Nico Rosberg details why Max Verstappen doesn’t have Lewis Hamilton advantage despite pole

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen analysed by Coulthard

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Max Verstappen doesn’t hold an advantage over Lewis Hamilton despite starting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on pole position, according to ex-Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg. Verstappen starts one place ahead of Hamilton on the Yas Marina Circuit grid as he hunts his maiden title.

The pair have been embroiled in the tightest Drivers’ Championship battle since Rosberg dethroned Hamilton in 2016, pipping him by five points.

They enter the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix level on 369.5 points following the Brit’s triumphs in the last three races in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Verstappen bettered Hamilton by almost half a second in qualifying, coming in at 1m22.109s on Saturday.

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But despite his position at the front of the grid, the Dutchman has to start Sunday’s race on soft tyres after flat-spotting his mediums in Q2.

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Rosberg heaped praise on Verstappen for his qualifying performance but suggested that his pole position won’t mean much while Hamilton pursues him on better tyres.

He told Sky Sports: “This guy just delivered something magical. That’s it. It just comes down to that.

“As Max said, the interesting thing is he didn’t want to be on the soft for tomorrow. That’s what keeps it full of suspense for tomorrow. The race is on.

“Having Lewis behind on a tyre that’s better over a certain stint is not the thing you want to have when you’re fighting for a championship. The pressure on Verstappen in the race in the first stint tomorrow, it’s going to be good.”

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However, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff believes Verstappen starts with an advantage, describing qualifying as ‘1-0’ to Red Bull.

“It’s 1-0 for them. They got the tyres in a perfect window in the last run. The tow functioned flawlessly, and that’s why they’re on pole,” Wolff explained.

“I would much rather start on the medium. We will have a slight disadvantage at the start, I guess.

“We can go longer, we can go for an aggressive undercut also and try to control track position.”

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is perfectly poised to showcase an exhilarating finale to a whirlwind year of F1.

Hamilton’s odds are understandably longer than before qualifying, but his inspiring antics in Brazil last month prove it would be unwise to count him out.

A win in Abu Dhabi would secure his eighth F1 world title and see him surpass Michael Schumacher as the all-time leading champion.

But Verstappen will be vying to follow in Rosberg’s footsteps and halt Hamilton’s era of dominance in the sport.

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