Max Verstappen to start crucial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in pole position over Lewis Hamilton
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Max Verstappen to start crucial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in pole position over Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen will start on pole position for his title showdown against Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Red Bull driver was fastest in qualifying on Saturday with his Mercedes rival in second, meaning the pair will line up on the front row together for the last race of the season.

“I’m incredibly happy with this. It’s what we wanted but it was not easy with Mercedes’ form,” Verstappen said after qualification, after going 0.371 seconds faster than Hamilton.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow, that’s the most important.”

Both drivers are level on points going into the dramatic finale and not many expected Verstappen to be leading the grid after Hamilton looked so dominant in practice.

But Red Bull and Verstappen pieced together a masterful Q3 to record an unassailable time of 1 minute and 22.109 seconds.

“Max did a great lap today. We just couldn’t compete with that time at the end there,” Hamilton said.

“It was looking really strong through practice. We couldn’t answer to that lap, fantastic from him. I hope we can have a good race.

“The last lap was nice and clean, I just couldn’t go any quicker. I couldn’t beat the time he did today, he fully deserved the pole.”

The rivalry between the two drivers has simmered all season, bubbling over at various points, but the stage is now perfectly set for the finale on Sunday.

Hamilton is bidding for his eighth world title while Verstappen is aiming for his first.

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