Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Qualifying


Well, this is it! Last race of the season; HAM and VER on equal points but VER has won one race more, so either whoever finishes ahead in the points will win the Drivers’ Championship or if neither score points tomorrow then VER will get the crown.

It’s RAI’s last race weekend before he retires from F1, so Alfa Romeo have added a message on his car – “We will leave you alone now” [tweet]
BOT has a new helmet design to mark the end of his time with Mercedes [tweet] and RUS has one signed by the Williams team [tweet]

Free Practice:

  1. FP1: VER (1:25.009), BOT, HAM, PER, TSU, ALO, GAS, LEC, SAI, VET
    OCO gets close to the wall
    VER reports an issue with his steering wheel
    VET spins as the session ends
  2. FP2: HAM (1:23.691), OCO, BOT, VER, PER, ALO, TSU, LEC, SAI, GAS
    Air temperature 25°C; track 30°C – about 10° cooler than FP1 as the sun is setting
    VER has a lap time deleted for exceeding track limits; he’ll probably whine about the stewards picking on but a moment earlier they did the same to a couple of drivers
    BOT’s tail steps out and he taps the wall with his rear-right wheel
    Radio from BOT calling it “a small contact with the wall” but he left his mark on the Armco
    LAT off at Turn 13, breaking his rear wing on the TechPro barrier
    BOT locks up and has to use the run-off area
    OCO tops the timing sheet – is he hoping to be P1 on the grid, like he was for the 2nd restart in Saudi Arabia?
    Race sim runs; HAM on medium tyres, VER on softs
    RAI in the wall just as the session ends – big impact but he seems to be ok
    Red flag; FP2 ended, so they won’t be allowed to do practice starts
    Replay shows RAI lost the tail into Turn 14, hitting the TechPro with his rear wing, then partially spun and hit the wall with his front-right
  3. FP3: HAM (1:23.274), VER, BOT, PER, NOR, TSU, GAS, SAI, RIC, LEC
    Alfa Romeo managed to rebuild RAI’s car after his FP2 incident

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Red Bull mechanics are frantically working on VER’s rear wing again, and PER’s car has no rear wing as yet – they’ve got about 20mins to fix both cars
Christian Horner: “It was a problem we hadn’t seen before, it would have been alright to keep running but as a precaution we changed the part, on Checo’s car as well.”
PER has switched to a low-downforce wing – are they planning to start the race on soft tyres?
Air temperature 25°C; track 30°C – same as FP2
Queue starts to form at the pit exit, waiting for the green light
Everyone heading out on soft tyres except LEC and SAI on mediums
Mercedes and Mclaren are the only ones still in the garage
PER 1:24.253
TSU 1:23.993
VER 1:23.680 but it looked like he exceed track limits; Sky commentators agree but it looks like his time stands
HAM 1:23.266
(BOT P2)
VER improves his time but he’s P2
GAS’ lap time deleted for exceeding track limits; drops him to P9
NOR clips a plastic bollard and pulls it onto the track at the exit of the final turn
Red flag – session stopped so they can clear the
Replay shows it was SCH who hit the bollard at the inside of the last turn, then NOR hit it
Debris is removed, so Q1 can continue
6mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are VET, RAI, LAT, SCH, MAZ
Replay of VET skimming the wall and then catches OCO about to start his quick lap; incident noted
Red Bull mechanics are checking the underside of VER’s car
Only VER and NOR remain in the pits
HAM 1:22.845
(BOT P2)
Chequered flag; bottom 5 are VET, RAI, LAT, SCH, MAZ
VET P14, RUS to P16
LAT P15, STR P16
STR P13, LAT P16
Turn 16 incident involving VET and OCO will be investigated after the session
Back of the grid: LAT, RUS, RAI, SCH, MAZ

Qualifying session 2
Mercedes and Red Bull send their cars out on medium tyres
Radio for HAM, “This compound’s going to need a bit more work” i.e. warm the mediums a bit more than the softs
HAM 1:23.185
(BOT P2)
(VER P2) diff is 0.004sec
GAS reports a BBW (brake by wire) problem
Radio for TSU telling him to focus and TSU flips out!
SAI 1:23.174 on softs
VER locks his front-left, flat spots his medium tyres, and runs wide at Turn 1
Brief yellow flag
5mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are RIC, STR, GIO, VET, GAS
VER leaves the pits on softs
The usual slow-moving train as everyone tries to find space for their final flying lap
Yellow flags in sector 3; clears quickly
HAM 1:23.145 on mediums
Chequered flag; bottom 5 are RIC, GAS, STR, GIO, VET
PER 1:23.135 on softs
VER 1:22.800 on softs
RIC P10, ALO to P11
Middle of the grid: ALO, GAS, STR, GIO, VET

So the Mercedes pair will start the race on those Q2 medium tyres and the Red Bull pair will be on those softs

Qualifying session 3
Top 10 shootout is between VER, PER, HAM, SAI, LEC, BOT, NOR, TSU, OCO and RIC
Air temperature 24°C; track 28°C
Radio for PER, “Get on with things – don’t hold Max up”
Everyone on softs, of course
PER gives VER a tow and then pulls out of the way
VER 1:22.109
NOR P2
PER P3
TSU P2
HAM P2
BOT P4
RIC P6
LEC P5
SAI P5
OCO P8
Order after first run: VER, HAM, TSU, BOT, SAI, LEC, NOR, PER, OCO, RIC
PER P3 – he got a tow from VER
TSU’s lap time deleted
Order now: VER, HAM, PER, BOT, SAI, LEC, NOR, OCO, RIC, TSU
Radio from NOR complaining his lap was impeded by PER
Mercedes send HAM out ahead of BOT
HAM faster but still P2
TSU P6
Chequered flag
RIC P10
NOR P3
PER P4
VER doesn’t improve but he’s P1
LEC P7
Front of the grid: VER, HAM, NOR, PER, SAI, BOT, LEC, TSU, OCO, RIC

Interviews:
VER: “It’s an amazing feeling. We definitely improved the car in qualifying, we got what we wanted. I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, that’s the most important. I felt good on both tyres, so we’ll see.”
HAM: “Max did a great lap today, we just couldn’t compete with that time at the end there. We couldn’t answer to that lap, but we’re in a good position with our tyres tomorrow. The last lap was nice and clean, I just couldn’t go any quicker.”
NOR: “I dunno really! I went for pole, didn’t quite work out, still a little bit off. I’m a bit nervous, I kind of want to stay where I am and just watch, I don’t want to get too involved and cause any controversy…”

Provisional grid: VER, HAM, NOR, PER, SAI, BOT, LEC, TSU, OCO, RIC, ALO, GAS, STR, GIO, VET, LAT, RUS, RAI, SCH, MAZ
Incidents to be investigated after the session: Q1 turn 16 incident involving VET and OCO; a few drivers (ALO, GAS, OCO, RIC, VET) have been summoned to see the stewards for impeding in Q3

With VER starting on softs and HAM on mediums, it’s going to be hard for HAM to fight at the start of the race. And with PER starting right behind HAM, could there be an “accident” into Turn 1?

[2021 calendar] [2021 line-up] [Points standings]