Max Verstappen led Sergio Perez as Red Bull sealed a one-two in Qualifying; Verstappen provided Perez with a tow in Q3 to help his team-mate beat Charles Leclerc to second; Watch Abu Dhabi GP live on Sky Sports F1 at 1pm on Sunday, with build-up from 11.30am
Last Updated: 19/11/22 6:09pm
Sergio Perez praised team-mate Max Verstappen for doing a “great job” of helping him in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying, as they put a turbulent week behind them to seal a Red Bull one-two.
Perez was critical of world champion Verstappen last weekend in Brazil after his team-mate refused to let him through to take sixth place on the final lap of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix to aid the Mexican in his battle with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for second in the drivers’ championship.
Verstappen insisted he had his “reasons” for rejecting the team’s request but refused to publicly share them, and insisted in the aftermath of the race that the issue had been settled and he would do whatever he could to help Perez in the season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The Dutchman kept his word on Saturday as he provided a tow up the main straight on the final runs of Qualifying that enabled Perez to crucially leapfrog Leclerc for second, and slot in alongside Verstappen on the front row of the grid.
“Max did a great job also for me, we worked together as a team really strongly on that final run,” said Perez, who goes into Sunday’s race level on points with Leclerc.
Perez had looked as though he may take pole position himself after outpacing Verstappen in final practice and each of the first two parts of Qualifying, but it was the world champion who was able to produce when it mattered most in Q3.
“It’s a good starting place,” Perez added. “I didn’t make that final step in Q3, especially the first run wasn’t that good, so we were a bit behind. It’s good to lock out that front row for tomorrow.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow, which is the day that really matters. I think it’s going to be a very interesting one, given how strong Ferrari will be.”
Verstappen ‘happy’ to help Perez
Verstappen was quick to point out in his immediate post-session interview that he was pleased to have helped his team-mate.
“I’m very happy that both cars are on the front row,” he said. “Because of course we want to win the race, but we also want to finish second with Checo in the championship, so that’s definitely a great start before tomorrow.
“We’re all on the same page. We all want the same, we want to win the race of course but we want to make sure that Checo is in front of Charles tomorrow.”
Verstappen, who is seeking a record-extending 15th victory of the season in Sunday’s race, produced a dominant Q3 performance despite having suffered a scrappy Q2 and a technical scare at the start of the final 12-minute period.
“It was a bit of an up-and-down qualifying,” he said. “It started off quite well
“Q2 was a little bit messy. I don’t know why but on those tyres I couldn’t get the grip together.
“But then in Q3 it all felt a bit more normal. We had a bit of a scare, the car turned off before the first run, so we had to reboot everything. Then we went out and both of the laps were good enough.”
Speaking before Qualifying, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had insisted that they would not let a “glitch” sour what has been a hugely successful season.
“We’re not going to let a glitch in Brazil sour a year or this event,” Horner said.
“This pairing has achieved more than we’ve ever had, it’s the pairing that’s going to be there for the next couple of years and they’ve sorted it out, they’re cool with it, we’re okay with it, lessons learned, we move on.”
Leclerc: I can work together with Sainz
Leclerc remained optimistic after qualifying that he can compete with Perez on Sunday, with Ferrari having found some much-needed improvement in the cooler evening conditions having earlier struggled in final practice.
“It was (the best we could hope for),” Leclerc said. “The second sector I think we paid a little bit the price of being completely alone on track. We had nobody in front so no tow, so a bit slow in the straights.
“But honestly, third place is quite a good start tomorrow, and hopefully we can pass Checo in the first few metres and then keep that position.
“We will try to push for a win, we want to finish on a high this year, but the Red Bulls are really, really strong on a Sunday.”
Leclerc was denied assistance from his team-mate Carlos Sainz in far less controversial circumstances in Brazil, but is also hoping for help on Sunday.
“I’m sure we can work together too with Carlos, I have no doubt on that,” he added.
“We’ll try to maximise the team result.”