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Verstappen beats Hamilton for pole ahead of F1 season finale

Verstappen and Hamilton head into Sunday's finale tied in the championship standings, the first time the title contenders are even going into the deciding race since 1974.

By: AP |
December 11, 2021 8:23:13 pm
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands in action during the qualifying for the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday Dec 11, 2021. (AP PhotoHassan Ammar)

Max Verstappen overcame a mistake in qualifying to grab the pole for the Formula One title-deciding Abu Dhabi GP, where he’ll try on Sunday to dethrone seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen flat-spotted his tires in the second qualifying group Saturday and seemed to give Hamilton the advantage. But the Dutchman salvaged his mistake with a lap at 1 minute, 22.109-seconds around Yas Marina Circuit to put his Red Bull on top.

Hamilton attempted to bump him from the pole as the clock wound down on the final qualifying session of the season. But he was .371-seconds slower and will start second in his Mercedes next to his rival.

Lando Norris for McLaren was a surprise third — beating out both Verstappen and Hamilton’s teammates. Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull, followed by Carlos Sainz of Ferrari and at last Hamilton’s outgoing Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in a disappointing sixth.

Verstappen and Hamilton head into Sunday’s finale tied in the championship standings, the first time the title contenders are even going into the deciding race since 1974. Hamilton is seeking a record-breaking eighth title to pass Michael Schumacher, while Verstappen will try to become the first Dutch champion.

Hamilton was loudly booed after the session by the sold-out crowd, which was heavily pro-Verstappen and clad in their trademark orange gear.

“We’ve got a great crowd here, regardless of the boos,” said Hamilton. “I couldn’t beat that time that he did; he deserved the pole.”

The polesitter has won the last six races at Abu Dhabi. Verstappen led all 55 laps in a dominating victory last year.

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