Thrilling Finale in the Desert!
This article was written by Maxime Baillieux, Year 11
Verstappen Triumphs as Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Unveils Unpredictable Drama
The qualifying session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix delivered a series of unexpected twists, setting the stage for a thrilling season finale. From surprising performances to shocking exits, the grid for the race promised intense competition.
Q1: Early Drama and Ferrari Woes
The Red Bull driver, Max Verstappen, broke the silence at the beginning of the session with a benchmark time of 1:24.160. Norris, Leclerc, and Sainz all tried to overtake the Red Bull driver, but none were able to catch up to him. George Russell again outperformed his teammate Lewis Hamilton, but both ended up in odd positions, ninth and thirteenth, respectively.
Williams' Sergeant was a remarkable sight, but his lap time was wiped for track limits. As the final efforts in Q1 saw emotions increasing, Carlos Sainz surprised everyone by failing to advance and blaming traffic for his P16 exit.
Out in Q1: Sainz, Magnussen, Bottas, Zhou, and Sargeant.
Q2: Hamilton's Shock Exit
After Albon's impressive performance in the second qualifying round, Verstappen maintained his lead over the Mercedes pair, clocking in at seven tenths quicker than Norris. The biggest surprise of the day was Lewis Hamilton's failure to advance, which added a dramatic touch to the proceedings.
Out in Q2: Hamilton, Ocon, Stroll, Albon, and Ricciardo.
Q3: Verstappen Holds On
Verstappen set the first benchmark in the last battle of Q3, clocking in at 1:23.445. Russell, Piastri, and Norris all put up a strong fight, but Verstappen prevailed by a tenth of a second to claim pole position. Charles Leclerc, who had won three of the previous four races, finished in second place and joined Verstappen on the front row.
Top 5: Verstappen, Leclerc, Piastri, Russell, Norris.
Max Verstappen started from pole position in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, followed closely by Charles Leclerc, Oscar Piastri, and George Russell. With the lights going out, a dramatic race began, with Russell losing ground to Lando Norris and Leclerc attempting to overtake Verstappen. Leclerc made an effort to pass Verstappen in the chicane and the banked turn, but Verstappen held his lead. Norris, keen to pass his teammate, waited for the right opportunity at turn eight.
Sergio Perez made a daring move to pass Lewis Hamilton and maintained his position through the second DRS zone. Russell and Piastri were in a thrilling battle that demonstrated a fierce competition. Kevin Magnussen locked up his tyres and chose to put on lap six. Ferrari was virtually ahead of Mercedes as Leclerc secured P2. Fans were left suspenseful throughout the race as Russell and Piastri engaged in a captivating battle.
A tear-off caught in one of Daniel Ricciardo's brake ducts forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 8. Gasly held off Perez, almost breaking his front wing. Russell's calculated move saw him pass Piastri, further upsetting the midfield. Alonso's hot brake pit stop on lap 13 gave Ferrari a chance over Mercedes in the constructors' championship, as the difference in points is now almost negligible. Piastri responded with a well-timed pit stop on lap 24, joined by Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou. Norris, following a protracted stop, found himself trailing Russell.
Verstappen chose to pit early on lap 17, putting up a strong fight against Carlos Sainz. Yuki Tsunoda, in Leclerc's DRS on the podium, surprised everyone by taking the lead after staying out longer and considering a one-stop strategy. Russell persisted in his charge, passing Sainz and gaining the lead; Tsunoda is now the second Japanese driver to lead a Formula One race; he could win if his one stop works.
The dynamics between Ferrari and Mercedes were altered by Tsunoda's pit stop on lap 23 and Sainz's stop on lap 24. Hamilton sustained damage after contact with Gasly, and Toto Wolff's remarks brought some lightheartedness to the fierce competition. As the race went on, strategic pit stops continued, with Russell setting the fastest lap on lap 35. Leclerc, Verstappen, and Piastri completed their stops, but Russell emerged ahead of Norris with cold tyres.
Verstappen's decision to box after Perez raised eyebrows and demonstrated the complex dynamics within the team. Russell's fastest lap increased the intensity of the race and built even more suspense, and Piastri returned to the top 10 following his pit stop. Alonso's investigation into his erratic driving and Mercedes's investigation into pit stop rule violations transpired. Perez's 5-second penalty affected his battle with Russell as well as the Mercedes-Ferrari battle.
Leclerc chose to let Perez pass, as Perez had a penalty, to try in a last-ditch attempt to get Russell too far back to make Mercedes second, but this ultimately failed. Sainz's late pit stop on lap 57 for softs added intrigue, but Verstappen's milestone of covering 1000 laps in the lead took centre stage.
As Mercedes managed to get second place in the constructor's championship there are doubts about whether or not this was a good thing, as the team in second place has less wind tunnel and less car design time overall which could heavily impact the design of the W15. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix provided an exciting way to wrap up the season and excitedly anticipate the next phase of Formula 1.
The joke section
What slogan do you get when you combine Star Wars and F1?
"May the downforce be with you"