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HomeUK NewsFormula 1: Max Verstappen clinches pole position in Abu Dhabi F1 qualifier...

Formula 1: Max Verstappen clinches pole position in Abu Dhabi F1 qualifier – pushing Lewis Hamilton down to second

Dutch racer Max Verstappen has claimed pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – ahead of rival Lewis Hamilton as he seeks to make F1 history.

Despite dominating the practice sessions in his Mercedes, Hamilton will start at least second on the grid for the championship showdown after trailing 0.371 seconds behind his Red Bull rival’s time of one minute, 22.109 seconds.

McLaren’s Lando Norris qualified in third while fellow Red Bull driver Sergio Perez clocked up the fourth fastest time.

Both Verstappen and Hamilton are hoping to be crowned the winner of the “Decider in the Desert” on Sunday, as the Mercedes driver, who grew up karting in Hertfordshire, hopes to achieve his 8th world championship win after a decade of dominance.

Verstappen said of his qualifying victory: “It is an amazing feeling.

“We definitely improved the car again in qualifying. So far this weekend it has been on and off, but I’m incredibly happy with this. It is never easy, especially with their form in the past few races.”

Meanwhile Hamilton admitted he couldn’t compete with Verstappen.

“It was looking really strong in practice. We couldn’t answer that lap, it was a fantastic lap from him but we are in a good position, I think, with our tyres tomorrow.

“I couldn’t beat that time he did today and he fully deserved the pole.”

He joked: “I’m grateful I can see where he is!”

If he can finish ahead of Verstappen then Hamilton will overtake German great Michael Schumacher, who won seven F1 world titles.

Former world champion Jenson Button believes Verstappen, 24, has the self-belief to push Hamilton all the way: “I think Max goes into every race thinking I have to win this race.

“Lewis has the experience and he understands how to win a championship, that might sound silly, but it definitely does help.

“It is so so close between these two teams and these two drivers, I think it is going to be really close…Lewis has had the upper hand I think with Mercedes in the last few races so you would say they have a slight advantage.”

“This is the pinnacle of motorsport, this is possibly the biggest weekend Formula One has seen in a decade,” Button added.

The race director in Abu Dhabi has reminded Hamilton and Verstappen about the driving standards expected of them, and possible penalties, after the pair collided in last week’s race in Saudi Arabia.

FIA race director Michael Masi reiterated the rules – and potentially penalties – regarding unfair racing in his pre-event notes to all teams and officials.

Red Bull’s Verstappen officially holds the lead as he has nine wins to Hamilton’s eight so would win the championship if they finished level on points at the end of Sunday’s 58-lap race.

The duel between Hamilton and Verstappen on and off the track has provided F1 with a vintage rivalry akin to the great battles that fans have enjoyed over the years.

It’s no coincidence that the biggest surges of F1’s popularity have coincided with the great rivalries between star drivers.

There is a long and memorable list; James Hunt and Nikki Lauda, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost and then Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher are just a few that created stand out moments of sporting drama – often when championships came down to the last race of a season.

F1 bosses hope Hamilton vs Verstappen will write another high-octane chapter this weekend.

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