Abu Dhabi: Max Verstappen looks all set to create more records in the last race of the season as the Red Bull star took pole position at the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc will join the triple world champion on the front row at the Yas Marina circuit on Sunday. This was Verstappen's fourth consecutive pole here as he clocked a best lap in one minute and 23.445 seconds to outpace Leclerc by a tenth of a second.
"The whole weekend so far has been a bit of a struggle so we definitely improved the car for qualifying," said Verstappen. "From lap one it all seemed a bit more together and we could definitely push more. so yes very happy with the pole."
Vertsappen can end this year with a record-extending 19th win in 22 races and a potential 54th win would pull him one clear of Vettel with whom he currently shares 53 wins.
"Let's see. I have no clue how good we are going to be in the race. We are usually quite decent, but it's been a very special season and we've been enjoying it a lot - and I'm very proud of what we have achieved so far this year."
Leclerc was also surprised at his success in claiming a front row start.
"Considering the weekend we've had until now, I did not expect this at all," said the Monegasque. "The last lap, I had to put everything together so I'm really happy with second place. I was worried in Q1 and Q2 just to go through.
"It's amazing. Our car is very picky. When we put on the new tyres everything came alive. I hope tomorrow goes well. It is our target to beat Mercedes in the constructors' championship. That is all that matters this weekend."
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso qualified seventh for Aston Martin ahead of Haas's Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull and Pierre Gasly of Alpine.
McLaren's Australian rookie Oscar Piastri qualified third for McLaren, after a nervous wait for stewards to clear him of allegedly impeding Alpine's Pierre Gasly, with Mercedes's George Russell fourth.
McLaren's Lando Norris dropped from a provisional second after the first flying laps to an eventual fifth when he clipped a kerb on his final effort.
Earlier in the day, George Russell topped the times for Mercedes ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris in Saturday's third and final practice.
Verstappen was also off the pace in his Bull as he wound up sixth in the unrepresentative conditions. Russell was quickest in a time of one minute and 24.418 seconds to beat Norris by 0.095 seconds with Oscar Piastri third in the second McLaren, three-tenths adrift, ahead of Williams' Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and Verstappen.
Esteban Ocon was seventh for Alpine ahead of Logan Sargeant in the second Williams, Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri and Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu, the top ten separated by only eight-tenths of a second.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was 12th in the second Mercedes, one place behind Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, and two-time champion Fernando Alonso was 14th for Aston Martin.
With inputs from Agencies