Max Verstappen led team-mate Sergio Perez to a Red Bull one-two in qualifying at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Verstappen took pole by 0.228 seconds as Perez pipped Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.04secs in their fight for second in the championship.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was fourth, as Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell filled the third row.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel will start his final grand prix in ninth.

The German drove a strong session as his team-mate Lance Stroll could manage only 14th.

McLaren’s Lando Norris was seventh, ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in eighth, with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo completing the top 10.

Ricciardo has a three-place grid penalty for causing an accident in Brazil last weekend and will start 13th, behind Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher, in his final race after being dropped by Haas for 2023 in favour of Nico Hulkenberg.

Max Verstappen impresses as Red Bull bounce back

Red Bull had a rare off weekend in Brazil, and the team have admitted they made mistakes with set-up from which they could not recover because it was a sprint weekend, with only one practice session before the car’s set-up is locked.

But they have been flying in Yas Marina and even Verstappen losing first practice as the team gave young driver Liam Lawson a run in his car did not affect him. And in the end, he did two laps good enough for pole.

Perez looked like he might have a chance to beat Verstappen after the world champion struggled for grip in the second part of qualifying and could manage only fourth fastest, behind Perez, Sainz and Leclerc.

But Verstappen found the car more to his liking in the final session, despite what he described as a “scare” when the car switched off as he tried to leave the garage for his first run and he had to reset all the systems.

Despite that, Verstappen threw down the gauntlet with an exceptional first lap as Perez had a slide out of the final corner and was more than 0.3secs behind.

Verstappen improved again on his final lap by just over 0.15secs and he gave Perez a helping hand with a tow on the main straight, which might have been enough to make the difference between a place on the front row or third.

Max
After the acrimony of Brazil comes the harmony of Abu Dhabi: Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and the Red Bull team have been at pains to put on a united front this weekend after the bitter words that followed Verstappen’s failure to allow Perez to overtake him on the final lap at Interlagos

Max Verstappen said: “Q3 was good, before that it was all a bit up and down.

“I was supposed to drive out in front of Checo but the engine shut off and we had to reboot the car. We managed to keep everything under control and do a good lap.

“The second run was more straightforward but it wasn’t easy to find more lap time, just a bit more in the final sector.

“The car has been good all weekend – back to normal. We knew we had a quick car but we we made a few mistakes in Brazilian hindsight.

“I could see in P1 with Checo quite happy and Liam straight on it, and in P2 it was just about fine-tuning a few things.”

Perez is tied on points with Leclerc but will start the grand prix as strong favourite to take second as Ferrari have struggled for pace in recent races.

Leclerc said he expected it to be “close” with Perez in the race.

The team have struggled with tyre degradation in recent races but Leclerc said the team had “put quite a lot of attention on that this weekend” so he hoped it would not be a problem.

Mercedes came to Abu Dhabi warning that they were likely to face a more difficult weekend after Russell’s victory in Brazil and a competitive showing in Mexico, and so it proved.

The car was very quick through the slow corners in the final sector, but was struggling with its high drag on the straights and Hamilton ended up 0.684secs off the pace, with Russell just 0.03secs behind.

“In terms of the result, it’s probably where we expected to be,” said Russell. “The pace may have been a little bit further away that we would have liked.

“We know we don’t have the most efficient car, and on the long straights we are just getting mullered by Red Bull. But I think we’ve got a much faster race car and the long-run pace looked really strong compared to Ferrari.”

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