Max Verstappen says finally ending Mercedes’ dominance of qualifying by taking pole position at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a reward for Red Bull at the end of a tough 2020.

Mercedes’ works team had taken pole at every race this year apart from in Turkey, where a wet session with low grip saw a Mercedes-powered car in the form of Lance Stroll’s Racing Point on pole. Verstappen has been close on a number of occasions — missing out by less than 0.1s in Bahrain a week ago — but converted in the final session of the season to edge Valtteri Bottas by 0.025s.

“I said before I went to qualifying that it’s going to be the final send of the season and we did that, so very happy with that,” Verstappen said. “It was quite a tricky qualifying in the beginning to get your laps in — especially at this track the last sector, there are so many corners where you can make a mistake but everything came together in that final lap.

“It was good enough, luckily. I crossed the line and saw I was moving up but there were still a few cars behind me. It feels nice. The whole year we were closing in a little bit and I missed out a few times, and then finally to at least sit here once after the dominance they had throughout the year is very nice to us and the whole team as well. It’s been a very long season in a short period of time, a lot of races so I think everyone wants the break but to have pole position here is a good motivation for everyone in the team to try and finish it off tomorrow.”

Verstappen says there are more unknowns than usual when it comes to the race because a fire for Kimi Raikkonen caused FP2 to be stopped for a spell when the teams were carrying out their high-fuel running.

“I will have a look at what we can do but I think not a lot of people had a proper long run because of the red flag we had, so it will be interesting tomorrow. I’ll do my best — seems like our top speed this weekend is not too bad and that’s always nice. For sure, Valtteri and Lewis (Hamilton), they will be very close and it will be a good battle, hopefully.”