Red Bull recovers from Verstappen set-up dramas to take pole
Sun 26, Nov, 2023
Source: The Race

Max Verstappen and Red Bull overcame their practice session set-up difficulties to set pole position for the final race of the 2023 Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi.

Verstappen was more than seven tenths off the pace in FP3, complaining his RB19 was bouncing and bottoming on the Yas Marina F1 circuit, and requiring suspension set-up adjustments very late into the session.

But come qualifying Verstappen and his Red Bull were working in harmony once more and the world champion led each segment of qualifying to set his 12th pole position of the season.

Verstappen didn’t manage to improve on his final Q3 lap, but it was still quicker than anyone else managed and he ended up 0.139 seconds clear thanks to his banker run.

McLaren looked to be Red Bull’s closest challenger, but a mistake from Lando Norris on his final flying lap meant he tumbled from second to fifth as Charles Leclerc - to his own surprise - produced another special lap to launch his Ferrari onto the front row, almost two tenths clear of the next quickest car.

That was driven by Oscar Piastri, who was third quickest for McLaren, though is involved in an impeding investigation with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.

George Russell has looked fast all weekend and he ended up fourth quickest for Mercedes, just 0.006s away from Piastri’s time.

Yuki Tsunoda was a superb sixth in the upgraded AlphaTauri, a tenth clear of Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.

Sergio Perez should have been sixth in the second Red Bull but had his best lap deleted for a track limits offence at Turn 1 so ended up only ninth, behind the impressive Haas of Nico Hulkenberg.

Once again, Perez looked nowhere close to Verstappen's pace and was always playing catch-up through each segment of qualifying.

Tenth fastest Gasly also had his best Q3 lap deleted for track limits, though it was only fractionally quicker than the used-tyre effort he managed on his first run.