Formula 1

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez lock out the front row of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix grid for Red Bull

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez lock out the front row of the grid for Red Bull ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix… as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has to settle for fifth in car he does not ‘ever plan to drive’ again

  • Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez locked out the front row of the Abu Dhabi grid
  • The pair are racing to try and finish 1-2 for Red Bull in the Drivers’ Championship
  • Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fifth as he tries to win his first race of the year
  • Hamilton has struggled with his car and does not ‘ever plan to drive’ it again

Two raging Red Bulls in the shape of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez put their animosity aside to lock out the front row for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The upshot is that Lewis Hamilton has serious work verging on mission impossible ahead of him to maintain his unique record of registering a win in each of his 16 seasons in Formula One.

He starts fifth with the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz also ahead of him on the Yas Marina track that offers the overtaking opportunities of a one-way street.

Max Verstappen (left) and Sergio Perez (right) locked out the front row of the grid for Red Bull

Max Verstappen (left) and Sergio Perez (right) locked out the front row of the grid for Red Bull

For Hamilton, nearly seven-tenths off Verstappen’s crushing pace, has only to contend with his sub-par Mercedes twice more, in today’s last of 22 rounds and then in a testing session on Tuesday that is as welcome as head lice.

‘I don’t ever plan to drive this one again after that,’ said Hamilton. ‘It’s not one I’m going to ask for in my contract.

‘We need to build a much more efficient car. Everyone in the team knows the problems and where we have gone wrong. I am pretty confident they are not going to build the next car with any of those characteristics.’

His boss Toto Wolff was more scatological in his verdict. ‘Today just turned into a toilet day,’ ventured the Austrian. ‘It’s one to put in the toilet.’ How low the mood had sunk just a week after George Russell unfurled the team’s only triumph of 2022 in Brazil with a faultless demonstration of front-running. The young Englishman merely qualified sixth.

Lewis Hamilton will be hoping his car improves ahead of next season after a disappointing year

Lewis Hamilton will be hoping his car improves ahead of next season after a disappointing year

The top cars of the day were in the hands of the squabbling pair of Verstappen and Perez, which was balm after recent bumps. The turbulence goes back to Brazil, where Verstappen refused to yield his place to Perez. This was widely condemned as uncharitable given the Mexican is chasing Leclerc for second place in the final standings.

After keeping sixth place for himself, Verstappen alluded to an event earlier in the season that he held against Perez. He did not explain what it was, though he had previously confided in close associates that he believes Perez deliberately pranged during qualifying in Monaco to secure pole position.

But here all was sweetness and light. Verstappen gave Perez a tow for his final lap, as agreed in advance. ‘I want to help get second place for ‘Checo’,’ said Verstappen, who was jeered as he spoke.

Perez was two-tenths off pole but a crucial 0.04sec ahead of Leclerc.

No wonder he was glowing in his appreciation, saying: ‘Max did a good job for me.’

On a weekend of goodbyes, the retiring Sebastian Vettel qualified ninth for Aston Martin.

Perez (L) and Verstappen (R) are hoping to secure a Red Bull 1-2 in the Drivers' Championship

Perez (L) and Verstappen (R) are hoping to secure a Red Bull 1-2 in the Drivers’ Championship


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