After the second and third free practice session in Abu Dhabi, it was easy to predict that Red Bull would take pole at the Yas Marina circuit and they did. Max Verstappen will start from the first position just like 12 months ago, and will have teammate Sergio Perez behind him. Ferrari and Mercedes occupy the second and third rows respectively. Sebastian Vettel ends the last Qualifying of his career in ninth place!
The efficiency of Red Bull and PU Honda continue to make the difference
The telemetric comparison between Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull could be done with eyes closed: despite the Ferrari engineers opting for a lighter wing, the RB18 maintained its advantage in top speed and allowed Max Verstappen to gain a good two tenths over Charles Leclerc during the lap. Lewis Hamilton’s mistake during his last lap cost him about two tenths and the chance to fight for the second row with Carlos Sainz.
The two drivers from Red Bull and Ferrari set practically identical times in the first and third sectors, but the efficiency of the RB18 makes the difference in the second sector: the points where the Anglo-Austrian car makes the difference are the straights, such as already reported, and the hotel section, where Max builds a lead of more than a tenth over Charles. Ferrari chose to lower the car a lot even with the risk of bottoming which bothered the drivers in some laps and, according to Mercedes, on Saturday Ferrari was helped a lot by the grip offered by the new tire: in the race, Mercedes engineers believe they will be the second fastest car again.
It should be noted that there is no difference between the Power Units of the two Ferrari drivers even in comparison to the previous GPs: the decision was not to risk losing second place in the constructors’ standings due to a failure in Sunday’s race. A slightly more relaxed Carlos Sainz lost “only” a tenth and a half on the straight, obviously paying for this advantage in the third sector over Charles Leclerc. Ferrari did not take into consideration the a tow to help the Monegasque in Qualifying: looking at the data from Sergio Perez’s Red Bull it can be seen that the benefit the Mexican driver drew is truly minimal. “It is clear that I would have preferred to have a slipstream in the second sector, but it was our choice to give priority to a clean outlap, with no cars in front, maybe we lost a bit.” This is how Charles Leclerc instead analyzed his qualifying session, also explaining Ferrari’s ‘strategic’ choice.
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The Maranello team, however, is focused on Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, ready to take advantage of any opportunities. The tire degradation will be fundamental, as Carlos Sainz has revealed it will be higher than in previous seasons. According to Ferrari, the management of turn 9 will be crucial.
Charles Leclerc aims to try to finish ahead of Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz to close the season in the best possible way after a qualifying session that was not the best. “The Outlap was not the best because of an Alpine and a McLaren. Today we worked to improve the feedback from yesterday’s race pace. Let’s see tomorrow if we can stay with Red Bull. Mercedes starts from behind, we have a great chance to finish ahead of them in the championship.” – the Spaniard explained.
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