, it all felt a bit more normal.”
Red Bull had been surprisingly uncompetitive last time out in Brazil, finishing behind the Mercedes and Ferrari cars and Fernando Alonso’s Alpine.
However, Red Bull start the season finale race with a 1-2.
“I’m very happy that both cars are on the front row because we know that of course we want to win the race but we also want to finish second with Checo in the championship,” said Verstappen.
“So that’s definitely a great start for for tomorrow.”
Red Bull on message that “all is well”
Following the spat between Max and Sergio in Brazil, the team and the drivers were keen to emphasise all is now well.
Verstappen described their performance as “great teamwork” over the radio as the session ended.
Sergio Perez was also effusive in his praise for his team mate. Speaking at the post qualifying grid interview with David Coulthard, Perez said, “Max also did a great job for me, we worked really well together as a team.”
For now it appears peace reigns within the Milton Keynes based F1 outfit, though the weekend has abounded with rumours Max is attempting to oust Perez and have him replaced by Daniel Ricciardo.
"Max did a great job for me, we worked together as a team really strongly" 🤝
Checo reflects on his qualifying performance and looks at what he can achieve tomorrow in the fight for P2 in the Drivers' Championship. pic.twitter.com/UTsMiUBuF3
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) November 19, 2022