Hamilton says he’s “in a good position” despite Verstappen taking pole

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton is not alarmed about championship rival Max Verstappen starting from pole position as the pair will start Sunday’s title-deciding race on different tyre compounds.

Verstappen will start from pole position on the soft compound tyres while Hamilton has a set of mediums, which should last longer in the early phases of the race.

The Red Bull driver claimed pole position for the Abu Dhabi thanks in part to his team mate Sergio Perez giving him a slipstream. But Hamilton wasn’t convinced his car was quick enough to beat the Red Bull.

“We just couldn’t answer to that lap, that was a fantastic lap from him,” said Hamilton. “But we’re in a good position, I’d like to think, with our tyres for tomorrow and I hope that we can have a good race.”

Hamilton looked quick in the early phases of qualifying but lost pole position to Verstappen by over three tenths of a second.

“You saw the first lap, I dropped a little bit of time in turn five,” he explained. “But the last lap was nice and clean, I just couldn’t go any quicker.

“I don’t know if it’s tyre prep, in terms of the out-lap but nonetheless, I couldn’t beat that time that he did today, he fully deserved the pole.”

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“I’m still on the front row, we’ve got the difference between the tyres and I’m grateful I can see where he is,” Hamilton added. “And then we can try and navigate from there.”

Verstappen said claiming pole position for the final race was “an amazing feeling” after Hamilton’s strong start to the weekend.

“We definitely improved the car again in qualifying because so far this weekend was a bit on and off,” he said. “I’m incredibly happy with this, it’s of course what we wanted.

“But it’s never easy, especially with their form the last few races. Now I’m, just looking forward to tomorrow because that’s the most important.”

The Red Bull driver began Q2 on the medium compound but switched to the soft rubber to start the race on after locking up on one run and flat-spotting his tyres.

“I felt good on both tyres,” he said. “Of course naturally now in the evening it’s a bit cooler so it should be a bit easier for the soft tyres.

“But we’ll see tomorrow, obviously it’s first important to have a good start and from there onwards we’ll just try to do our race, do our very best and we’ll see where we end up.”

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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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103 comments on “Hamilton says he’s “in a good position” despite Verstappen taking pole”

  1. Surely all Lewis has to do is follow Verstappen carefully, let him overwork his tyres and sweep safely by?

    1. You make it sound simple like driving a bus on easy schedule.

    2. We.have seen him do that. Push others to punish their tires , butax has shown to withstand and manage his tires even with LH at his back

      I’m a LH fan, but I think max has got this…

    3. Yea that Flat Spot was a massive blow for max.
      Plus he’s hush on his tyres

    4. Not if he can 1 stop.

      I can see a scenario where Hamilton is on fresher tyres at the end and tries to overtake.

      Or the SC decides it, one way or the other.

      1. @davidjwest

        Lewis may also be forced to pit early, by having Perez try to do the undercut. Then this might nullify the tire advantage or even give Max a leg up.

        Perez seems relatively comfortable on this track, so who knows?

        1. It might also be that Norris has a great start and gets in between. Or indeed Perez could do that. Lewis could damage the tyres fighting, Max might eke out enough tyre life to do a 1 stopper, all sorts of SC/VSC scenarios.

          Yeah, there are quite a few ways how that “Lewis just has to wait until Max pits” do not actually come to fruition and the race can turn out far more interesting as you mention @aapje.

  2. He absolutely is. I bet Mercedes has even tuned the engine down so as to preserve as much advantage into the race as they can.

    1. @pironitheprovocateur

      The engine mode has to stay in the same mode throughout quali and the race. Theyre allowed to change the electrical energy deployment but that’s about it. I think this might have something to do with the Merc’s engine having very high degradation, and Red Bull likely having a faster car on this circuit.

      He’s probably in a better position with the tyre strategy though.

      1. if that was true they’d better off changing the engine and start from 7th but with a mighty car…
        But I don’t think they have much degradation since this engine is only 2 races old.

        1. It is true, it’s the rule.

  3. Yes second in the race but the WDC who is going to be remembered?

  4. Keep telling yourself that lewis :) u were just too slow today

    1. Yet there was only one driver of two who ruined all sets of mediums and race starts before sunset when its hot.

    2. did you read the article? that’s literally what he said…

      1. Comical isnt it 🤣

    3. Maybe read the article first?

  5. Hamilton didn’t look perplexed (as he normally is when things are going out of control), so I believe Mercedes has better race-pace setup, think it has to be another DRS fly by overtake.

    1. Perplexed? Specsavers have a discount on right now… worth a visit.

    2. I also noticed it, he seemed really relaxed after the quali. As if he was happy where he was and confident he’ll be mighty tomorrow. I think he has a shot, and so does Max. If I had to bet I’d say Lewis will be champion

      1. Starting from second with max on sifts means less chance of racing incident in first corner. Which is what the stewards would put it down to.
        It’s then a hunt with a better tyre strategy.
        It will be interesting but I think merc have the upper hand due to max flat spotting his mediums.

    3. As long as DRS pass are boring, given the history this year this is the better solution for Hamilton.

  6. The only position Hamilton wanted to be in was on pole with Verstappen substantially behind.

    I think Red Bull qualified on the soft tire because they know Hamilton can’t race Verstappen effectively since a crash benefits Verstappen.

    Hamilton’s chances are diminishing as the only scenario that favors him is being far in front of the Red bulls

    1. And now Ham doesn’t have to race Max……he just stays within touching distance until Max pits. Max WILL have to pit first as he’s on sorts. Ham can then overcut him.

      In addition, barring any SC periods or red flags, Max is going to have to two stop or he is going to be vulnerable come the end.

      The way I see it, Ham has two chances to win – use the overcut his tyres permit, to lead after the first pit stop, or chase Max down on newer tyres if he doesn’t.

      1. Correction. “sorts” should be sorts..

        1. almost :))))))

        2. SOFTS! This tablet got a mind of its’ own sometimes

        3. Okay Mikef, one more try to soft this typo out….I mean soft, I mean sort ;) haha. I do that all the time myself!

  7. I couldn’t beat that time that he did today, he fully deserved the pole.

    Worth everyone registering that comment from Hamilton since it demonstrates a respect and sportsmanship that has been wanting from others.

    As soon as Verstappen went through Q2 on soft tyres, I thought ‘don’t get pole Lewis!’ All Hamilton has to do is start well, tuck into P2, manage the tyres and work on his race pace, staying out of trouble. Leave Red Bull to fret over the strategy.

    1. He is exactly on the right position.
      And if he stays there it’s even better.

      1. erikje

        you dont quit your hooliganism do you? i bet one of those booing were you or your mates

        1. Maybe one of those Dutch football fans who was only interested in F1 once MV started winning. The trash talk does seem more in the style of football fandom than F1.

    2. +1, HAM has been consistent with that for some time – he’s not afraid to admit when he’s beaten.

      When did we hear that from the other contender?

      1. I’ve heard it from Max quite often actually, that they just didn’t have the pace of the Mercedes and were simply beaten. Why try to turn everything into a sledging match?

        Just enjoy the contest and stop trying to find reasons to put the driver your not supporting down. Whatever happens happens in the race to decide the championship then we can all have our opinions.

        1. @skipgamer Not the same though, is it? Seriously, have you ever heard Verstappen actually say more or less directly ‘Hamilton drove better than me today’? He’s not yet a big enough person to do that. And I’m not sure he ever will be. Just being honest.

          1. Actually…yes – I’ve heard that many times over the past 5 years..Sorry you hadn’t bothered to notice that.:-) Let’s not regress into these kind of statements, ok? (never , allways, etc)

          2. I really can’t recall. I’m happy to be corrected though.

        2. @skipgamer, there a difference between saying the other car was faster and the other driver was faster: that is what @david-br is saying.

          Max pole lap was amazing, nearly a second faster than his team mate. Do we know if Max and Sergio’s cars are set up more for quali or more for the race?

        3. Max clearly meant that the other machine was faster. I’ve never heard him credit another driver like the way that Hamilton does, but then again, how honest is Lewis being anyway? A lot of it is PR speak, and I pay little attention to it.

          In any event, the RB was always going to be rapid on the soft tires in these conditions over a single lap. We all saw what happened in Saudi Arabia where the RB was clearly faster in Q3 also due to tire preparation, but Lewis was miles faster on the harder tires in the race.

    3. True the moment Max decided to be on the red it crossed my mind. But with Perez and Norris ose on the red tires and Bottas way back he must feel a bit of pressure on the start.

      1. True but it’s fairly frequent for others in the top ten to be on soft tyres at the start. The real issue for Hamilton is Bottas. But then again, presuming Max has to stop earlier, Bottas *could* present some problems to Max after the first pit stop. Really all depends on how long each set (soft and mediums) lasts. And of course Valtteri’s motivation to help (which I’m guessing is at the level of a Sunday morning trip down to the supermarket for some more milk for late breakfast, but I may be wrong).

        1. I think the bigist issue is Perez. If he gets in front at the start and slow Lewis down. It could be like the 2016 race but with reversed roles. Still I think Mercedes has the upperhand with the good pace and the yellow tires.

          1. If so, I can see Checo slowing him for a lap or two but not much more.

    4. Yeap Best Position for Lewis to start against a Crashy Max

    5. Geezer Footman
      11th December 2021, 20:06

      It did cross my mind that maybe Ham put just enough effort in to maintain second because he knew what tyres max would start on…

      Unlikely… but possible!

      The other advantage (aside from max having to put first) is he doesn’t have to worry about a soft tyre lunge from behind.

  8. Very clear in q3 that Lewis didn’t want to risk it. A tag on the wall and that is a gearbox. He went for p2 and he got it. On a risky track like Jeddah, Max could have clinched it but on this current layout there is no much time to win on the driving side, car performance is key and merc is by far favourite.

    1. Tbh I think that’s disrespectful to both drivers. It is saying both that Max didn’t deserve the pole, because it’s only because Hamilton didn’t try to beat him, but also that Hamilton would purposely not give his best in qualifying.

      Max put in an amazing performance in qualifying. The only minor issue he has is that he flat spotted his tyres, so had to do a run on softs to get rid of them. He may well have done that anyway to get a better start, and it may or may not hand an advantage to Hamilton.

  9. The booing was so so disrespectful. I feel like Lewis should just lose the championship so the artificial fans can be happy and not boo him in the future.

    My heart just sinks when I hear him (or any other driver) getting booed.
    But he gets booed for giving it his best. Maybe it is his curse for being the most successful ever, but surely his heart also must feel it somewhere. We are all humans.

    1. Are you serious or is this ironic?

    2. so the artificial fans can be happy and not boo him in the future

      Hamilton losing would or will just empower them. And when he’s gone, whatever Max rivals are up next will get the same treatment. Just the way it seems to be over in the orange corner.

      1. I’m from the Netherlands, however I’ve been watching F1 on the British tv. Way before Max starten racing. I understand the bias, yet the Dutch media is just next level. Literaly all of them a cherry picking and twisting the events. So the fans are Max fans, not F1 fans. Still not the excuse to be booing, but considering everything, I understand why it’s happening.

        1. I am from France and follow the French F1 news and watch the races on Belgian TV (French speaking of channel). I would say that they are not biased and there are very few people supporting Max’s racing style.
          I have been a fan of F1 for a very long time and often despised Michael Schumacher’s dodgy and insporting antics throughout his years of domination. I cannot wait for all his records to be wiped out. In all honesty, this is in part why I really want Hamilton to win tomorrow: a bit sad but true. Max reminds me of Michael, which I do not enjoy in the least. I wish Leclerc or Russell or Alonso, or Vettel, or whoever else were in the Red Bull challenging Hamilton. Let’s hope next year will give some of these guys the cars they deserve.

        2. Well to reply to both your comments, I don’t think Max has made it to Schumacher-level infamy yet – he’s hovering on the border. Most of his ‘hard racing’ has been borderline acceptable over the past few seasons. I think it’s generated stewarding inconsistency but it’s one valid approach to racing. Whether it’s the best is debatable but it is entertaining. Brazil was bad racing on Max’s part: going off track to block a pass and weaving. That’s neither hard racing or good racing. The issue there was more with the stewards. The same applies to Saudi Arabia, I think: hard racing and some extreme blocking – this time with Max being penalized for the latter and/or told (correctly) to return the place. The one issue that bordered on malevolent was the brake test. I’m dubious that it was accidental but put a question mark over his driving for now to see where he goes with this aggression in the race tomorrow and beyond.

    3. The booing is very likely political given his outspoken views on the politics in that region. You’d just need a few plants in the crowd to create that effect for national consumption.

    4. +1, THIS.

  10. Lewis is not in such a good position, as the guys behind him are on softs and can challenge him in the first laps.
    Meanwhile Verstappen could disappear in the distance.

    1. anything is possible in this race, we can only hope for a clean good fair uninterrupted (from rf/sc periods) race… and nothing dirty or sc/rf decide the wdc

    2. if he is 2nd or best at turn 1, he will be the favourite for the WDC.
      If he gets overtaken by Norris or Perez, it will be very tricky. Depends how hard it will be to overtake and what will be his pace advantage (if any)

  11. It’s a great scenario for Lewis. Can sit behind max at the start (avoiding potential collisions) and manage his tyres knowing red bull will have to two stop when he’ll go medium – hard to the end.

    1. Lewis is thinking the same:

      “We are still on the front row, different tyres. It is great I can see where he is.

      Not sure RB will be doing two stops though.

    2. That is what I am thinking.

  12. As we know RB are better able to prepare their tires for Quali than the Mercs. That factor wont have any barring on the race after the first lap. Max had a slipstream off Perez, which again wont be factor in the race. RB are running with less rear wing, which could play a part on their tire life.

    On the other hand Hamilton is excellent at tire managment, he will go very very long on his tires, and pit on to hards whicih they run to the end. The only question now is whether RB goes for a 2 stop to try and catch the Mercs on a one stop, and if Bottas can then play a part on that second stop to hold up the late RB charge.

    RB would need 30 seconds on Ham to pit and come out ahead , and the soft tires wont last long enough to give them that advantage.

    1. Your point of view is spot on

    2. also for the fact that ham doesnt need to show anything to prove himself more than he already did, he already has 7 wdc to show for it. max will be more under pressure for many reasons. yes one lap is good, but skiny wing sliding around running wide is not ideal for softs… if he push to get a 20 sec gap, he may easily end up shooting the tyres before the lap 10 and end up in mid pack battles and shoot his tyres even more to clear traffic.

  13. Honestly, they don’t seem overly worried. Just intrigued to see how far they can go on the softs and can they get away with soft – medium?

    1. Yes, Agreed. Almost like it was seriously considered at a strategy meeting last night. CH alluded to doing something different on Sky prior to qualifying.

  14. Bottas in 6th on mediums could still be the ace Mercedes have up their sleeve. I think everyone ahead of Bottas starts on softs (except Hamilton). If Bottas can stay close enough to Verstappen to be in front of him when Verstappen comes out of his first pit stop it could get interesting.

    1. @phaedrace
      As you said if he can stay close enough. I would be surprised if he can retain 6th position after the first lap. I expect him to be eaten by Leclerc and maybe Tsunoda.

    2. I’d give Max less than a lap top overtake Valteri. That is what always happens.

      1. Exactly. Unless Toto pulls that inspirational speech he gave to Valterri in Quatar which made him suddenly gain some places.

  15. Red Bull where playing about with long runs on the soft tyres yesterday so it was clearly always a strategy option. I think that suggests they think Mercedes have better race pace on medium/hard tyres so they’re looking at a two stopper. That makes sense for one overriding reason: it puts Verstappen ‘in the mix’ with Hamilton as much as possible, potentially passing each other on track more often. And that, as we know, is favourable to Verstappen.

    First big question: does Verstappen go for a slow get away and then try to ‘pass’ Lewis on the first lap? A soft tyre start seems set up for that scenario. Not a deliberate take-out but some more of that ‘hard racing’ that Masi-FIA know, love and have amply endorsed this season. We’ll see.

    Second question: tyre deg, curbs and debris. I think these elements could well be the decisive factor, combining with the different tyre strategies to leave the race pretty unpredictable. Mercedes may well be quicker in their own zone for the race, but it seems likely that VSC, SC and incidents will mess up any easy strategy.

    All in all, it looks set for Verstappen and Red Bull going for a scrappy, feisty race on multiple fast tyres, Mercedes (Hamilton) trying to steer their way around ‘issues’ and keep it as calm and controlled as possible.

    1. @david-br

      Red Bull realize “close racing” benefits them. So they have picked the strategy that will force Mercedes to race them.

      I think in almost any scenario now Hamilton has to pass Verstappen. The undercut will be strong enough to put for staph in in front of Hamilton. That sets up for a late race pass.

      Which will bring us the same race we saw in Jeddah, where Hamilton tries and tries to get around and not get taken out.
      Verstappen will get to try over and over to cause a collision, and he only has to succeed once.

      They put Perez on the soft tire too. They want Hamilton to have to pass as many Red bulls as possible.

    2. Yeap Best Position for Lewis to start against a Crashy Max

  16. Good remarks. Where was this magnanimous and humble Hamilton all season?
    Usually is it’s the “their car was so much faster” and putting verst down rhetoric

    1. Because Red Bull were faster most of the season?

      If you look where Perez and Bottas ended up and factor in how Perez was on tow duty, Red Bull were clearly faster on the soft tyres. Even so, Verstappen’s lap was excellent, so it was just good to hear Hamilton acknowledge that.

      1. Brilliant lap by Max, but we already know that the only time Mercedes doesn’t struggle with one lap soft tire Q3 performance compared to RB is when the track temp is TOO hot like in Mexico, where the situation is inversed. Max’s mistake in Q2 could cost him the championship though.

  17. Nothing to do with the situation but I love how Max is starting to look like a grown up in these kinds of pictures.
    He is growing so fast.

    1. FYI, Lewis reached out, but indeed – it’s nice to see them show respect to each other.

  18. Here’s a thought experiment for you all.
    Hamilton goes out for his final quali run….

    Is he thinking i must get this pole?
    Or is he thinking i don’t much fancy Max behind me on those soft?

    1. Indeed… he more or less said as much afterwards: “It is great I can see where he is.”

      1. With Max confirmed on Soft, Lewis knows Max is bound to get by him. You don’t have to be Einstein or Deep Blue to figure that move out.

        So the choice is simple. You let Max by, you don’t even compete for the pole.
        No silly herorics with Bottas trying to give him a slip stream and running into a slow car ahead.

        You think ahead. You give Max the place and then watch him like a hawk. Its a shame Bottas wasn’t there to watch his back, but at least we have a buffer with Norris next to Perez. That said, they’re all on softs so there is still a risk to Hamilton from those behind.

        I feel a little be sorry for the locals wtih a bet on Hamilton getting that pole, this must have cost a few a camels.
        Another reason to boo?

        1. With MV starting on softs, could Merc have modified their setup to sacrifice some qualifying speed for race pace? With MV on a different strategy, and a car better set up for long runs, they could potentially win without ever giving Max a chance to get close enough for a collision.

          1. technically since the start of Q1 the cars are under parc ferme so they couldn’t change anything

  19. For once neither Mercedes nor Hamilton have said they are struggling which means they probably are over a race distance.

  20. “I’m grateful I can see where he is….”

    That’s a telling quote.

    1. We all know exactly what he meant.

  21. Am I the only one who saw that Max got his time/pole position because he had a slip stream from Perez? Is Perez still going to be able to do that?

    I think it will come down to who has setup the car best for the race and not qualifying on a track that can have overtakes unlike Saudi Arabia.

    1. 1) The tow from Perez was pretty much un-influent as Max was improving on his second attempt without the tow, before lifting the throttle in the last sector.
      2) How is it is to overtake remains to be seen, Wolff said you need a huge pace advantage. Used to be near impossible before the track changes.

      I think the key will be the start, if Lewis is 2nd after turn 1 he could have the upper hand, but it all depends on the pace of RBR and Mercedes, no-one really know how good their true pace is

      1. Verstappen got tow from Pérez in both his attempts that’s why Peréz only registered one meaningful lap.

  22. The cars start the race with full fuel so the softs might degrade too quickly. I think That Max will drive his tires off and then not be able to finish strongly.

  23. I agree with Hamilton. Firstly, Max has to win the first corner. Then he can only hope for a safety car or the lake so he can go in and get mediums on. Otherwise Hamilton will run his mediums a long ways and Max will have a tough time catching him. Perez getting ahead of Hamilton would definitely help also

  24. Verstappen with the lower down force is going to destroy his rears. He over drives his car. And finishes his tyres. And now with the lower down force its going to be exagerated. Lewis will pressure him in the corners thus forcing max to drive defensively which will as i said destroy his tyres. Although i have to agree that redbulls did plan to run the reds they practiced their long runs witht he softs.

    1. Lower downforce wing doesn’t mean that the car has lower downforce. Adrian Newey’s designs are typically good at getting good downforce, so they can get to run with lighter wings.

    2. If VER can try to manage his tires by running long on the soft tires and make it as a one-stop strategy, that would be good.

  25. I am going on a limb and say Merc still have a good chance,

    Max was a good 3 tenths up in Jeddah on his pole lap he crashed and ahead in Brazil and Lewis still hunted him down. So it’s nothing new to him.

    Pole lap today was brilliant , a tenth from the tow and 2 tenths in sector 3. Sector 1 leading to S3 will be the overtaking. Just think Lewis if he stays in P2 will be hunting Max down in the first stint making him use his tyres more. Medium and Hard should be Mercs playbook.

    Track position will be key, after the first pit stops. If Ham is still close to Max I think only then Ham will be a favourite , current Max in the driving seat!

  26. Time for Checo to emulate Bottas at the start of the Hungarian GP.

  27. Is there anything known about the rules during the formation lap? Is what Lewis did (leave a gap and let the front guy’s tires get cold) an allowed tactic?

    1. I am sure there will definitely be a complaint about having more than 10 car lengths gap during the formation lap! Let’s see what HAM and Mercedes do to prevent that.

    2. There were no rules for a restart after a red flag as happened last race with both Max doing a practise start and Lewis retaliating by hanging back, it is not a formation lap. Blame the FIA for that.

      1. Apologies i pressed the report thing again by mistake.

    3. Davethechicken
      11th December 2021, 20:30

      It isn’t allowed in the formation lap, which is lap zero of the GP. After that it is. Make sense? Restarts after red flags where they return to the grid are NOT and never have been called the formation lap. They count as laps of the GP.

      1. Thanks!

  28. If they both finish the race it’s almost certain they will both be on the podium, one aspetto champion, the other not so. One celebrating side by side with the defeated other

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