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

Toto Wolff: “I think he’s going to be grumpy, and that’s fine. He has the drive for tomorrow to chase after him.” Verstappen on pole, Hamilton starting second, in Decider on Sunday in the desert live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Showcase from 11:30am to start the race at 1pm

Last update: 12/11/21 4:17 PM

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Lewis Hamilton said he was not surprised by Max Verstappen’s speed in qualifying, but is hopeful that their tire strategy will pay off in the race.

Lewis Hamilton said he was not surprised by Max Verstappen’s speed in qualifying, but is hopeful that their tire strategy will pay off in the race.

Lewis Hamilton is optimistic he is still in “good shape” heading into the crucial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday despite losing the pole position to title rival Max Verstappen.

Meanwhile, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff admitted after qualifying it was “zero one” for Red Bull at Desider in the desert but then declared: “That’s a long race and…it’s Lewis Hamilton in the car.”

In another development of an exciting season, Mercedes’ clear one-lap speed advantage around the revamped Yas Marina circuit vanished from training when it mattered most in qualifying as the superb Verstappen delivered a dominant performance in the third quarter at Red Bull to finish 10th. First place of the year – but first in five races – from Hamilton, by three tenths of a second.

Verstappen and Hamilton tied on points at the top of the championship. Whoever leads the other in the top eight is world champion, while Verstappen will take the crown after his victories if he is still deadlocked on points at the end of Sunday’s 58-lap race.

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

“She looked really strong through training.

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.

“That was a great lap from him. We are in a good position with our tires for tomorrow and hopefully we can have a good race.”

Talking to Sky Sports F1 Shortly thereafter, Hamilton said: “In a perfect world we would have been number one. We thought we had the speed, but they were fast at the end.

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

“So it was kind of predictable: today he didn’t crash, he finished that, and it’s the same as the last race.”

Behind their big rival in the front row, but Hamilton and Mercedes will likely have a strategic advantage for the decisive 58-lap race due to the fact that they will start on the stiffer medium tires compared to the softer ones that Verstappen is locked in.

Red Bull’s initial plan was also to start in yellow-marked media, but Verstappen damaged his group with a lockout at the start of a second drive-through lap in Q2 and had to switch to the red-marked soft colour.

Asked what that short-term tire difference would mean until Sunday’s first corner, Hamilton said: “It’s going to be very difficult to beat, not too far from Turn One, which is on the soft tire that usually gives you an extra four metres or… something like that “.

The thrilling championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen ends with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winning it all.  Watch the live broadcast on Sky Sports this weekend.

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The thrilling championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen ends with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winning it all. Watch the live broadcast on Sky Sports this weekend.

The thrilling championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen ends with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winning it all. Watch the live broadcast on Sky Sports this weekend.

Hamilton, who has three other cars on soft tires right behind him, added: “The soft runners are going to be like busy bees of course, they’ll be around me a lot. It won’t be that easy on the medium; but we’ll see. I hope it’s the best tire in the long run, we’ll wait and see.” “

Mercedes intends to approach the race date for race day

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton will be

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Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton will be “furious” after failing to take pole at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton will be “furious” after failing to take pole at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“Quarter one and quarter two were ours, it looked like a very easy run, and all of a sudden you lose all performance,” Wolff said in a qualifying session as the balance of power swung ahead unexpectedly between the two title contenders.

The Mercedes team principal told Sky F1: “Today they got the tires in the perfect window in the last round. The drag worked flawlessly and that’s why they are in pole position.

“Starting at P2 rather than mid-level. We’ll have a little flaw in the beginning I think and the first six or seven laps if [Verstappen] He drives fast.

“If he can [the tyres] This is not a huge advantage for them. But we can go longer, we can go an aggressive undercut route as well and try to control the position of the track. So overnight they will be running a lot of software and algorithms to see where that ends up. “

However, Wolff believes it is direct speed rather than tire strategy that will determine the outcome of the race – and world champion in 2021.

“Who is faster tomorrow will win the race no matter who starts on which tyre. We need to build on that, regroup and hopefully top tomorrow.”

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

“I think he’s going to be angry, and that’s a good thing. And motivation for tomorrow to chase after him.”

“We’re in a weak position. Sometimes you need to see the positives and sometimes it’s not that bad as a starting point.

“This is a long race and like Niko [Rosberg] It’s Lewis Hamilton in the car,” he said.

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