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© Reuters. Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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By Abhishek Takle

(Reuters) – Max Verstappen denied Mercedes a last front-row lockout of the season by snatching pole place within the dying seconds of Saturday’s qualifying for the year-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Dutchman steered his Honda-powered Crimson Bull across the 5.5km-long Yas Marina circuit in a single minute, 35.246 seconds edging Mercedes’ provisional pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas by simply 0.025 seconds.

 World champion Lewis Hamilton, again within the automotive after his COVID-19-enforced absence finally week’s Sakhir Grand Prix, was third however solely 0.086 seconds off the tempo.

 “I stated earlier than I went into qualifying, it’s going to be the ultimate ship of the season and we did that,” stated Verstappen after taking his third profession pole and first this season.

 “The entire 12 months once you’re behind getting nearer, it’s getting generally a bit irritating.”

 Verstappen’s dazzling show beneath the floodlights means it will likely be solely the second time in 17 races this season that Mercedes have not began from the entrance.

 It was additionally the primary non-Mercedes pole place of the season with Lance Stroll’s qualifying-topping effort in Turkey set in his Mercedes-powered Racing Level, and solely the fourth time this season that Hamilton and Bottas have not locked out the entrance row.

“The principle problem was we couldn’t actually get the tender tyres to work correctly because it ought to,” stated the 31-year-old Bottas. “The steadiness was not fairly good.”

 Hamilton, who has taken 10 of Mercedes’ 15 poles this season, stated he nonetheless wasn’t again to full health after solely simply having recovered from COVID-19.

“It’s positively been a tough weekend,” stated the 35-year-old Briton.

 “It simply felt such as you’ve misplaced that momentum and actually struggled thus far with the steadiness this weekend.”

 Verstappen had headed a Crimson Bull one-two from Alexander Albon in Saturday’s last observe session.

 However Mercedes had been anticipated to strike again come the qualifying hour.

 Hamilton led Bottas within the first two components of qualifying, with the pair wanting like favourites for a front-row lockout.

 Verstappen, nonetheless, confirmed his pace as the ultimate shootout acquired underway, splitting his Mercedes rivals after his first run, earlier than posting the lap that deposed Bottas and Hamilton from the highest of the timesheets.

  Lando Norris was a powerful fourth for McLaren, profitable the crew mate qualifying battle at McLaren towards Ferrari-bound Spaniard Carlos Sainz who was sixth.

  Charles Leclerc was ninth for Ferrari (NYSE:) however the Monegasque will drop three locations on the grid as a result of a penalty for inflicting a collision on the final race in Sakhir.

  Sebastian Vettel was knocked out within the second part of his last qualifying session for Ferrari. The German, shifting to Racing Level which is rebranding to Aston Martin subsequent 12 months, was thirteenth. 

 Sergio Perez, making approach for Vettel on the Silverstone-based crew, will begin behind the grid. The Mexican, who grew to become F1’s latest winner final weekend in Sakhir, is carrying engine-related penalties and did solely a warm-up lap within the second part of qualifying. 

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