Winners and Losers from Abu Dhabi GP qualifying: Mercedes take a backward step
As Max Verstappen took his 20th career pole position, there were plenty of winners and losers during the qualifying session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It was a good day out for Red Bull as they secured a qualifying one-two for the first time this season. Verstappen and Sergio Perez put their Sao Paulo differences behind them as they worked as a team to provide each other with best conditions.
Meanwhile, there were some surprise names included in the drivers who exited during Q1 with 11 race wins between them.
With that in mind, here are PlanetF1’s winners and losers from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying session.
It seems strange to say a team who have wrapped up the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships needed a morale-boosting performance but given recent events, that was very much the case for Red Bull.
From the moment their jet touched down in the UAE, Red Bull were being put under the microscope as rumoured disharmony within the camp threatened to spoil their party.
That thought soon disappeared into the rear view mirror. Max Verstappen topped the timesheets in FP2, Sergio Perez did the same in FP3, and in qualifying they instantly looked like the team to beat.
If there are any lingering sentiments of bad blood between the two, they were not on show in Abu Dhabi as the pair worked together to give each other a tow and enable a run in optimal conditions.
While it was Verstappen who took pole over Perez, the Mexican achieved the goal of starting ahead of Charles Leclerc on Sunday and if come the chequered flag it is the same order crossing the line, it will put the cherry on top of the cake that is Red Bull’s season.
When an athlete reaches the end of their career it is understandable they slow down and fail to reach the same heights they had enjoyed earlier in their life.
For Sebastian Vettel, that could hardly have been further from the truth.
Sebastian Vettel, take a bow.
Seb takes P9 in qualifying for the #AbuDhabiGP, signing off his last #F1 Saturday in style. #DankeSeb pic.twitter.com/6ztQjXqYrs
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) November 19, 2022
The four-time former World Champion demonstrated all the skill and talent that earned him those world titles as he earned a P9 starting spot for Sunday’s race.
With his father watching on from the Aston Martin garage, it was perhaps the final run in Q1 that personified Vettel’s ability. Weaving his way through traffic, he rose from the elimination zone to P5 and proved there is life in the old dog yet.
It is advantage McLaren in the race for P4 as for the first time since the Italian Grand Prix, both Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo featured in Q3.
In comparison, Alpine were represented by only one of their drivers as Esteban Ocon qualified P8 while Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out in P11.
While it is advantage McLaren, there is still plenty to play for during the race with Alonso the main beneficiary of Ricciardo’s three-place grid penalty for a collision with Kevin Magnussen in Sao Paulo, and Ocon one spot behind Norris.
Alpine enjoy a 19-point lead over their rivals going into Sunday’s race but if this was a boxing match, the Woking team have landed a hook to the jaw and Alpine are wobbling.
What looked like a high end to their season hit a speed bump as Mercedes went from race winners to starting on the third row of the grid.
They began the weekend positively with George Russell topping the times in FP1, but their pace began to fall away from then on.
Team boss Toto Wolff described it as a performance that belongs in the toilet and revealed the team had opted for a high downforce, high drag set-up in the belief it will be best suited for the race – but it was a case of one step forward, two steps back as they find themselves behind both Ferrari and Red Bull.
Like Alpine, Mercedes are in a battle for a Constructors’ spot and just like the French team, they are starting on the back foot.
When Pierre Gasly pictured his final moments with AlphaTauri, he would not have imagined they went like this. He has failed to score points in the last four races and has given himself an uphill task of ending that streak following his Q1 exit.
He ended the day’s running in P17, equalling his worst qualifying performance of the season, and admitted afterwards it was a result that was taking him a while to shake off.
Q1 comes to an end and unfortunately we lose @PierreGASLY in P17@yukitsunoda07 is through to Q2 in P10 💪 pic.twitter.com/MIvAKk2mrz
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) November 19, 2022
Ever the optimist, Gasly was confident he could make up the lost positions in Sunday’s race, but his worst ever points total in a full season looks a daunting reality.
The Finn’s slip away from the upper end of the grid to battling the backmarkers has been a story that has slipped under many radars as the season has progressed.
Bottas has finished in the points in the last two races but before that he went 10 races without a top-10 finish, and the former Mercedes man will have been hoping the worst was behind him.
Saturday’s session suggested not.
Bottas qualified P16, blaming the traffic for preventing him from warming up his tyres, but it was a situation many others faced and were able to overcome, including his team-mate Zhou Guanyu.
The Alfa Romeo man is in a no man’s land when it comes to the Drivers’ standings with a 32-point gap to Alonso ahead of him and a 13-point cushion to Vettel behind, which means this result will not prove too catastrophic but it is looking like a sour note to end the season on.