ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will start together at the front of the grid at the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Any other front row seats are unlikely to come right before Sunday’s winners showdown, and given the performances of the two title contenders at recent races, that really never was. suspect.
Verstappen’s 0.3 second advantage over Hamilton was a surprise, however. Throughout practice and the first two sessions of qualifying, the Mercedes driver held the edge. But when it matters, when the pressure is at its peak, Verstappen has settled.
“I am extremely happy with this,” he said after stepping out of the car. “This is of course what we want.
“It’s never been easy, especially with their form in the last few races, but now I’m just looking to tomorrow because of course that’s the most important thing.”
Hamilton also went above chance and made a good lap, but after practice he said his car simply wasn’t fast enough to challenge Red Bull.
Hamilton said: “The last lap went well and was clean, I couldn’t have gone any faster. “I don’t know if it was prep for the tires or something in terms of errors but anyway I can’t beat that moment he did today. He totally deserved the title. “
Verstappen was assisted by a slide from behind straight from teammate Sergio Perez in his fastest lap, but that wasn’t a big enough advantage to account for the entire 0.371s. The pre-agreed, perfectly orchestrated example of teamwork showed Perez first leaving the hole and punching a hole in the air along the fastest part of the track between Turns 7 and 9, then Verstappen did can be exploited to reduce drag. his car.
The drag increases Verstappen’s speed along the straight, but a quick look at the zonal time on his fastest lap hints at something even more special at the end of the lap. In the middle zone, where the lap took place, Verstappen was 0.140 seconds faster than Hamilton, but he added 0.182 seconds in the final zone, where he was very self-sufficient between the rafters below the W Hotel.
“I think it was one of Max’s best laps of the year. Even on the latter lap where we forced him back, he matched the timing. [without a tow]”, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports.
“We discussed slip currents this morning and we reduced the force [on the car], because that’s the only way to combine these people [Mercedes] on a straight line.
“The traction is probably worth a tenth, a tenth or two, not half a second and I think his last area, when you look at the level of decline he’s having, is insane, absolutely crazy.”
Verstappen’s reward for his performance on Saturday night will be a start eight meters ahead of Hamilton in Sunday’s net and on a stretch of runway with more grip than his teammate. The track cuts diagonally through a straight starting point at Yas Marina Circuit, but when it comes to the front row, it’s farther to the right, meaning there’s more rubber on the Verstappen’s net side and a firmer grip.
If the race goes according to procedure like at the previous Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, then those eight meters and a better net slot could be enough to secure Verstappen’s first championship – the last six drivers won in Abu. Dhabi has done it from the pole. But given the story of the 2021 season so far, a win in the blink of an eye seems unlikely.
The chances of a compelling race helped by Verstappen and Hamilton’s strategy are offset from the start. Because F1 rules require the top ten drivers to start the race on the same set of tires they used in the second session of qualifying, Verstappen will line up on the grid on soft tyres while Hamilton starts on average line.
Speaking after training, Verstappen revealed it was not Red Bull’s plan to start moving in an advanced direction, but being locked into Round 1 on his vehicle set for Q2 means he doesn’t want to. start the race at that set in case the tire has been damaged.
“Of course that wasn’t the plan, because I wanted to get started in the media but I did,” Verstappen said. “But I also feel good in the long run for the software, so the move to just focus on software isn’t really a hard decision to make.”
Hamilton is skeptical, suggesting that Red Bull may have been thinking about soft tires for a long time.
“It was interesting,” Hamilton said. “I’m always skeptical of things so it’ll be interesting when we go back to see the info and the spins on the plane, it’s very rare that people get locked in Turn 1 but if he really locked in Turn 1 maybe whether we’re in a better position on that tire or not.
“Maybe they know something that we don’t and that soft tire has been their plan the whole time. We’ve struggled a bit more with the soft tire in the long run, so I think We’ve picked the right tyres, but we’ll see tomorrow.”
Verstappen’s lifts will get you out of the line faster and better performance in the opening lap, but as the first period develops the performance advantage falls back to Hamilton’s average. Furthermore, Hamilton will be more flexible in strategy by starting at the middle, allowing him to go longer into the race on the same set of tires if Mercedes’ tunnel wall believes it will give it the edge and Try to do a one-stop race if Red Bull’s tire selection leads them to two stops.
“Two stops is always a viable variation if you think you can attack and go two or you can manage and try to make a stop,” says Wolff. “I think we need to see.
“We’ve seen quite a bit of deterioration on soft tires in the long run in practice, less on vehicles making it strategically interesting. But certainly for us, a stop. looks good and a stop is definitely also a variation.”
While he hasn’t started from pole since the US Grand Prix in October, Verstappen’s qualifying record hasn’t quite worked against form. With pure speed, Verstappen should have started the championship a week ago in Saudi Arabia but fell in the last corner of the final qualifying round as he looked to have secured the distance of 0.3 seconds. versus Hamilton in that round.
On Sunday in Saudi Arabia, the game changed as Mercedes was able to make better use of its tires over a lap, giving Hamilton a clear advantage at the end of the race. In Abu Dhabi, Wolff said Mercedes deliberately sacrificed some qualifying achievements to make the car faster in the race.
“We definitely tried because we’ve been underperforming a lot in the long run so we went in the more direction we were in on Friday trying to preserve the tyres,” said Wolff. “But having said that, we’re really not competitive enough with the Red Bulls so whatever step we take we hope it’s going in the right direction. There’s no guarantee it’s going to be enough on the day. tomorrow and basically the faster car wins tomorrow.”
And then there’s the question for the title decider since Verstappen and Hamilton arrived in Abu Dhabi earlier this week: Will the two title rivals collide on track?
The prospect of contact on the track was, without a doubt, highly rated in the days leading up to Sunday’s race and by no means unwarranted, but after three crucial collisions this season at Silverstone, Monza and in Saudi Arabia, that cannot be ruled out. .
On a season-to-season basis so far, Verstappen won’t give up his lead easily, meaning Hamilton could face a solid defence if he comes close enough to challenge Red Bull for the leading position. Furthermore, in a situation where both drivers fail to score, Verstappen will be crowned champion by picking up another race win this season – which is one of the main reasons why speculation about a The shunt became rampant.
To thwart any attempt to win the title by a collision, FIA race director Michael Masi started the weekend by issuing a warning to all drivers that unsportsmanlike behavior could result in points being deducted on taluys, thus preventing Verstappen from simply driving into Hamilton to win. However, distinguishing between intent and accident would be a futile task and would almost certainly lead to further controversy.
“I haven’t spoken to Lewis about it yet because I think the race director warned the drivers about the possible consequences. [of a collision]”, said Wolff. I have no doubt the drivers will race as hard as it is for a Formula One world champion, but I believe it will be very clean.
“Hard but very clean, not pushing anyone or kicking anyone. This is what this epic championship deserves as a final.”
https://www.espn.com/f1/story/_/id/32844434/advantage-max-verstappen-lewis-hamilton-title-decider-too-close-call Max Verstappen has the edge, but title decider Lewis Hamilton is too close to call