Max Verstappen has comfortably won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, defeating the Mercedes pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to close the 2020 Formula 1 season.
Verstappen led all 55 laps of the Yas Marina circuit, getting a lightning launch from pole to retain the lead into turn one.
By the end of just lap four, Verstappen had pushed out the margin back to Bottas to beyond two-seconds. By the chequered flag, Verstappen’s margin over the Finn was a mammoth 15.9s.
Only one safety car period regrouped the field, igniting the start of the first pitstop sequence.
Sergio Perez halted in the final sector of the track, underneath the hotel, on lap 11. A transmission drama, which saw him lose drive, the suspected culprit.
The top six cars all pounced on the opportunity to pit. Verstappen and both Mercedes cars elected to switch their mediums for hards, with the situation upgraded to a full safety car as the Racing Point could not be quickly pushed behind the barrier.
Shortly before Perez’s issue, Alex Albon had managed to re-obtained his starting position of fourth with a move on Lando Norris.
But even now directly behind Bottas and Hamilton, the Thai driver struggled to match their consistent lap pace and soon found himself trailing by over 10s.
The race then ran relatively straightforward, with Verstappen expertly navigating his way through lapped traffic to ensure his lead never dipped into danger territory. Only a mild vibration in the final ten laps rose some concern from the Red Bull pit wall.
He thus eased home to a convincing win, while Bottas was able to finish 2.4s ahead of Hamilton. The Briton had a muted race and had experienced some discomfort with the car all weekend.
Albon clung on to finish fourth after cheekily dragging himself back into contention over the final few laps. The gap separating himself from Hamilton at the line was just 1.5s.
But behind there was plenty to celebrate, with Norris leading home Carlos Sainz in a 5-6 finish for McLaren; securing the team third in the constructor standings.
Sainz had to work himself past both Ferraris and AlphaTauri cars in the second half of the race after double-stacking behind his teammate in the initial pit stop phase during the virtual safety car.
He was also then put under investigation by the stewards for driving to slowly in the pit lane, a ploy to avoid double-stacking for longer than necessary. But both he and McLaren were able to escape without a penalty, eliminating any threat of the team’s P3 result being stolen away from them.
Daniel Ricciardo was only of a few drivers to extract the maximum performance from the hard compound. The Renault ran 40 laps on his first stint before swapping the mediums 16 tours from home.
The Australian also set the fastest lap of the race on the last lap – a 1m40.926s.
Pierre Gasly ran a lonely race in eighth after getting by Lance Stroll, with Esteban Ocon also getting ahead of the sole remaining Racing Point to capture ninth.
Stroll was thus the last of the scorers in tenth. A bitterly disappointing result for the team after coming into the weekend fresh off their best-ever grand prix finish in Sakhir.
In his final race for the Scuderia, Sebastian Vettel finished 14th and just one place behind his teammate Charles Leclerc. Neither Ferrari stopped under the VSC and fell away in the latter stages of the race.
|Carlos Sainz Jr.