Hamilton 'just couldn't compete' as Verstappen takes Abu Dhabi pole

By Sports Desk December 11, 2021

Max Verstappen's flying performance secured pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton declared Mercedes had no answer to his pace.

Hamilton and Verstappen head into Sunday's race vying for the title. Both drivers are level on 369.5 points, though Verstappen holds an advantage courtesy of his nine race wins in 2021, to Hamilton's eight.

Red Bull driver Verstappen may have taken a big step towards claiming his maiden title, and ending Hamilton's dominance, however, after he recorded a best time of one minute and 22.109 seconds in his first run of Q3 in Saturday's qualifying session.

Hamilton will start in second, having clocked in at 0.371 seconds slower than his title rival, with Lando Norris in third place. Sergio Perez, who went out ahead of Verstappen in Q3, towed his Red Bull team-mate down the long straight, taking a hit on his own time in the process.

The Mexican nevertheless will start in fourth, two places ahead of Valtteri Bottas in his final race for Mercedes, who are 28 points ahead of Red Bull in the constructors' championship, which is also up for grabs.

For his part, Hamilton was just happy to have kept Verstappen within touching distance, with the reigning world champion complimentary of his rival, who said on Thursday that the Briton had gone down in his estimations.

"Firstly, Max did a great lap today. We just couldn't compete with that time at the end," Hamilton said.

"It was looking really strong through practice. We just couldn't answer to that lap. We're in a good position I'd like to think with our tyres tomorrow.

"The last lap was nice and clean, I just couldn't go any quicker. I couldn't beat that time he did today, he deserved pole. I'm still on the front row. I'm grateful I can see where he is!"

Verstappen looked set for pole in Saudi Arabia last week, having gone fastest in the first two sectors, but he hit the barriers on the last corner and had to stop, handing Hamilton the first place on the grid.

After claiming his eighth pole of the season, Verstappen said: "It's of course an amazing feeling. We definitely improved the car again in qualifying. Incredibly happy with this.

"It's never easy with [Mercedes'] form the last few races. I am just looking forward to tomorrow because that's where the points are.

"I felt good on both tyres. Naturally now in the evening it's a bit cooler, so it should be easier on the soft tyres. We'll see where we end up."

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