World Champion Max Verstappen took his 21st career pole position in Abu Dhabi as team mate Sergio Perez completed an all Red Bull front row for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Crucially, Perez starts ahead of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in their battle for second in the Drivers’ championship.
“Q2 was a bit messy, I couldn’t get the grip together. But in Q3 it felt more normal – we had a bit of a scare as the car turned off,” said the Dutchman, who has scored three consecutive poles at the same event for the first time in his career.
Verstappen, 25, added: “For sure today was amazing but I expect it to be a good battle tomorrow. It couldn’t have been better today, the tow worked out well as we managed to lock out the front row. We went out there and did our thing. As a Team we had an almost perfect qualifying and we are very excited for tomorrow, The most important thing is that Checo stays ahead of Charles so we’ll do what we can to make that happen. I do think that our car is quick, there’s a massive question mark around the other teams though and how much long run performance they will have gained overnight. We made a few mistakes in Brazil I guess but we learn from that and we are back where we should be.”
After failing to follow a team order in Brazil, Verstappen gave his teammate a slipstream on the pair’s final laps, helping the Mexican to the front row.
Leclerc blamed a lock up at the chicane of Turns 6 and 7, but said Ferrari were in the position they “deserved” to be in.
In a top six that resembles a “Noah’s Ark” formation, Ferrari have both cars on the second row, while Sao Paulo winners Mercedes qualified on row three.
Leclerc and Perez are equal on 290-points as the season reaches it’s conclusion, but the Monegasque driver is currently in second by virtue of the three wins achieved, while 33-year-old Perez has scored two.
Red Bull, who have never had their drivers finish 1-2 in the championship, are seeking a first for the Milton Keynes-based team.
How are the other championship battles set?
McLaren got both cars into Q3, as they hope to overturn their 19-point deficit to Alpine and Sebastian Vettel qualified ninth in his final qualifying session before retirement.
Four-time World Champion Vettel will be aiming to deliver a points finish good enough to help Aston Martin catch and pass Alfa Romeo for sixth in the Constructors’ Standings, the Swiss team currently five-points ahead.
Aston Martin have both drivers ahead of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas, who are 15th and 18th respectively.
Haas, who took a shock pole in Sao Paulo seven days ago with Kevin Magnussen, could only muster 13th and 16th, with the Dane failing to escape Q1, while Mick Schumacher, who has been dropped for 2023, made Q2.
The American team will line up next to both AlphaTauri cars for Sunday’s race, with Japanese Yuki Tsunoda 12th and departing Frenchman Pierre Gasly in 17th.