Abu Dhabi GP: Verstappen wins; McLaren secure third in constructors’ championship

Max Verstappen won the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after leading the race from start to finish, whilst McLaren secured third in the Constructors’ Championship.

It was an uneventful start to the race with the pole-sitter, Verstappen, getting away smoothly and building a gap early on. Sebastian Vettel managed to overtake his teammate, Charles Leclerc which would have pleased him in his last race in the Ferrari.

By the third lap, Verstappen had already created a two second gap to second-place Valtteri Bottas. Perez also had a good start, making his way through the pack after starting from the back row due to a penalty.

Alex Albon in the Red Bull managed to get close to Lando Norris ahead of him but soon dropped back again. The two Renault drivers also found themselves battling each other for 10th before being ordered to swap on Lap six to give Daniel Ricciardo freedom to go racing.

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Albon soon launched another attack on Norris on lap six, despite trying to come back with the help of DRS, Norris could not stay ahead.

Things picked up on lap 10 when Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was forced to pull over and retire when he lost power causing a Virtual Safety Car. It was a heart-braking end to what is potentially Perez’s final race in F1.

The incident sparked a flurry of activity in the pits, with the top four all heading in for a change of tyres, followed by most of the rest of the pack. To make thing more interesting, a full Safety Car was deployed after struggles to remove the Racing Point.

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Racing resumed on lap 13 with Lewis Hamilton looking hungry to make up places.  Ultimately nothing came of the restart for him as Verstappen got off well.

The choice to not pit the Ferraris came back to bite them as Sainz managed to pass Leclerc to split them. There was bad news for McLaren as it was announced Carlos Sainz would be investigated after the race for unnecessarily speeding in the pit lane to assist his team with a double stack.

It soon became clear the Ferraris were struggling on their old tyres. Esteban Ocon made repeated attempts to pass Leclerc before making a move stick on Lap 22.

After a complaint on the radio from Leclerc about going backwards, he was soon brought into the pits for some fresh tyres, although he came out last.

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Hamilton began to gain slightly on his Mercedes teammate, Bottas whilst Albon again struggled to keep up with the top three and dropped off. Meanwhile the race leader, Verstappen was raising concerns about tyre management on the radio.

There was a big lock up for the remaining Racing Point on lap 25, putting Pierre Gasly close on Lance Stroll’s tail before passing him four laps later.

Vettel finally made his pit stop on lap 36 for fresh medium tyres, coming out in 15th; the strategy not really working for Ferrari.

Ricciardo very much held his own having not pitted behind the Safety Car, staying nicely in fifth before pitting on lap 40 to come out in seventh on much fresher tyres behind the man he is replacing next season, Sainz.

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Verstappen began to sound worried about his tyres around Lap 44 as they started to drop off and cause vibrations. Albon on the other hand started to come back at the top three, consistently taking time out of the gap to Hamilton, only five seconds behind on Lap 49.

Albon continued to catch Hamilton, but ultimately the seven-time world champion was too far ahead. It was one of Albon’s best drives of 2020, finishing fourth only a second and a half behind third place.

It was a perfect race for McLaren with Norris and Sainz driving well to come home in fifth and sixth, securing their team third place in the constructors’ championship.

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Ricciardo finished his excellent race with an extra point for setting the fastest lap too.

Overall Verstappen commanded the race from the start, building a gap large enough to comfortably stay ahead of Bottas, securing him the win in the final race of the 2020 season.

Despite having poor race pace, Mercedes still had something to celebrate in their constructors’ and drivers’ championship titles and performed donuts on the start/finish straight.

Final Standings:

  1. Max Verstappen
  2. Valtteri Bottas
  3. Lewis Hamilton
  4. Alex Albon
  5. Lando Norris
  6. Carlos Sainz
  7. Daniel Ricciardo
  8. Pierre Gasly
  9. Esteban Ocon
  10. Lance Stroll
  11. Daniil Kvyat
  12. Kimi Raikkonen
  13. Charles Leclerc
  14. Sebastian Vettel
  15. George Russell
  16. Antonio Giovinazzi
  17. Nicholas Latifi
  18. Kevin Magnussen
  19. Pietro Fittipaldi
  20. Sergio Perez