In the last qualifying of the year, the Dutchman surpassed by less than one tenth the Mercedes of the Finn Valtteri Bottas and the seven-time British world champion, Lewis Hamilton from back to the circuits after missing the previous GP, last week, due to coronavirus.
The statistics play in Verstappen's favor: six of the eleven races at the Yas Marina circuit were won starting from the privileged position, in a systematic these last five years. An advantage therefore for the Dutchman, who signed his third pole in the category this Saturday.
But Bottas pointed out that he and his team had never felt better shod than with the soft tires used to seek first place and that the race pace of the "Silver Arrows" should be higher. As for Hamilton, he acknowledged that he has "problems recovering his rhythm" after his illness, diagnosed on November 30, which forced him to "stay in bed" for most of the following week.
In addition to this first pole position. for Verstappen and Red Bull, it is also the first time this season that the best time on Saturday is not marked by a Mercedes engine. The team has managed to dominate the classification 16 times (Hamilton 10 and Bottas 5) and its client Racing Point one (with Canadian Lance Stroll).
And as there are not two without three, it is also the first time that the German team has not held first place in Abu Dhabi since the introduction of hybrid engines in 2014.
Another Briton, Lando Norris (McLaren), will join Hamilton on the second row on Sunday, at 10.10 in Argentina, at the circuit of Yas Marina. Behind them they will be followed by the Thai Alexander Albon (Red Bull), the Spanish Carlos Sainz Jr (McLaren), the Russian Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri) and Stroll.
The Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), who finished 9th this Saturday, will lose three places for the penalty he received for causing a crash at the start of the Sakhir GP last week. A penalty thanked by the French Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) and Esteban Ocon (Renault) and the Australian Daniel Ricciardo (Renault), 10th, 11th and 12th this Saturday.