Max Verstappen says his “great teammate” Sergio Perez had a hand in his stunning pole position at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after excellent teamwork at Red Bull.
Mercedes appeared to have an edge heading into qualifying — with Lewis Hamilton admitting he felt “strong” before the session — but Verstappen delivered a remarkable first lap to take provisional pole position by half a second. Perez gave Verstappen a tow at the end of the second sector on the crucial lap, and after Hamilton could only get within 0.4s on his final run the Dutchman said it was a plan that worked out perfectly.
“It was discussed before quali,” Verstappen said. “It was very nicely executed as well. It’s not whatever the gap was — I might have gained a tenth towards Turn 9, it’s not a massively long straight. Nevertheless, Checo is a great teammate and a real pleasure to work with so also a big thank you to him.
“We didn’t (try it in practice). Checo and I said to ourselves we were confident to do it just for that one run and that’s what we did.”
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Ahead of a title showdown on Sunday that will see the two rivals starting on the front row, Verstappen said he and Hamilton have been forcing each other to produce at their best.
“Lewis has won already so many championships but also this year we have been pushing each other, certainly at some races, to the limit. We’ve been trying to get everything out of our cars, tires, to the last lap, to the last corner and that’s very exciting.
“Especially when it’s between two teams as well, because when it’s teammates it’s always a bit different but when there are two teams fighting you have different strategies you don’t know about, preparation. So it has been really enjoyable for most of the time — that’s normal in a championship.
“Of course, probably in 10-20 years time people will probably look back on it, even myself, and we will remember this year, for sure.”
The last six races at Yas Marina have all been won from pole position, but instead of paying attention to historical races Verstappen says he will spend the night before the final round trying to keep things as normal as possible.
“First of all I never look at these stats because these things can already change at the start or whatever. I just need to focus on what we can control as a team and (in) the coming hours, what I think is most important is to have a good sleep. Also I have friends and family around, so I am not going to do anything different to what I normally have been doing.”