Verstappen Takes Pole Position for Season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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Verstappen Takes Pole Position for Season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Max Verstappen took pole position for the season-ending Abu Grand Prix on Saturday and will look to finish a crushingly dominant year with a 19th win.
Victory on Sunday would take the Red Bull driver onto 54 career wins, past Sebastian Vettel and into third place all time.
The three-time F1 champion's 12th pole of the season took him to 32 overall. He starts the race ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in second place and McLaren's Oscar Piastri in third.
“Never bet against me,” Verstappen said afterward, jokingly referring to a comment made by his Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Horner informed Verstappen that he had won a bet for 500 euros ($547) made with Red Bull boss Helmut Marko as to where Verstappen would qualify.
“You've just won me 500 euros,” Horner told Verstappen over radio when he crossed the line.
With a few minutes left, Verstappen led from McLaren's Lando Norris and Piastri under floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit.
Norris slid late while pushing too hard on his last timed lap and Piastri moved ahead of him, while Leclerc jumped up the leaderboard with an excellent lap to place .14 seconds behind Verstappen.
“Everything felt good, I'm very happy with that lap because I didn't expect to be on the front row,” Leclerc said. “It's a good surprise.”
Mercedes driver George Russell qualified in fourth ahead of Norris with AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda in sixth and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso seventh. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine) completed the top 10.
It was a bad session for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (11th) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (16th).
Sainz failed to make it into the second part of qualifying — known as Q2 — and complained of too much traffic near the end of Q1 with several drivers coming out of their garages late.
Still, for a leading driver — Sainz is the only driver other than Verstappen or Perez to win a race this season — it was a poor performance after he crashed early in Friday’s second practice session. Potentially costly, too, with second place in the constructors' championship at stake.
Heading into Sunday's race, Mercedes was in second and held a four-point lead over Ferrari. Teams get more money at the end of the season the higher they finish.
But Mercedes is struggling for form, and Hamilton was knocked out of Q2. According to The Associated Press, the seven-time F1 champion said there was “something not right with this car” and faces the strong likelihood of a second straight season without a win.
Williams driver Logan Sargeant goes from last on the grid with his F1 future still uncertain. The American has only one point this season with a best result of 10th place at the United States GP last month.



Buoyant Hamilton Seeking to Keep Momentum and More Records

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One British Grand Prix at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England, on July 7, 2024. (Photo by BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One British Grand Prix at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England, on July 7, 2024. (Photo by BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP)
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Buoyant Hamilton Seeking to Keep Momentum and More Records

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One British Grand Prix at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England, on July 7, 2024. (Photo by BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One British Grand Prix at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England, on July 7, 2024. (Photo by BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP)

A buoyant Lewis Hamilton heads into this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix on the crest of a wave, seeking a record-increasing ninth Hungaroring victory and Mercedes' third consecutive win of the season.
After two years of struggles, Hamilton ended his long winless run at the British Grand Prix with a record ninth home triumph at Silverstone and hopes to repeat that feat in forecast intense heat at the track where last year he secured his most recent pole position, AFP said.
Following his emotional success in front of an adoring crowd in the English rain, Hamilton said he felt excited at the prospect of returning to a track where he has scored several memorable victories in his career.
"I love Hungary," he said. "And so I am definitely looking forward to going there. The trajectory we're now on and the fact that the car is starting to really, really come alive and feel great. I can't wait."
The 39-year-old seven-time world champion won at the Hungaroring -- a tight, twisty and often dusty circuit 22 kilometers north of Budapest -- in his debut season for McLaren in 2007 and again in 2009 and 2012.
After switching to Mercedes, he continued to relish the unique challenge of a track often described as 'Monaco without the walls' and won again in 2013, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
If he secures a podium finish this Sunday, it will be the 200th of his career, a pole position would be a record-extending 10th, landmark achievements that set him apart as he bids to add to team-mate George Russell's victory in Austria and his own in Britain.
He and Russell know, however, that they will not be favorites despite their recent successes as defending three-time champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull bids to complete a hat-trick of Hungarian wins after triumphs in 2022 and last year.
"Last year was brilliant," said Verstappen. "I have good memories of racing here and last year achieved our 12th win in a row. So, hopefully, we can have a great race again."
Midway point
The Dutchman leads the title race by 84 points ahead of nearest rival and friend Lando Norris of McLaren as the season crosses the midway point after 12 of the scheduled 24 races.
Team boss Christian Horner expects a close scrap.
"It's going to be interesting to see how we perform there," he said.
"It could be very hot and I think it will be the usual people who are quick at the moment and it will be very, very close again."
That suggests Horner considers Red Bull will be fighting with McLaren and Mercedes on recent evidence, but with Ferrari likely to return to form on a tighter circuit –- not unlike Monaco where Charles Leclerc gained an emotional home win in May.
With the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps following immediately, within a week, the double-header offers an opportunity for teams to make a telling impact before Formula One takes its annual 'summer shutdown' during August.
This will translate as more pressure for struggling Sergio Perez of Red Bull who is hoping to escape a nightmare run having scored only 15 points in his last six outings since agreeing a new contract.
Ferrari are also in need of a solid result from Leclerc but have struggled with a recent upgrade package that failed.
"When you're at the sharp end, it's all marginal gains," said Horner. "Mercedes were very quick at Silverstone, took pole and the front row and then executed a good race... at least Lewis did."
His Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff admitted: "We have momentum and gained headline results in Austria and at Silverstone, but we don't yet have a car to challenge for victories every weekend.
"The Hungaroring is very different in character to the last two circuits. We will focus on doing the best we can and hope to maintain our trajectory."