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Tuesday, November 29, 2022
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Red Bull Goes 1-2 in Abu Dhabi Qualifying

Sports

Max Verstappen charged to pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, getting the better of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc. | Image by Formula 1

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In the final qualifying session of the 2022 Formula One season, fans caught a glimpse of the resolution of many battles and storylines of an exciting year for the sport.

Before qualifying kicked off, Haas made the official announcement that it was replacing 23-year-old Mick Schumacher in the team’s second racing seat with Nico Hulkenberg, a 35-year-old who has been without a seat in the sport for three years.

Hulkenberg marks a major change in direction for the struggling midfield team, pivoting from young and yet-fully-developed talent like Schumacher towards the steady hand of a veteran driver.

And while Hulkenberg never quite lived up to his promise in his previous stint in Formula One, he displayed elite capabilities regularly enough to remain in the minds of teams like Haas that find themselves needing to maximize every points-opportunity possible.

The change at Haas essentially closes out the 2023 drivers market so long as Logan Sargeant secures enough superlicense points to qualify to compete in Formula One and, in doing so, secure the second seat at Williams as anticipated.

The first qualifying session produced a little surprise as both Williams drivers put in the slowest times along with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

The session was certainly a disappointment for Bottas, who was coming off an impressive weekend in Brazil and looked to close out the season on a high note. He’ll start 18th in front of only the two Williams drivers.

In the first session, both Red Bull drivers showed great pace and looked to be the favorites for securing the pole and a front-row lockout. Mercedes and Ferrari both were in the mix but were clearly a step slower than the 2022 Constructors’ Champion Red Bull.

In the second session, the top of the order looked much the same, even as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen struggled with his tires and never seemed comfortable on the track.

Fernando Alonso, racing for the last time with his Alpine team before making the switch the Aston Martin next year, was the last man eliminated before the cut-off to advance to the third session, marking a disappointing final qualifying of 2022 for the two-time Driver’s Champion.

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Schumacher, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu joined Alonso in not advancing to the third session of the day.

In the final session, the Ferraris both put in fantastic laps, topping the order with Charles Leclerc on the provisional pole. Verstappen soon followed, however, and nabbed the top spot for himself before setting up in advance of teammate Sergio Perez to aid in his final run.

Verstappen and Perez worked together to provide the latter with a slipstream, essentially punching a hole in the air to reduce drag and maximize speed.

The move paid off as Perez slingshot into second behind Verstappen and crucially ahead of his rival for second in the Driver’s Championship standings, Leclerc.

After much speculation and off-track drama following Verstappen’s refusal to assist Perez last week in Brazil, the display of teamwork in this qualifying session did much to demonstrate that Red Bull is truly unified in its goal to assist Perez in securing the second spot in the standings.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix begins tomorrow at 7 a.m. CST.

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