Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2023

Verstappen claims pole position for finale ahead of Leclerc and Piastri

2023 Abu Dhabi GP qualifying report

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Max Verstappen took the 11th pole position of his dominant 2023 campaign in Abu Dhabi, beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

The Red Bull driver secured the top spot on the grid for the season finale by just over a tenth of a second ahead of Leclerc. Oscar Piastri took third on the grid for McLaren, but faces two investigations by the stewards.


It was a very quiet start to qualifying as, when the session began, all 20 drivers opted to remain in the garage for the opening three minutes. Eventually, Verstappen broke the silence by becoming the first car out on track, which sparked a chain reaction leading to the entire field filtering out onto the circuit.

Logan Sargeant was the first driver to complete a lap time, but immediately had his first time deleted for exceeding track limits at the first corner. Verstappen posted a 1’24.160 to set the early benchmark, with Lando Norris going second quickest, two-tenths slower. Charles Leclerc’s first run was good enough for third-fastest, with Alexander Albon fourth for Williams.

While most of the field returned to the pits, the two Williams of Albon and Sargeant remained out to take advantage of the clear track. However, Sargeant again failed to keep within the white lines at the first corner and had his second attempt deleted.

As the field emerged from the pits for their final run, the drop zone consisted of Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Sargeant, Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu. Hulkenberg improved into the top ten, but Zhou could not find time and was out, with Magnussen also failing to get out of the bottom five.

Valtteri Bottas fell into the drop zone and was also out, with Gasly only just going safe by improving to 15th. That left Carlos Sainz Jnr in the Ferrari, who crashed out of Friday practice, as the surprise first driver eliminated from Q1.

Joining Sainz out was Magnussen in 17th, the two Alfa Romeos of Bottas and Zhou 18th and 19th, with Sargeant out in 20th having failed to set a legitimate lap time. The stewards announced Piastri would be investigated after the session for failing to observe the maximum lap time limit.

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Q1 result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’24.1606
211Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’24.2090.0496
322Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’24.2860.1266
423Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’24.2980.1386
563George RussellMercedesW141’24.3370.1776
64Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’24.3680.2085
718Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’24.4050.2456
827Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’24.4250.2656
944Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’24.4370.2776
1016Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’24.4590.2996
113Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’24.4610.3016
1281Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’24.4870.3276
1314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’24.5010.3416
1431Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’24.5650.4056
1510Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’24.6000.4406
1655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’24.7380.5786
1720Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’24.7640.6046
1877Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’24.7880.6286
1924Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’25.1590.9996
202Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW45No time6

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Once again, there was a delay before any drivers ventured out onto the track for their first runs in Q2. Albon again chose to run on the empty track to set his first time with a 1’24.965, but that was soon beaten by both Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and then George Russell on used softs

Mercedes’ time at the top was short-lived as Verstappen used a fresh set of soft tyres to set a new best time of the weekend with a 1’23.740. Perez went second, three tenths slower than his team mate, before Norris jumped between the two Red Bulls with his first effort on used tyres.

The field all returned to the pits, save for Albon’s Williams once again. He was sat in 13th after his first run and needing to improve if he was to reach Q3, along with Daniel Ricciardo, Gasly, Esteban Ocon and Hulkenberg, who had his first effort deleted for track limits.

Albon jumped up into the top five with his second push lap on fresh soft tyres, before the rest of the field began streaming out for their final runs with only Verstappen content not to attmpt to better his first lap time. Albon’s improvement knocked Hamilton into 11th, leaving the Mercedes having to improve if he was reach Q3.

Every driver improved on their final run as the track continue to pick up speed. Hamilton only improved to tenth, leaving him vulnerable on the bubble. Behind him, team mate Russell bettered his final effort to go fourth-fastest, which sealed elimination for his team mate in 11th.

Hamilton was ultimately joined by Ocon in 12th, Stroll in 13th and Albon in 14th after the rest of the field improved to push him back out of qualifying. Ricciardo was the final driver knocked out slowest in 15th place.

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Q2 result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’23.7409
24Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’23.9200.18010
316Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’23.9690.22912
463George RussellMercedesW141’24.0130.27312
510Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’24.0780.33812
611Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’24.1160.37611
714Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’24.1310.39112
822Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’24.2070.46712
927Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’24.2130.47312
1081Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’24.2780.53811
1144Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’24.3590.61912
1231Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’24.3910.65112
1318Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’24.4220.68212
1423Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’24.4390.69912
153Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’24.4420.70212

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As he so often has been in the later part of the season, Verstappen was the first driver to take to the track for the final phase of qualifying to get his initial banker lap in. He chose to do so on fresh soft tyres, posting a 1’23.445 to set a strong benchmark.

Norris was the closest to the world champion yet again, but was almost four tenths slower than Verstappen in second. Piastri was third in the second McLaren, with Russell fourth for Mercedes. Leclerc’s first effort for Ferrari was only good enough for ninth.

Of the 10 drivers, only Verstappen had set his first time on new tyres, meaning there was theoretically time for the field to find in their final run. All ten drivers fitted fresh softs for their last attempts of qualifying,

Unusually, the two McLarens were the first out to begin their final runs. After going quickest in the first sector, Norris caught a wild slide as he passed under the hotel. He there failed to beat Verstappen’s provisional pole time, and team mate Piastri took advantage. Leclerc then beat the two McLarens into second place behind Verstappen.

Russell improved to split the McLarens into fourth place. Verstappen, who had to queue behind his rivals in the pit exit, failed to improve on his final run, saying his front tyres weren’t up to temperature. However, the Red Bull driver’s first effort was good enough for him to hold onto pole position, which was made official when team mate Sergio Perez managed only fifth.

Verstappen therefore secured pole with Leclerc starting alongside the champion yet again on the front row. Piastri took third for McLaren, ahead of Russell and a disappointed Norris in fifth. Yuki Tsunoda took a strong sixth for AlphaTauri ahead of Fernando Alonso in seventh and Nico Hulkenberg in eighth. Perez ended up ninth after his final time was deleted because he ran wide at the exit of turn one.

Gasly took 10th after also having his final effort struck off the board, thought it made no difference to his eventual position. However the stewards noted him and Piastri for a potential impeding incident, which will be investigated after the session.

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Q3 result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’23.44515
216Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’23.5840.13918
381Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’23.7820.33717
463George RussellMercedesW141’23.7880.34318
54Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’23.8160.37116
622Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’23.9680.52318
714Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’24.0840.63918
827Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’24.1080.66318
911Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’24.1710.72617
1010Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’24.5481.10318

2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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22 comments on “Verstappen claims pole position for finale ahead of Leclerc and Piastri”

  1. “There’s something wrong with the car” – yes Lewis, the person driving it.

    Sadly I think that’s it for Hamilton. Russell has shown he’s easily got the upper hand once he gets his head around things. It took him a while with the new upgrades but he’s dominated Hamilton the last few events. It’s almost as embarrassing as Perez now.

    1. Don’t be rediculous, the driver is only as good as the car. Verstappen throwng his toys around today when his car was jumping around.

    2. distorted reality of yours

      1. Billy Rae Flop
        26th November 2023, 1:21

        No Russel did donate Lewis the last few events. So hard that he finished the races behind Lewis four races in a row.

    3. Not sure about that. Lewis stats this season are overall better. I do think it has become clear Hamilton needs everything to work to shine. He is not as good at driving around problems, nor at helping solve those problems, but once he has the right package he is almost unbeatable, bit Vettel like who can be characterised the same.

  2. 8 different teams in the top 10, good to see.

    1. My complete nonsensical comment of the day: Verstappen is ruining the season.
      The nonsense comes from the fact that if the other RB driver performed somewhat like Perez, we would had a relatively competitive WDC with different winners and mixed podia.
      To go further in the nonsense: FIA regulations might have reached some of its goals, as it helped different teams on different development/perfomance stages thru the season.
      Without the 200 points VER accumulated ahead of everybody in WDC, the WDC and the WCC championships would be closer between 4-5 teams.

      1. I think you absolutely nailed it in your first para.

      2. The fact Sergio finished Q3 in the bottom 5 shows the Red Bull car is more or less average compared to the other F1 cars, meaning Max got to be on Pole because of his ability and skill. Instead of grumbling about Max we should be admiring his extraordinary ability and skill to take an ordinary F1 car and repeatedly put it on the front row of the starting grid.

        1. The fact Perez is ahead of Lewis and Charles in the WDC is a testament to the exceptional performance of the Red Bull Racing car. Remarkably, this achievement has been attained without any updates applied since the Singapore GP.
          Max is definitely a exceptional driver, but that RBR-machinery is definitely above anything we have seen in the last 25 years.

          1. That is peak disrespect to multiple Mercedes cars and even the fantastic Ferraris.

            The RB19 is the most successful of the lot but that’s more down to how consistent their lead driver and team it in addition to the technical team designing a car with an ability to have a small but sufficient margin in almost every track.

            The W11 dropped 1s on everyone’s head at Silverstone and was cruising comfortably ahead and even after a puncture won a race on 3 wheels while lapping upto the 3rd quickest team. That is what a dominant car would do.

            This RB has hardly lapped even the 5th best team given the incredibly low field spread.

        2. The fact Sergio finished Q3 in the bottom 5 shows the Red Bull car is more or less average compared to the other F1 cars, meaning Max got to be on Pole because of his ability and skill.

          If the driver is so far away from extracting the potential performance as Pérez constantly is, it makes it close to impossible to say much about the car because the car is not the limiting factor. Bad cars (in relative F1 terms) tend to line up side by side on the grid because both drivers can extract all the performance from it.

          Pérez struggles are somewhat reminiscent of the problems Schumacher’s teammates had, particularly at Benetton where it also applied to his successors Berger and Alesi. In his book, Brawn talks at some length about how the B196 that they made for 1996 was, in his mind, every bit as good as the near-dominant B195 with which Schumacher won the championship before leaving to join Ferrari. But both Berger and Alesi complained throughout winter testing that the car was a handful to drive, that they couldn’t get consistent performance out of it, etc.

          Pérez just isn’t adaptable enough to get everything out of the Red Bull that clearly is there. When the car was ‘easier’ to drive, he could actually win races with it.

  3. Waiting Norris to say pole shouldve been his without that mistake.

    1. And he did…lmao.

  4. Max isn’t comfortable, Max doesn’t like the balance, Max is on pole.

    1. Reminds me of the old Hamilton days when his ‘tires were gone’ and then he’d go on to win the race

      1. Billy Rae Flop
        26th November 2023, 1:23

        They have to sustain they’re dominance one way or another

  5. I see Magnussen’s baby daughter gathering a huge cult of support among fans.

  6. Alonso doing a good qualification is unexpected. Good for him. If he avoids making a mistake in the race, I’d bet he could fight for the podium.

  7. NOR definitely driver of the day for managing to not completely lose that car. Was the only interesting thing in qualifying.

  8. I think this race has lost it’s luster.
    After Vegas, this race has now become a has-been.
    Abu Dhabi will never regain the top spot, it’s will always be Vegas.

    PS: i thought Vegas was going to be a disappointment, but I found it a wonderful race with the cars screaming down the strip.

    Now only if Vegas can have a support race with the drivers running all the old F1 championship cars down the strip for a 10 lap fun race. What sound to have the V10’s and V12’s screaming down the strip!!!

  9. Billy Rae Flop
    26th November 2023, 1:23

    ‘Finale’ is very generous

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