Max Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, closing the Formula One season with a consummate display at Yas Marina. The Red Bull driver took the flag from pole having dominated throughout with a flawless run in what was a less then thrilling finale. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas finished second and Lewis Hamilton in third could do nothing to challenge the Dutchman on a track where passing is very difficult and even following closely is problematic.
Alexander Albon was in fourth for Red Bull, with McLaren’s Lando Norris taking a superb fifth in front of teammate Carlos Sainz.
Verstappen led from pole with the two Mercedes, so dominant all season, unable to challenge the Dutchman, who put in a clinical run to earn a well-deserved victory.
Red Bull have second place in the constructors’ championship sealed and in the tight and financially vital battle for third, McLaren took the honours, although Sainz is under investigation for driving too slowly in the pit lane, which may yet affect the result. Racing Point were in fourth and Renault in fifth.
For Ferrari, a very trying year with a slow, difficult to handle car, the season’s end will be a welcome relief as the Scuderia were in sixth place, their worst season since finishing 10th in the championship in 1980.
This is Verstappen’s 10th career win and his second this season, an enormous boost with which he and the team can end the season. Verstappen has endured a trying year, suffering five DNFs but has taken 11 podiums and also won at the 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone. Beating Mercedes in a straight fight will be a huge fillip for the team going into the winter.
Bottas did enough to secure second place in the championship over Verstappen, returning another Mercedes one-two at the top of the table, albeit one that was expected given their dominance. That Verstappen pushed him to the wire is to his credit.
For Hamilton, third place was disappointing but he was happy just to be back in the car to bring the season to a close having admitted after qualifying that he had yet to return to full fitness after contracting the coronavirus. He had been in isolation in Bahrain until last Thursday and said he had been bedridden and lost weight in what had been a draining experience.
The season has nonetheless belonged to the British driver. He secured his seventh title to match Michael Schumacher with a remarkable 11 wins from 17 races. No other driver has come close to him this year. Bottas, in identical machinery it should be noted, has only two wins. Hamilton has been simply indomitable with a fearsome display of superiority over both qualifying (10 poles to Bottas’s five) and in race pace.
For Mercedes they end 2020 with the remarkable record of having sealed seven consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles, with 13 wins. The team were determined to show their appreciation of the hard work that had gone into it and this weekend were running a special livery with the names of all 2000 staff from their HQ at Brackley and engine works at Brixworth, inscribed on their car.
Verstappen held his lead through turn one, with Bottas and Hamilton in his wake and in clean air out front immediately showed his pace. He opened a two-second gap on Bottas and five on Hamilton within five laps, in a flawless early display. With overtaking very tricky at Yas Marina, neither Mercedes was inclined to pressure the Dutchman during the early running.
The safety car was deployed on lap 10 when Sergio Pérez’s car ground to a halt trackside, during which the three frontrunners opted to pit and take the hard rubber. Forty-four laps remained, enabling them to finish with a one-stop and Hamilton questioned the strategy which left him and Bottas in situ behind Verstappen.
Verstappen nailed the restart at the resumption on lap 14 and promptly reopened his lead once more, with neither Mercedes able to match his pace, apparently down on power in Abu Dhabi. He was once more six seconds clear of Hamilton by the halfway stage, with the British driver not entirely happy with his car’s performance. But Verstappen was serene, logging lap after lap in complete control. It was the drive the Dutchman is more than capable of delivering given his chance with a competitive car but the race was pedestrian stuff on a decidedly uninspiring circuit.
That should not detract from Verstappen’s exhibition of flawless control from pole. He held his place throughout and unchallenged, ground out the final laps to take the flag 15 seconds up on Bottas and 18 clear of Hamilton.
Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon were in seventh and ninth for Renault, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in eighth and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll in 10th.