Max Verstappen claimed his first pole position of the 2020 Formula 1 season to become the first non-Mercedes powered driver to top qualifying this year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The two Mercedes drivers appeared to have locked-out yet another front row of the grid on the final runs of qualifying as Valtteri Bottas edged out world champion Lewis Hamilton, but a sensational last-gasp improvement from Verstappen pipped both to snatch his first pole of 2020.

A huge gain in the middle sector was key to Verstappen ending the supremacy of Mercedes power this season with a 1m35.246s, a lap that was just 0.025s faster than what Bottas managed.

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Having recovered from COVID-19, returning seven-time world champion Hamilton was only third-quickest in the second Mercedes as he missed out on claiming an 11th pole of the season by just 0.086s.

McLaren’s Lando Norris claimed his best qualifying of the season with a stunning fourth-place, ahead of the second Red Bull of Alex Albon and teammate Carlos Sainz.

Seventh place went the way of Daniil Kvyat, who lapped quicker than Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly, who completed the top 10.

It was a hugely disappointing qualifying for Renault in its fight against McLaren and Racing Point over third place in the constructors’ championship, with both drivers eliminated in Q2.

Esteban Ocon was only 11th-fastest, while Daniel Ricciardo took 12th as he missed out on a spot in Q3 for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix and suffered his first qualifying defeat to a teammate in Abu Dhabi in his last Saturday outing for Renault ahead of his switch to McLaren for 2021.

13th was all Sebastian Vettel could muster in his final qualifying appearance for Ferrari, as the four-time world champion failed to join his teammate in making it through to the final segment to determine the top 10 order.

Having advanced to Q2 for just the second time in 2020, Antonio Giovinazzi wound up 14th after seeing his best time deleted for track limits at the final corner. Nevertheless, the Italian secured a 9-8 victory in the qualifying head-to-heads at Alfa Romeo, having outpaced teammate Kimi Raikkonen for the third race in a row.

Sakhir Grand Prix winner Sergio Perez opted not to set a lap time in Q2 with a back-of-the-grid start looming for the Mexican in what is his last race for Racing Point with his future beyond the end of the season still uncertain.

In the second Alfa Romeo, Raikkonen ended up 16th, ahead of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen and George Russell, who could not progress into Q2 for a 10th time this season on his return to action at Williams.

Haas stand-in Pietro Fittipaldi set the 19th-quickest time as he continues to deputise for the injured Romain Grosjean at the final round of the season, with Williams’ Nicholas Latifi slowest of all after a spin coming out of the final corner prevented him from improving on his last flying effort.