Verstappen ends season with clinical Red Bull triumph
Max Verstappen claimed his second win of the season and the 10th of his career on Sunday when he drove to a clinical victory for Red Bull in a pedestrian season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 23-year-old Dutchman dominated from start to finish as he turned his third pole position into a demonstration of speed, talent and flawless strategy to leave both Mercedes men well beaten behind him.
It was the first time he had claimed a lights-to-flag victory in Formula One.
“Basically, we did everything right,” said Verstappen.
“Once you start upfront you can control the pace a bit more and it makes your life a bit easier.
“I had to go through a bit of traffic and some back-markers, but overall it was just a very strong race for the team.”
Verstappen eased home 15.976 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas, who at least recovered some pride by taking second after his forlorn showing at the Sakhir Grand Prix, and 18.415 ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton.
On his return to action after recovering from a bout of Covid-19, Hamilton struggled to make any impact as he battled through ahead of Alex Albon, who finished fourth in the second Red Bull, just 1.5 seconds adrift of the out-of-sorts champion.
“You can’t win them all,” said Hamilton. “And, considering the last couple of weeks that I’ve had I am genuinely happy with the weekend, even I am have not been 100 percent.
“But, congratulations to Max. It was a hard race for me and I am glad it’s all over. It’s a fantastic result anyway to get two podium finishes.”
Mercedes team-mate Bottas said: “The Red Bull was too quick today. We could not get near them and could not keep up with them, but it was a solid race from my side.”
Lando Norris came home fifth ahead of his Ferrari-bound McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz, a solid showing by the precocious pairing that secured third place in the constructors championship on a day when they announced an American consortium is buying a major stake in the team.
Daniel Ricciardo, in his last race for Renault before replacing Sainz at McLaren, was seventh ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon in the second Renault and Lance Stroll of Racing Point.
After a warm sunlit desert day, Verstappen made a clean start from his first pole of the year to draw clear of the two ‘black arrows’. Bottas recovered from a sluggish departure to retain second ahead of Hamilton as the field settled without incident on the opening lap.
Vettel, in his last race for Ferrari, passed team-mate Leclerc to take 12th but it was not a happy race for either driver.
Leclerc finished 13th with Vettel one place back, a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Italian team.
Sergio Perez’s Racing Point lost power on lap 10, prompting the arrival of the Virtual Safety Car, followed by the ‘full’ Safety Car was deployed.
For Perez, winner of the previous weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix, it was a disappointing end to his 135 races with the Silverstone outfit.
By lap 20, Verstappen was 3.7 seconds ahead of Bottas who led Hamilton by 1.9. Albon, fourth, was a further five seconds adrift.
It became clear that Mercedes were conserving tires, and power, to preserve reliability, in the unlikely hope of reeling in Verstappen for a late race to the flag.
But the Dutchman cruised clear to endorse his and Red Bull’s potential for next season.
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