Abu Dhabi GP: Lewis Hamilton says Max Verstappen had ‘fantastic’ pole lap but remains optimistic for F1 decider

Toto Wolff: “I think he’ll get angry, and that’s good. And motivated to hunt him down for tomorrow.” Verstappen on pole, Hamilton starts second, for Sunday’s Decider in the Desert live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Showcase from 11.30 for the start of the race at 13

Last updated: 11/21/21 16:17

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Lewis Hamilton says he wasn’t surprised by Max Verstappen’s pace in qualifying but hopes their tire strategy will pay off in the race.

Lewis Hamilton says he wasn’t surprised by Max Verstappen’s pace in qualifying but hopes their tire strategy will pay off in the race.

Lewis Hamilton is optimistic that he will remain in a “good position” ahead of Sunday’s decisive Abu Dhabi GP, despite losing pole position to title rival Max Verstappen.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, meanwhile, admitted after qualifying that he was “a zero” for Red Bull in the Decider in the Desert, but then said: “This is a long race and … there’s Lewis. Hamilton in the car “.

In another twist to a compelling season, Mercedes’s apparent single-lap pace advantage at the revamped Yas Marina circuit from practice disappeared when it mattered most in qualifying, when the impressive Verstappen delivered a dominant performance in Q3. with his Red Bull to get his tenth pole position of the year – but first in five races – from Hamilton, by three tenths of a second.

Verstappen and Hamilton are on equal points at the top of the championship. Whoever finishes in front of the other in the top eight is world champion, while Verstappen will take the crown on the tally if they are still stalled in the points at the end of Sunday’s 58 laps.

“Max had a great lap today. We couldn’t compete with that time at the end there,” said Hamilton, who starts from second on the front row.

“He looked really cool through practice.

Sky Sports F1's Karun Chandhok compares the fastest laps of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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Sky Sports F1’s Karun Chandhok compares the fastest laps of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Sky Sports F1’s Karun Chandhok compares the fastest laps of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“It was a fantastic lap for him. We are in a good position with our tires for tomorrow and I hope we can have a good race.”

talking with Sky Sport F1 shortly after, Hamilton said: “In an ideal world we had to be on pole. We thought we had the pace, but they were quick right at the end.

“I’m not really that surprised because if you look at their pace on some days there were moments they were doing that they couldn’t complete. And you saw in the last race [in Saudi Arabia] it was almost four tenths of a second from the last corner, so their car is very, very strong at the moment.

“So it was a bit expected: today he didn’t crash, he finished it, and it’s the same as in the last race”.

Behind their big rival on the front row, but Hamilton and Mercedes potentially have a strategic advantage for the decisive 58-lap race, as they will start with the toughest medium tires versus the soft ones Verstappen is stuck in.

Red Bull’s initial plan was also to start with the mids marked in yellow, but Verstappen damaged his set with a block at the start of a second round of pushing in Q2 and had to switch to the softs marked in red.

Asked what this tire difference will mean for the short run up to the first corner on Sunday, Hamilton said: “It will be very, very difficult to beat him, he is not very far from the first corner, and it is with the soft tire that you usually get it. gives four meters more or something like that. “

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen's thrilling championship battle ends with an Abu Dhabi GP where the winner takes it all.  Watch live on Sky Sport this weekend.

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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s thrilling championship battle ends with an Abu Dhabi GP where the winner takes it all. Watch live on Sky Sport this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s thrilling championship battle ends with an Abu Dhabi GP where the winner takes it all. Watch live on Sky Sport this weekend.

Hamilton, who has three other soft-tire cars directly behind him, added: “The soft riders will be like busy bees, of course, they’ll be around me a lot. It won’t be easy for medium-sized; but we’ll see. I hope it’s the rubber. better for the long haul, we will wait and see. “

Mercedes is planning the approach for the race day turnaround

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton will be

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton will be “angry” after failing to take pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton will be “angry” after failing to take pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“Q1, Q2 was ours, it seemed like a pretty easy ride, and then all of a sudden you lose all performance,” Wolff noted of a qualifying session where the balance of power in the lead unexpectedly swung between teams in race for the title.

The Mercedes team principal told Sky F1: “Today they got the tires in the perfect window in the last run. The towing worked perfectly and that is why they are on pole.

“From P2 I prefer to start from medium. We will have a slight disadvantage at the start I imagine and in the first six-seven laps if he [Verstappen] drive fast.

“If it succeeds [the tyres] then it’s not a big plus for them. But we can go longer, we can also look for an aggressive undercut and try to control the position on the track. So overnight they will run many programs and algorithms to see where it ends. “

However, Wolff believes absolute pace rather than tire strategy will determine the outcome of the race – and the 2021 world champion.

“Whoever is fastest tomorrow will win the race regardless of who starts with which tire. We need to build on this, reorganize and hope to be on top tomorrow.”

Asked by Sky F1 what he might say to Hamilton ahead of the race on the eve of his driver’s quest to become the first eight-time champion of the sport, Wolff said: “There’s nothing you need to say.

“I think he’ll be angry, and that’s good. And motivated to hunt him down for tomorrow.

“We are at a disadvantage. Sometimes it is necessary to see the positives and sometimes it is not a bad starting point.

“This is a long race and like Nico [Rosberg] said, Lewis Hamilton is in the car. “

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