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Verstappen stuns Hamilton to land vital title-showdown pole for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Verstappen stuns Hamilton to land vital title-showdown pole for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Verstappen stuns Hamilton to land vital title-showdown pole for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Verstappen stuns Hamilton to land vital title-showdown pole for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Max Verstappen delivered the most crucial pole position of his F1 career to stun Lewis Hamilton ahead of the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton appeared favourite going into the sunset qualifying session after dominating the second and third practice outings, and going quickest in Q1.

But Red Bull played a superb team game on the first run in Q3 as Sergio Perez gave Verstappen a perfect tow, ultimately slingshotting the latter on his way to a breathtaking time of one minute 22.109s.

Hamilton could not get close on either of his runs in his Mercedes, over half-a-second back after the first and 0.371s adrift after the second, and so starts second.

There is intrigue, however, as Hamilton and Verstappen are on off-setting strategies, with the seven-time F1 champion starting the race on the medium compound, while the Dutch driver is on the softs.

But when he crossed the line, an ecstatic Verstappen shouted: "Yes! Didn't expect that one. Great job guys."

McLaren's Lando Norris delivered a superb performance to line up third ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, with even Carlos Sainz in his Ferrari ahead of Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes seemingly missed a trick in seemingly not attempting the same slipstream tactic as Red Bull.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc starts seventh ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in his AlphaTauri, with Alpine's Esteban Ocon ninth, with McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo 10th.

Early on, Hamilton was fastest in Q1 with a lap of 1:22.845s, finishing 0.272s ahead of Bottas, with Verstappen a staggering 0.477s off the pace.

Come Q2, and with both drivers on the medium tyre to ensure they started on that rubber for the race, just four-thousandths of a second separated the pair after the first run, although Sainz was quickest by 0.011s, albeit on the soft compound.

For the second runs, and with 'car parks' forming ahead of the lap as drivers tried to find a gap, it culminated in Verstappen setting the best time with a 1:22.800s.

Verstappen, however, starts the race on the soft tyres, with team principal Christian Horner confirming their hand was "forced" after flat-spotting his set of mediums when trying for a second quick lap on that rubber.

Perez was second fastest and joins Verstappen in starting on the softs, with both Hamilton and Bottas on the medium compound when the five red lights disappear.

Exiting from Q2 were Alpine's Fernando Alonso, missing out by 0.012s to Ricciardo, followed by AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, with Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel in their Aston Martins then either side of Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo.

The initial session had to be red-flagged after Haas driver Mick Schumacher sent a bollard flying at the final corner that the following Norris immediately ran over.

Given the difficulties in attempting to retrieve it at such a critical part of the track, FIA race director Michael Masi was forced to stop the session to allow a marshal to safely remove it, resulting in a three-minute delay.

Schumacher naturally ended up in the bottom five, with the German to start 19th ahead of team-mate Nikita Mazepin.

Ahead of them, and for only the second time in conventional qualifying across their 37 races as Williams team-mates Nicholas Latifi was quicker than George Russell, with the duo 16th and 17th, split by 0.085s.

Sandwiching the Williams duo and Haas pair will be Kimi Raikkonen who lines up 18th in his 349th and final grand prix of his remarkable F1 career.

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