Lewis Hamilton disregarded F1’s so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’ during qualifying ahead of Sunday’s final Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi as he skipped the line by cruising past champion Max Verstappen. The Mercedes ace has suffered a miserable season this term amid issues with his car and was fifth in the Drivers’ Championship standings ahead of the race in the Middle East.
Drivers are usually reluctant to queue-jump in qualifying due to the symbolic agreement. But Hamilton had no intentions to wait for slower drivers ahead of him towards the end of Q1 as the track became crowded.
On the final corner as slow-moving cars left a gap for one another ahead of their flying laps, Hamilton and Verstappen both commented on the amount of traffic around them. But, while the Red Bull star decided to adhere to the unwritten agreement, Hamilton stepped on the gas to move ahead and begin his flying lap.
“Unbelievable,” snapped Verstappen, before laughing in disbelief. But his engineer attempted to calm him down over the radio as he told the 25-year-old: “Let them go. Let them play. Let him go. Let him play.”
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The Briton looked set to win an unprecedented eighth title last season after leading Verstappen in the season-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December. But following a late Safety Car pause, the Dutchman was allowed to pull level with his nemesis for a one-lap shootout when the race restarted and went on to cross the line in first position.
After a winter of regulation changes in F1 ahead of the 2022 season, Mercedes have struggled to find a winning formula this term, with Hamilton and his team-mate George Russell having to deal with porpoising issues in many races. And the 37-year-old hasn’t been able to win a race all year, although he has secured nine podium finishes.
Verstappen, meanwhile, has been in imperious form once again this year and secured his second consecutive title by winning the Japanese Grand Prix at the start of October, with four races to spare.