Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ended probably the most dominant season in Formula 1 historical past with victory within the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his nineteenth win in 22 races.
The comfy victory, after disregarding a short problem from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the opening lap, provides Verstappen an 86.4% win fee in 2023.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took second on the street after Leclerc let him by on the penultimate lap in a useless try to safe second within the constructors’ championship for Ferrari in opposition to Mercedes, however was demoted to fourth on the street by a five-second penalty.
That promoted George Russell to 3rd for Mercedes and, with Lewis Hamilton securing two factors for ninth place, that was sufficient to maintain Mercedes in second place by three factors.
Leclerc’s technique had been to let Perez by within the hope that Mexican, on more energizing tyres, might construct sufficient of a result in negate his penalty, imposed for a collision with McLaren’s Lando Norris.
But Perez didn’t fairly make it, and he dropped all the way down to be labeled 1.1 seconds behind Russell.
The scant comfort for Leclerc was that he vaulted each Norris and his team-mate Carlos Sainz to take fifth within the drivers’ championship behind Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.
But Leclerc had stated earlier than the race that he didn’t care about that – and his face betrayed as a lot while he waited for the post-race interviews, his disappointment on the constructors’ consequence plain to see.
Norris was fifth forward of team-mate Oscar Piastri, with Alonso seventh forward of Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Hamilton and the second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.
Verstappen’s unimaginable season
Russell stated he was delighted to safe the place for Mercedes. “It means a lot to everyone back at the factory after a difficult season,” he stated. “I am really happy to sure second.”
Leclerc stated: “Checo had a five-second penalty so we had to help him to finish in front of George, so I tried to give him the DRS and slipstream but unfortunately it was not enough.”
He stated he was completely happy Ferrari had been the second quickest automobile in Abu Dhabi, dissatisfied to lose out on second within the championship however pleased with the crew for recovering strongly after they began the season with a troublesome automobile.
Verstappen stated: “An incredible season. I was a little emotional on the in-lap – it is the last time I am sitting in the car which has given me a lot.
“I’m proud to win the final race. It was an unimaginable yr. It might be onerous to do one thing comparable once more.
“We are working hard again to have a very competitive car. The other teams will be trying to beat us but we are ready for the challenge.”
How the race unfolded
Verstappen’s victory was by no means doubtful – and absolutely wouldn’t have been even had Leclerc managed to get forward of the Red Bull on a feisty opening lap.
The Ferrari driver challenged into the primary nook after making a greater begin than Verstappen, earlier than backing out of a transfer, and once more into Turns Six and Seven, the place once more the world champion fended him off.
Leclerc then settled into securing second place, realizing he confronted a battle with the McLarens and Russell.
Lando Norris handed Russell initially to run in fourth behind Verstappen, Leclerc and the opposite McLaren of Oscar Piastri within the early laps.
But Norris and Russell quickly handed Piastri after which made their first pit stops on lap 14, when a gradual cease for Norris vaulted Russell forward.
Once in entrance, the Mercedes was sooner, and the highest 4 positions seemed locked in till Perez’s restoration drive got here into focus.
The Mexican had began ninth after dropping his quickest qualifying lap to a monitor limits infringement however Red Bull used two lengthy first stints, stopping later than their rivals at each stops to offer him a tyre benefit within the remaining stint.
Perez rejoined behind Leclerc, Russell and Norris, however hauled all of them in over the ultimate 10 laps or so.
His penalty got here on account of an incident on lap 47, 11 laps from the top, when he tried to move Norris on the finish of the primary lengthy straight.
Norris gave him room however Perez ran deep into the nook and the 2 automobiles collided.
Norris complained that Perez had pushed into him, and the stewards deemed that Perez had induced a collision and awarded the penalty on which in the end rested the future of $10m of prize cash.
McLaren had been dissatisfied to not obtain their pre-race goal of a podium, with Piastri beginning third and Norris fifth, however their automobile merely didn’t have the tempo to compete with the Ferrari and Mercedes in entrance.
Their comfort was that the consequence was greater than sufficient to safe them fourth within the constructors’ championship forward of Aston Martin.
Tsunoda drove a robust race on a one-stop technique within the upgraded Alpha Tauri and even had a interval within the lead because the front-running automobiles made their first pit stops.
But as his tyres wore within the closing laps, he was powerless to carry off Alonso’s cost, though he did handle to remain simply over a second forward of Hamilton, who was barely hampered by entrance wing injury attributable to working into the again of Pierre Gasly’s Alpine early within the race.