Max Verstappen survived scare as Red Bull car ‘turned off’ before Q3

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen in the Red Bull RB18. Abu Dhabi, November 2022. F1 driver numbers

Max Verstappen at the wheel of the Red Bull RB18. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Max Verstappen secured pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, although his RB18 did not make the pathway smooth with a surprise shutdown.

Red Bull went into qualifying with the momentum after finishing one-two in the final practice session, Sergio Perez ahead of Verstappen, and through Q1 and Q2 it was still a Red Bull on top as they reaffirmed themselves as favourites for pole.

The plan for the opening run of Q3 appeared to involve Verstappen and Perez putting the tow to good use, but Perez was surprised to see Verstappen was initially nowhere to be seen, Red Bull  telling him an issue was preventing Verstappen from leaving the garage.

It was not a long delay as Verstappen went onto provisional pole after his opening run, while a messy final corner left Perez in P3 and needing a better lap, which he achieved on his final attempt, this time aided by a Verstappen tow.

Verstappen also improved though, securing pole with Perez set to line up P2.

After the session, Verstappen revealed his Red Bull challenger had unexpectedly shut down ahead of his first Q3 run, but he and the team fought back to lock out the front row, which he sees as an important achievement as Perez sets out to secure P2 in the final Drivers’ standings.

If Red Bull achieve that, it will be their first one-two finish in the Drivers’ Championship.

“It was a bit up and down, qualifying,” Verstappen reflected. “Started off quite well, Q2 was a little messy, I don’t know why, but those tyres I couldn’t get the grip together. But then in Q3, it all felt a bit more normal.

“And we had a bit of a scare – the car turned off before the first run so we had to reboot everything, and then we went out and both of the laps were good enough.

“So of course very pleased with that, but also very happy both cars are on the front row because we know of course we want to win the race, but we also want to finish second with Checo in the championship, so that’s definitely a great start for tomorrow.”

Verstappen will be going for a 15th victory of the season, he and Red Bull clear favourites for the win, although he does not expect to take the chequered flag without a fight.

Perez finished Q3 0.228s down on Verstappen, with Charles Leclerc only 0.04s back from Perez.

“For sure today was amazing, [but] I still expect it to be a good battle tomorrow,” Verstappen predicted. “But at least we have both cars there and we can do what we want.”

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