Verstappen: 'Pole is amazing feeling!', unworried by tyre switch


Max Verstappen was thrilled to take an emphatic pole position for Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix over Lewis Hamilton, for the season finale which will decide which of the pair is crowned 2021 world champion.

Hamilton looked to have the slight upper hand heading into today's qualifying session,. but a brilliant final round lap from Verstappen helped by a tow from his Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez put him out of reach of the Mercedes.

"It's an amazing feeling," Verstappen said after claiming pole by 0.371s over Hamilton. "We definitely improved the car in qualifying because so far this weekend it was a bit on and off.

"Incredibly happy with this," he added. "It is of course what we wanted but it's never easy, especially with their form in the last few races."

Verstappen insisted that he hadn't felt any extra pressure going into the high-stakes session in the evening session held under the setting sun at Yas Marina Circuit.

"I was very relaxed going into qualifying," he said. "I always do the best I can, and I know my team always give me the best possible car. We have been doing that already the whole year, and again today it worked really well."

The only potential setback for Red Bull was having to switch their tyre selection for the start of Sunday's race.

Verstappen had made his initial run in Q2 on medium tyres and was just four thousandths of a second slower than Hamilton. But when he started another lap be left it too late to brake into turn 1 and flat-spotted his tyres.

With no assurance that he would be allowed to make a life-for-life exchange of tyres before tomorrow's start, the team opted to send him back out to set a faster lap on the soft compound which he will now start the race on.

Pole position for Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing. 11.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

Red Bull insisted that this wasn't a problem and that the choice of compound had always been up for debate. Perez will also begin the race on the red-walled tyres.

"I felt good on both tyres," Verstappen told the media in parc ferme when interviewed after the end of the session. "Naturally in the evening it's cooler and should be a bit easier on the soft tyres, but we will see tomorrow.

"It is important to have a very good start," he continued. "From there onwards we will just try to do the race to our very best and we will see where we end up.

"I am looking forward to tomorrow, because that's what is most important," he added.

Verstappen and Hamilton head into the race tied on points, but Verstappen would win in the event of a dead heat by virtue of a countback on the number of race wins in 2021.

The team title is also still wide open with 28 points between Red Bull and Mercedes meaning neither team can afford to have either of their drivers fail to finish the race.

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