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Verstappen wins the finale! F1 2020 Season Review: Abu Dhabi

Let's wrap up 2020 with our final F1 review!

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Sigh. It's that time of year again, the dreaded F1 winter break. As the teams pack up their cars for one last time, and continue developing their 2021 machines; Formula One fans will look back at a thrilling, 17-race season and wonder how that time flew by. For the final time in 2020, we're going to take a look at tonight's F1 race, starting with yesterday's qualifying session.

Qualifying

Q1 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a repeat of the eliminated drivers we have seen throughout the year, with both Williams, both Haas and an Alfa Romeo failing to make it through the the second session. Nicolas Latifi would start from the back of the grid after a spin cost him from setting his final lap in Q1. Pietro Fittipaldi would line up alongside the Canadian in 19th, in his second race weekend with Haas. Russell would out-qualify his teammate once more, putting his Williams into 18th, behind Kevin Magnussen who qualified in 17th for his final F1 weekend. Kimi Raikkonen was the last driver to fail to make it into Q2, just missing out and starting in 16th place.

Q2 saw a disappointing performance for Renault, who crucially missed out on both cars reaching the final qualifying session, which was not what the team were looking for in their efforts to take third place in the constructor's championship. Esteban Ocon would out qualify his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, finishing 11th and 12th respectively in their last qualifying session as teammates; followed by Sebastian Vettel in 12th, Antonio Giovinazzi in 14th, and Sergio Perez in 15th. Perez didn't set a lap, though, as he took an engine penalty and needed to start from the back of the grid.

The biggest surprise of Saturday was when Max Verstappen set a phenomenal lap to beat both Mercedes drivers to pole position, being the first non-Mercedes powered car to take pole position this year. Valtteri Bottas would line up alongside the Dutch driver in second place, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who claimed he wasn't feeling 100% in his return to racing after missing last weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix due to COVID-19. Verstappen's lap was only 0.025 seconds faster than Bottas and 0.086 seconds faster than Hamilton, in one of the closest sessions of the year. Lando Norris would line up in an impressive fourth place, ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz in sixth place, with Alex Albon splitting the two. Daniil Kvyat put his Alpha Tauri in 7th place, ahead of Lance Stroll in eighth, Charles Leclerc in ninth and Pierre Gasly in tenth.

Now that we are all caught up with qualifying, let's take a look at the race!

The Race

As the five red lights went out for the last time in an odd 2020, Max Verstappen was able to get a good start and maintain position to Bottas. Hamilton slipped behind his teammate and the field were able to avoid contact on the first lap. Verstappen started to pull away from Bottas, and the field settled into position. On lap 2, Gasly made an impressive dive down the inside of Ocon and was able to make the move stick.

Fast-forward to lap 6, and Alex Albon had caught Lando Norris and overtaken him at the end of the second straight. The Briton tries to fight back on the exit of Turn 9 and onto the third straight, but was unable to make the move stick. A lap later, Renault ask Ocon to let Ricciardo passed to try and fight through the field.

Heartbreak would strike on Lap 10 for Racing Point, when Sergio Perez pulled over in the third sector with an engine issue. Perez, who took his debut win last weekend in Sakhir, had a fresh power unit for the weekend, and was very disappointed to retire from his final race for the pink racing team in this way. This was also crucial for the constructor's championship, as Lance Stroll was running in seventh, while Norris and Sainz were in fifth and sixth. Racing Point had taken the third place spot from the McLaren drivers after a double podium last week, but had just lost a driver, potentially losing them the third place spot and millions of pounds.

The Virtual Safety Car was deployed, meaning all cars had to slow down to a certain pace; though oil on the track would mean the actual safety car was deployed, bunching the pack up again. The top nine pit, while Daniel Ricciardo opts to stay out and go long. Mercedes double stack their drivers (successfully, this time) as do Red Bull and McLaren. Carlos Sainz was put under investigation for potentially 'driving too slow' in the pitlane in order to give McLaren more time to service Norris; though no further action was given after the race had finished.

The safety car would pit at the end of lap 13, and Max Verstappen was able to pull away from Bottas without any issues. Carlos Sainz makes his way past both Ferraris after the safety car pits, before Leclerc's tyres go 'off the cliff'. Leclerc loses places to Stroll, Gasly and Ocon before putting at the end of Lap 21. The Monégasque emerges in last place, and was able to work his way up to 13th place by the end of the race.

The field once again settled into a bit of a rhythm and not much would happen over the next 20 laps. Ricciardo pits on Lap 40 for the first time and fits a set of Medium tyres to go to the end on; where he was able to secure seventh place for Renault. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen would also report that they didn't think the tyres would make it to the end over the radio, and would significantly slow down throughout the rest of the race.

Max Verstappen was untouchable by Valtteri Bottas, who couldn't seem to catch up. Hamilton had started chasing his teammate down, but backed off in order to preserve his tyres. Alex Albon, whose tyres came to life in the dying stages, was able to catch Hamilton and was 0.9 seconds a lap faster than the 7-time world champion. With two laps to go, Albon was pushing as hard as he could, though he was unable to catch before the chequered flag was waved.

Max Verstappen took his second victory in the easiest way possible, ahead of Valtteri Bottas in second and Lewis Hamilton in third. Albon finished in fourth place, ahead of the McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz in fifth and sixth - who had done enough to secure third place in the championship! Daniel Ricciardo would finish in seventh place and stole the fastest lap at the very end with his Medium tyres.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I would rate the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a 4 out of 10. In terms of on-track action, there was very little as the Yas Marina circuit is famously very difficult for modern F1 cars to follow at. The weekend was, however, very emotional as some Formula One drivers would say 'goodbye' to their teams and the sport due to not having contracts for 2021. McLaren and Carlos Sainz had their final goodbyes, as did Vettel with Ferrari and Perez with Racing Point. Haas would end their four-year relationships with both Romain Grosjean (who is still recovering from his Bahrain accident) and Kevin Magnussen, while Renault said their goodbyes to Daniel Ricciardo.

And that concludes a year of F1 2020 season reviews! Apologies for not covering last weekend's race in Sakhir, but I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing what F1 2021 has to offer! Stay tuned for my season round-up in the near future, and I wish you luck over the winter break...

You can find the results for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix below:

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