Christian Horner hailed a "phenomenal" qualifying display from Max Verstappen after Red Bull's main man claimed his first pole of the season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen snatched first place on the grid for the last race of the year with a blistering lap of one minute, 35.246 seconds right at the end of Q3 at the Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday.

Mercedes have dominated the season yet again, but Verstappen became only the second non-Silver Arrows driver to claim pole in 2020 - Lance Stroll being the other.

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, returning after missing the Sakhir Grand Prix following a positive test for coronavirus, will start in third place on Sunday behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Red Bull team principal Horner waxed lyrical over the performance of Verstappen, who was 0.025s quicker than Bottas under the lights and 0.086s faster than Hamilton - who wrapped up the title last month.

Horner said: "So many times this year, we've sat in that third-place seat. But he [Verstappen] has just strung together a brilliant lap at the end there and it's so tight, less than a tenth between the top three cars.

"He [Verstappen retired on the first lap in Sakhir] was gutted to miss out last week, and to put that lap in here, to get that pole, is a phenomenal performance.

The Red Bull boss added: "You know you can bank on him. You know he's going to give it everything, you know that he can always surprise you and he's done that.

"It's important to convert it into a great result, so just for everybody in the whole team, they've all worked so hard under such difficult conditions this year… and it epitomises everything when you see it come together like that."

Bottas indicated tyres had been a problem, saying: "We saw in practice three that Red Bull and especially Max was quick. 

"The main issue was we didn't get the soft to work properly. All the way to qualifying the medium was feeling better, I don't think we got 100% out of the tyres. 

"The lap itself I wasn't fully happy with everything; the balance wasn't quite perfect. But small margins."

Hamilton felt it had taken time to get back into the swing of things on his return, even though it had only been two weeks since he last raced.

"Honestly, really grateful be back here with the team and try to close out the strong season we've had," said the Briton.

"It has been a difficult weekend getting back into a rhythm. It was just a couple of weeks off but it felt like I'd lost momentum.

"I struggled with the balance all weekend, but congratulations to Max - a great way to seal the season. But we're going to give them a good run on Sunday.

"It is always nice to start first but this makes it even more exciting."