Lewis Hamilton to start down the order in Abu Dhabi as Max Verstappen claims pole

Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - his 12th pole of a terrific season

Philip Duncan
Saturday 25 November 2023 15:27 GMT
Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull chief Christian Horner is 'stirring things' over team move claims

Lewis Hamilton said there was something wrong with his Mercedes after he qualified only 11th for Sunday’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.

As Max Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position for the final race of his all-conquering campaign – with Charles Leclerc second and Oscar Piastri third – Hamilton was left starting at another poor performance in his underperforming machinery.

The seven-time world champion, facing up to a second season without a victory, finished six tenths behind Verstappen and a third-of-a-second back from team-mate George Russell, who qualified fourth.

Hamilton’s failure to progress to Q3 – as he gloomily predicted here on Friday night – leaves the fight between Mercedes and Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ championship firmly in the balance.

The Silver Arrows head their Italian rivals by just four points ahead of Sunday’s finale in the desert. And Leclerc finished ahead of both Russell and Hamilton to hand Ferrari the initiative.

However, Mercedes were handed a minor boost after Carlos Sainz was a surprise eliminee in Q1.

A day after he crashed out in practice, Sainz bemoaned traffic for his lowly 16th grid slot.

It emerged earlier this week that Hamilton’s father and one-time manager Anthony had enquired about a seat for his son at Red Bull.

Lewis Hamilton failed to make Q3 for the second race running
Lewis Hamilton failed to make Q3 for the second race running (Getty Images)
Max Verstappen secured his 12th pole position of the season
Max Verstappen secured his 12th pole position of the season (Getty Images)

Hamilton has recorded just one podium in his last six appearances following Mercedes’ tumble down the grid, and he faces an uphill task to salvage a respectable result at the Yas Marina Circuit.

“There is something not right with this car, mate,” said the 38-year-old as he headed back to the pits shaking his head.

Hamilton is third in the standings, an extraordinary 317 points Verstappen, with the Dutchman starting Sunday’s 58-lap race as the overwhelming favourite to claim a remarkable 19th victory from the 22 rounds this year.


1) Max Verstappen

2) Charles Leclerc

3) Oscar Piastri

4) George Russell

5) Lando Norris

6) Yuki Tsunoda

7) Fernando Alonso

8) Nico Hulkenberg

9) Sergio Perez

10) Pierre Gasly

Verstappen finished 0.139 seconds ahead of Leclerc, while McLaren’s Lando Norris was a disappointing fifth. The British driver got out of shape on his final lap in the last sector, losing him considerable time.

“The whole weekend has been a struggle,” said Verstappen. “But we improved the car for qualifying so I am very happy to be on pole.”

Quizzed about Ferrari’s battle against Mercedes, Leclerc said: “I hope it is going to go well.

“The target is to beat them, so I hope Carlos get a good start and joins me in the fight.

“Let’s look to put both of our cars in front of Mercedes because finishing second in the constructors is all that matters to me.”

Elsewhere, Yuki Tsunoda impressed to take sixth spot for AlphaTauri, one place ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. Sergio Perez’s final lap was deleted for exceeding track limits, leaving him in ninth.

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