Dhat they did well at Red Bull: First and second in the final qualifying session of the season on Saturday at the Abu Dhabi circuit. Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen won the sprint race over one lap ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari. The two drivers of the constructors’ world champion thus created the best conditions for a conciliatory finale on Sunday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (2:00 p.m. CET in the FAZ live ticker for Formula 1 and at Sky).
“With two cars on the front row, we have the best chance of achieving our goals,” said Pérez. Without having to argue, he could have added. A week ago in Brazil there was a scandalbecause Verstappen In the last lap, despite a wish from his team leadership, he did not want to give up sixth place in order to give points to Pérez, who was following him. The South American should definitely finish second in the drivers’ standings behind Verstappen. He is level with Leclerc on points (290).
Leclerc a lurking third party
The dispute culminated in a truce. Team management and drivers have taken a kind of vow of silence. Nobody wants to explain publicly why Verstappen refused. He refers to an incident in Monaco. The team agreed with him, which fuels the rumor mill. Leclerc, the smart Monegasse, looked like a lurking, maybe laughing third of this game on Saturday. “It will certainly be interesting with Sergio in the race,” said the Ferrari man and smugly referred to the team spirit with his teammates at Ferrari: “I can definitely work with Carlos (Sainz/4th, ed.) to achieve the team result optimal design.”
That will very likely depend on the durability of the tires in the continuous run over around 300 kilometers under floodlights. Ferrari, at least Leclerc, noticed greater wear than expected during the simulation of the Grand Prix on Friday. That could be an opportunity for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton (5th) and George Russell (6th), successfully chasing the Scuderia. However, the world champion, who was dethroned last year, is 19 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.
A big overtaking maneuver would bring in at least 13 million dollars (around 12.5 million euros), the provisional share of the prize money. However, that is not very likely because also Mercedes complained about excessive rubber abrasion. This probably has something to do with the return of bouncing, which was already slowing down at the beginning of the season, the upswing and downswing of the car caused by the aerodynamics.
One person didn’t care about this discussion after eight months: Sebastian Vettel enjoying his final lap in the ultimate competition of Formula 1. Full throttle and light fuel on board so easy to corner. In the last qualifying session of his career, he once again showed what he’s made of in the Aston Martin. In the second attempt of the first round, he shot up from 16th place to sixth place. In the final bends before the home straight, the Hessian had to chase past colleagues, almost like a slalom skier, who drove extra slowly in order to be able to keep their distance from the car in front, before they started their full-throttle tour. A dangerous way to gain momentum.
This stand number could not stop him. On the contrary. The four-time world champion continued his tour and proved his brilliant condition at the wheel on the way to “retirement”. In the second round he steered the car to eighth place in an exciting midfield race. There was only about a tenth of a second between sixth and tenth place, that’s all you can get into the finale of the grid position race. There was no room for the slightest mistake on the 5.281-kilometre lap of the Yas Marina Circuit around 30 kilometers south of Abu Dhabi.
Especially not for maneuvers around rolling obstacles: “There’s no such thing, there’s someone in front of the last bend,” the German shouted into the on-board microphone. Ironically, the second fastest, Perez in the Red Bull. But Vettel drove past and overlooked it. With a bit of luck, the last section would have resulted in even more than ninth place on the eve of his last Grand Prix, 299th. But Vettel pulled away with a smile on his lips into the last night before his exit: “It was a bit emotional before qualifying,” he told TV channel Sky UK, but I’m sure tomorrow will be a big day. “
For Mike Schumacher it will probably not be a sweet farewell after two years as a driver in the premier class with 44 races. But the 23-year-old German showed a little satisfaction. In his finale as a regular driver for the Haas racing team, he kept his nerve when things got serious in the grid race. In seventeenth place after the first lap, he had to risk everything on the second and last attempt of the first round. Because the distances were extremely small. A second separated third from penultimate.
His teammate, Kevin Magnussen, ended up needing twelve hundredths of a second longer and was stuck on the grid in 16th place. Schumacher wasn’t able to qualify for the round of the last ten, he was 13th. But the relegation of Daniel Ricciardo in the McLaren still promoted him to starting position 12 in the end.
His continuous increase in performance since the summer was now also evident in the one-lap sprint. Where does his path lead? Presumably to Mercedes, as a simulator pilot and backup man, in case Russell or Hamilton should be unwell next year. However, this small chance of being able to compete in Formula 1 races in 2023 would not be limited to the Silver Arrows. In this case, Mercedes maintains a partnership with Williams and McLaren. You borrow the test driver if the worst comes to the worst.