Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Qualifying team notes - Pirelli


Max Verstappen was totally dominant in the final qualifying session of 2023, fastest in all three parts, getting down to a time of 1'23"445 on his first Q3 run, enough to secure his fourth consecutive Yas Marina pole position. It was his 12th this season, the 32nd of his career.

Starting alongside Verstappen will be Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) second in 1'23"584, while behind them on the grid will be Oscar Piastri for McLaren (1'23"782) and the Mercedes of George Russell (1'23"788).

The third free practice session was very busy as the teams were trying, at least partly, to make up for the time lost yesterday in FP2. Even though temperatures were considerably higher than can be expected in tomorrow's race, several drivers did long runs with a heavy fuel load, once again mainly on the two softest compounds in order to save the C3 for the race.

Qualifying times were very close, especially in the first two sessions: in Q1 all the drivers were within 999 thousandths and in Q2 within seven tenths. In this sort of situation, the smallest details can make the difference, such as how clean a lap the driver delivers, or how the preparation lap goes, not to mention tyre management which is even more important than ever on an unusual track such as Yas Marina where the third, particularly twisty sector plays a key role.

The Pole Position Award was presented by retired footballer Sergio AgŁero. The Argentinian is regarded as one of the best forwards of his generation, his career linked to two clubs: Atletico Madrid with whom he won the UEFA Europa League, and the European Super Cup in 2010 and with Manchester City, with whom he won five Premier League titles and one FA Cup. With his national side, Aguero won the 2021 Copa America.

Mario Isola: "The season is ending on a high note with yet another spectacular qualifying. All three parts were very closely contested, as can be seen from the time gaps, where the slightest detail could prove vital. At Yas Marina it's the third sector which usually makes the difference on a flying lap and to tackle it in the best way possible, one not only has to do a very good job on the preparation lap, but also manage the tyres very carefully through the various key points of the flying lap so as to arrive at the final sector with the tyres in the best possible condition. All this adds further uncertainty to a situation where already the pecking order is very close, and that was very evident this evening.

Looking ahead to tomorrow's race, the decision taken by almost all the teams to save two sets of Hard tyres, demonstrates that the C3 is the favoured compound. On paper, a one-stop is quickest, with the Medium for the first stint before switching to the aforementioned Hard. A two-stop race, with the sequence C4/C3/C3, is not that far off in terms of overall race time and could become a valid option especially if there is a neutralisation in the second part of the race. It's hard to see the C5 coming into play, unless someone wants to gamble in the final stages on exploiting the Soft's grip advantage over a used Hard, with a lighter car."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Yas Marina here.

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Published: 25/11/2023
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