Max Verstappen would have seen his pole lap disqualified if he had overshot the last corner by another 10cm, according to former F1 world champion Nico Rosberg.
The Dutchman pushed his car to the very limit as he edged out title rival Lewis Hamilton in Saturday’s all-important qualifying session.
Verstappen clocked a time 0.371 seconds faster than his Mercedes counterpart to give himself the best possible chance of claiming a maiden world championship crown.
After qualifying, Rosberg, who claimed his one and only world title in a desert decider against Hamilton in 2016, said that while the 24-year-old’s pole lap was ‘beautifully executed’, he was perilously close to exceeding track limits.
On the final corner, Verstappen almost planted his car all the way over the white line, which would’ve seen has lap time deleted and Hamilton start the race on pole instead.
Rosberg told Sky Sports: “In the last one, this is very tricky. By now, you’ve had so many corners one after the other; the rear tyres are getting hotter and hotter.
“The last corner here you’re kind of rolling into it, the rear is just always on the limit, so you’re having this oversteer on the rear, and you just have to wait.
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“The other challenge is, the line is right on the exit of the corner, so the exit doesn’t really matter; it’s all about how much speed can you bring into the corner.
“10cm or 20cm more and the lap is cancelled. The precision. By now he’s not limited and he’s super conservative and that’s again where we see that Max is just so aggressive and beautifully executed.”
Verstappen was understandably over the moon to start Sunday’s desert dash from pole position.
“It’s of course an amazing feeling. I think we definitely improved the car again in qualifying because so far, this weekend was a bit on and off, but incredibly happy with this,” Verstappen explained.
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“This is of course what we wanted but it’s never easy especially with their [Mercedes’] form in the last few races. Now I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, because that’s of course the most important.”
The last six races in Abu Dhabi have all been won from pole position, not that Verstappen is paying much attention to those sort of statistics.
Speaking after qualifying, he said: “First of all, I never look at the stats because these things can change at the start or in the first lap.
“I just need to focus on what we can control as a team. I am not gonna do anything different from what I have been normally doing.”