Dominant Max Verstappen wins season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Race Recap as F1 Season comes to a close in Abu Dhabi
Max Verstappen was in complete control as he dominated the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi, leading every lap as he secured his and Red Bull’s second win of the year. Valtteri Bottas finished 2nd, beating teammate Lewis Hamilton in 3rd, and in doing so ensured he achieved second place in the drivers championship ahead of race winner Verstappen.
All 20 drivers started the race cleanly and without incident – a rare occurrence in this frantic 2020 season – and it was formation driving for the front 3 runners, with the Mercedes unable to challenge Verstappen in the opening exchanges and the Dutchman proceeding to build an unassailable lead. Under clear instructions to get past McLaren’s Lando Norris and apply pressure to the Mercedes, Alex Albon made the move on lap 6, although had fallen over 5seconds behind Hamilton by this point. With this being the last opportunity to showcase his talents, it was essential that Albon put in a good performance as he fought to keep his seat for next year and achieving this overtake was an essential move to maximise his and Red Bull’s strategy for the race. In contrast, the man tipped to replace Albon should he not be kept was starting at the back of the grid - last weeks race winner Sergio Perez took several new engine components and the grid penalties that came with them to start last in a key race for both himself, and Racing Point as they battled for 3rd in the constructors championship. The race went from bad to worse for Racing Point on lap 11 as Perez was forced to retire, and the Mexican was visibly frustrated at how his season, and potentially career, ended. The retirement put Racing Point’s fate in the championship on Lance Stroll’s shoulders, but with both McLaren’s running in the top 6 the young Canadian had his work cut out if his team were to secure 3rd. With a full safety car deployed to recover his teammate’s broken car, most drivers took the opportunity of a cheap pitstop to make their tyre change early, however Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and both Leclerc and Vettel for Ferrari opted to stay out and gain track position, and it was this decision that proved decisive in the battle for 3rd.
On a track that is notoriously difficult to overtake on, Stroll found himself stuck in 10th behind Vettel on old tyres until lap 36 when the Ferrari eventually came in for it’s stop, but the damage was already done as the gap to those ahead would prove to be unassailable, and a late move by Gasly would ultimately demote Stroll to 10th and just a single championship point. Racing Point’s disappointment would be McLaren’s jubilation, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz finishing 5th and 6th respectively to score 18 points and clinch 3rd for McLaren. It caps a remarkable turnaround for the team who have failed to finish this high since 2012, finishing as low as 9th just 3 years ago. For much of the season Renault were also in the hunt for 3rd, but they were outscored by their rivals in consecutive weeks to ultimately finish off the pace in 5th. Daniel Ricciardo benefitted from a long first stint and only dropped 2 places when he eventually stopped on lap 40, but it was still only good enough for 7th, although still almost 30 seconds ahead of his teammate in 9th. Ricciardo moves to McLaren next year and is replaced by the returning 2 time champion Fernando Alonso who will partner Esteban Ocon in the newly renamed Alpine F1 team. Ocon closed the gap to Ricciardo towards the end of the season but will need to significantly improve next year if he is to challenge veteran Alonso.
As has too often been the case this year, both Ferraris finished outside the points as the Scuderia limped to their worst championship finish in 40 years, managing just 131 points good enough for 6th place. Both cars opted against pitting under the safety car and it proved to be a bad decision as neither driver were able to make much progress after their stop coming home a lowly 13th and 14th, just ahead of George Russell in 15th. Back in the Williams after his secondment to Mercedes last week, the Brit found himself back at the wrong end of the grid, and despite a much improved car verses last year, Williams finished the season without a single point for the first time in their history.
In truth, the race was a disappointing spectacle with overtaking few and far between which resulted in an underwhelming finish to what has been a truly remarkable season. In comparison the season finale lacked the drama and excitement that has been ever present in this condensed season, with very little on track action as we raced to the conclusion of some key battles up and down the table. With Covid tearing up the season schedule a huge well done needs to be given to everyone involved with Formula 1 for organising and successfully undertaking a full 17 race season in just 166 days, parachuting into old, new and existing tracks alike to put on a championship that was full of excitement and drama and will live long in the memory of F1 fans. We now have a short offseason of just 96 days before the 2021 season commences in Australia, with many teams facing new driver line ups there is sure to be excitement and drama from the very beginning.
Winner: Max Verstappen
Driver of the day: Max Verstappen
Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo
Pos Driver Team Time Pts
1 M. Verstappen Red Bull 1:36:28.645 25
2 V. Bottas Mercedes +15.976s 18
3 L. Hamilton Mercedes +18.415s 15
4 A. Albon Red Bull +19.987s 12
5 L. Norris McLaren +60.729s 10
6 C. Sainz Jr. McLaren +65.662s 8
7 D. Ricciardo Renault +73.748s 7
8 P. Gasly AlphaTauri +89.718s 4
9 E. Ocon Renault +101.069s 2
10 L. Stroll Racing Point +102.738s 1
11 D. Kvyat AlphaTauri +1 Lap 0
12 K. Räikkönen Alfa Romeo +1 Lap 0
13 C. Leclerc Ferrari +1 Lap 0
14 S. Vettel Ferrari +1 Lap 0
15 G. Russell Williams +1 Lap 0
16 A. Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +1 Lap 0
17 N. Latifi Williams +1 Lap 0
18 K. Magnussen Haas +1 Lap 0
19 P. Fittipaldi Haas +2 Laps 0
20 S. Pérez Racing Point DNF 0