Max Verstappen has wrapped up one of the most dominant seasons in Formula 1 history with his 19th victory of 2023 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It was a Red Bull one-two on the road, but a five-second post-race penalty for Sergio Perez dropped him to fourth, elevating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to second and Mercedes’ George Russell to third.
Leclerc and Russell’s podium meant the results of their teammates would ultimately decide who finished second in the Manufacturer’s Championship, and ninth from Lewis Hamilton was enough for Mercedes to secure the spot by just three points. Carlos Sainz ran an alternate strategy and finished out of the points in 18th and a lap down on Verstappen, having only qualified 16th for the race.
Up front, it was all Verstappen, the World Champion taking the advantage from pole into Turn 1 and holding off a strong challenge from Leclerc before pulling clear over the remainder of proceedings.
Oscar Piastri got an excellent launch to settle into second, ahead of Russell, who Lando Norris quickly overcame at Turn 2 for McLaren to sit positions three and four at the end of the opening lap.
The out-of-place Perez and Hamilton, who started ninth and eleventh, respectively, had made little ground over the opening stages but exchanged places with each other twice over the opening circuit, the Mercedes getting the upper hand at Turn 1 on Lap 1 and the Red Bull taking the position back on Lap 4.
Norris took third off his teammate on Lap 4, leaving him to the grasp of Russell, who worked through on Lap 11 after a lockup for the Australian rookie at Turn 6.
Piastri came to the lane shortly after, with Norris following on Lap 15 and losing third in the lane to Russell because of a slow stop.
A lockup for Pierre Gasly saw Hamilton run into the rear of the Alpine mid-race, slightly damaging his front wing but not enough for a replacement to be required.
Once the leaders had stopped, Verstappen’s advantage over Leclerc sat at three seconds, with Russell now third and not far behind the Ferrari.
The second round of stops began on Lap 34, with the lead continuing to grow and sitting at over six seconds. There was no change in the top five, with Verstappen retaining the lead by five seconds after running longer and coming in 10 laps later than his opposition.
Perez also ran longer, coming in on Lap 43 and returning in sixth, quickly passing Yuki Tsunoda for fifth and Norris for fourth. While passing Norris on Lap 47, the Red Bull and McLaren came into contact, sending the latter off track at Turn 6.
Norris rejoined ahead but was quickly overcome by the charging Red Bull at the same place a lap later but was awarded a five-second penalty shortly after for causing the contact.
Perez then passed Russell at Turn 9 with four laps remaining and pushed forward in an attempt to build a five-second advantage to retain the podium.
Aware of his rival’s penalty, Leclerc pulled over to let the Mexican driver through to take second on track to give him clear air and continue to build his margin over the Mercedes while remaining inside the window himself in a bid to strengthen Ferrari’s claim for second in the Manufacturer’s Championship.
It was to no avail, with Perez finishing second, nearly 18 seconds down on his teammate but only 3.9 seconds clear of Russell and 1.5 seconds ahead of Leclerc.
Norris was fifth to cross the line, ahead of his teammate, while Fernando Alonso managed a late pass on Tsunoda for seventh, AlphaTauri’s sole point scorer not achieving enough to overcome Williams for seventh in the Constructors title and falling three points short.
Hamilton came home in ninth, ahead of Lance Stroll, the final point-scorer, less than one second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
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