(Reuters) – Max Verstappen’s pole position lap at the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was ‘insane’ and one of his best of the season, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said on Saturday.
The Dutch 24-year-old was more than three tenths of a second quicker than title rival Lewis Hamilton, the seven-times world champion who will line up alongside on the front row for Mercedes.
The pole was the 10th of the campaign for Verstappen and came as he soaked up the pressure of probably the most important qualifying session of his career.
“I think that’s one of Max’s best laps of the year,” Horner told Sky Sports television.
Verstappen was given an aerodynamic tow by Mexican team mate Sergio Perez but Horner said that had not been the key element of his pole lap, even though it was perfect team work.
“The tow was probably worth a tenth or two, not half a second. And I think that his last sector, when you look at the level of downforce he’s got on, is insane. It’s absolutely insane,” he added.
“I think that Max has given it everything. He’s driving his heart out, he’s thrown everything at this session.”
Horner said Perez had been the ‘dutiful team mate’ and sacrificed what would have been an optimum lap to help Verstappen.
Verstappen will be starting on the soft tyre, with Hamilton on the medium, after damaging a set of mediums in the second phase of qualifying but Horner said Red Bull were not overly upset at that.
“Track position I also think, regarding (tyre) degradation, is crucial,” he said.
Horner suggested Hamilton, whose team mate Valtteri Bottas qualified a distant sixth, would have his hands full dealing with those around him on soft tyres in the opening few laps.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge)