Sunday, December 13, 2020

Max Verstappen Claims Pole For 2020 Formula 1 Finale in Abu Dhabi

Photo Credit: Kamran Jebreili / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool 

Serving as the seventeenth and final event for Formula 1's 70th Anniversary tour, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on the Yas Marina Circuit provides a closing to what has been a season like no other. The race on the 5.554-kilometer track follows a surreal outing in Bahrain where Sergio Perez took victory for Racing Point. 

Though Perez’s win Sakhir Grand Prix was a thrilling affair on the merits of the Mexican driver recovering brilliantly from an opening lap collision, the race is best remembered as a moment where the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team suffered a rare bumble as a result to a pit stop where the tires of the team cars were mixed up. Also missing the seven-time championship winning driving talents of Lewis Hamilton due to a positive COVID-19 test, the unusual event for Mercedes-AMG is one they want to set behind them as they prepare to finish another strong Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi. The pairing of Hamilton with teammate Valtteri Bottas was put back into place at the Mercedes factory team ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix while last week’s replacement George Russell returns to his regular seat at Williams Racing.

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

For all 16 races in the 2020 Formula 1 season ahead of Abu Dhabi, the pole position was captured by a driver propelled by a Mercedes-Benz power unit (15 by the Mercedes-AMG factory team and 1 by a Racing Point driven by Lance Stroll). In the finale for the 17-race schedule, Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing were determined to disturb the German-based propulsion’s attempt to sweep the year with Honda power. Mounting a strong threat against the Mercedes-Benz factory team throughout the season, Verstappen and his #33 RB16 race car suffered several narrow defeats in qualifying in past 2020 grand prix events. With one more chance to claim the top spot in a qualifying session this season, the Red Bull Racing machine succeeded in beating the rival Mercedes-AMG outfit.

With the final times being set in Q3 on Saturday for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen scored the pole position over the Mercedes-AMG duo. Posting a 1-minute, 35.246-second lap time, Verstappen and his Red Bull Racing squad achieved their first pole since the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. 

Photo Credit: Kamran Jebreili / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool 

Upon claiming the fastest time in qualifying, the Austrian-based race team broke the Mercedes-AMG team’s consecutive pole streak at the Yas Marina Circuit that ran since 2014. Just 0.025 seconds slower than Max Verstappen’s pole time, Valtteri Bottas grabbed his 14th front row start for the 2020 season. Holding a 16-point advantage over Verstappen for the second-place spot in the year-long Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship, Bottas can secure the position with a 5th place or better finish.

Returning to the race car after one race away, Lewis Hamilton swiftly regained his competitive poise standing at the top of the time sheet for Q1 and Q2 qualifying sessions. Hamilton fell short of setting the pole-winning time in the final session and will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in third place alongside the McLaren Racing race of Lando Norris who set the fourth fastest lap time. The second Red Bull Racing of Alexander Albon will roll off the grid in fifth place accompanied in the third row by Carlos Sainz Jr. making his final appearance in a McLaren race car as the Spaniard prepares to compete with Ferrari for the 2021 season. 

Starting seventh, Russian driver Daniil Kvyat out-qualified his Scuderia AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly for the second consecutive Formula 1 event as he faces an uncertain immediate future in the sport. It’s strongly suggested Kvyat will not be racing for the team next year and is likely eyeing a reserve driver role in preparations for a possible return to competition in 2022. 

Photo Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/Pirelli

Canadian Lance Stroll starts at the highest position of the two Racing Point race cars for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Formula 1's newest and most recent grand prix winner Sergio Perez is relegated to a 19th place grid position as a penalty for receiving a new Mercedes-Benz power unit. Sunday’s race will be Perez’s final drive with Racing Point with no solid plans announced in regards to his future in racing.

The ninth fastest car on Saturday, the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc will actually start the race in 12th place. The opening lap incident at the Sakhir Grand Prix was scrutinized by the FIA after the race and ruled Leclerc at-fault that resulted with him colliding with Sergio Perez and contributed to Max Verstappen’s retirement. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly is promoted to ninth place for the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix joined by the Renault of Esteban Ocon.

For what will be the final 55 laps of the 2020 Formula 1 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is scheduled to start at 5:10 P.M. local time at the Yas Marina Circuit (8:10 A.M. eastern time). 

2020 Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Starting Grid

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