2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Saturday
THE ROAD TO POLE
- Max Verstappen clinched pole for the final race of the 2022 season. The Red Bull driver set the best qualifying time, a 1m23.824s, using the soft P Zero compound. He is joined on the front row by team-mate Sergio Perez, who was 0.228s off top spot. Charles Leclerc will start third in his Ferrari, setting a fastest lap time of 1m24.092s.
- Track temperatures during qualifying ranged between 32.2-33.2°C; as expected, conditions were cooler than both Friday’s second free practice session and Saturday’s third and final practice.
- The performance gaps between the three softest compounds in the Pirelli range present in Abu Dhabi are almost identical. There is an estimated gap of 0.3s per lap between both the hard and medium compounds and the medium and soft compounds respectively.
- Red Bull was also fastest in final practice. Perez topped the classification with a 1m24.982s, putting him 0.152s ahead of Verstappen. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) was third-fastest with a 1m25.222s. Free practice was briefly interrupted mid-session by a red flag.
- The Pirelli Pole Position Award was presented to Max Verstappen by Khaby Lame, the world's most followed influencer on TikTok. The 22-year-old Italian started posting comical video reactions on the social network in 2020 and his success was immediate, building the fastest-growing TikTok account ever. Lame now has more than 152 million followers and 2.5 billion likes, and featured on the Forbes Top Creators 2022 list.
A two-stop strategy may well be the fastest option for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Increased tyre degradation compared to last year’s race has created question marks surrounding pre-event simulations. Two pitstops, with an average loss of 22 seconds for each tire change, is projected to be four to five seconds faster than a single stop.
Two options are considered the fastest: start on mediums, change to hards (between lap 16 and 22) complete the final stint on either the medium or hard compound. Completing the final stint on soft tyres is less likely, as it is unlikely to be as competitive as the other compounds. What teams choose to do will also likely be down to their remaining tyre allocation.
Anyone wishing to try a one stop strategy may arrive on the grid with medium compound and then replace them with the hard tyre, with managing the degradation of a longer first stint key. Other options on a one-stop strategy include soft to hard and hard to soft, at which point a safety car would play an important role in the outcome.
Testing is essential for developing high-performance tyres. Pirelli has organised a test day in Yas Marina on Tuesday, where both the full-time drivers and rookies will try out the compounds that will make their debut next year. The Abu Dhabi test day follows two special 90-minute practice sessions that have already taken place in Austin and Mexico City, which allowed Pirelli technicians to refine the tyres ahead of next Tuesday’s test, where cars will circulate all day between 9am and 6pm.