Max Verstappen on his way to victory in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. — Photo by Neeraj Murali
Max Verstappen’s excellent season ended with a comfortable victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, earning the Formula One champion a record 19th victory of the campaign and 54th overall to move into third place on the list. of all times.
Verstappen finished ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’ George Russell, and also earned a bonus point for fastest lap. His 54th career victory put him one ahead of former Red Bull great Sebastian Vettel, with only Michael Schumacher (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103) ahead of him.
“What an incredible year,” Verstappen said after crossing the line.
Red Bull has won 21 of 22 races this season, with Sergio Perez taking two wins.
“This year you have destroyed it,” Red Bull team director Christian Horner told him on the radio. “We are all incredibly proud of you.”
Pérez crossed the finish line in second place, but dropped to fourth place due to a five-second penalty. Leclerc let Perez pass him on the final lap in the hope that Perez would finish more than five seconds ahead of Russell, with Mercedes and Ferrari fighting for second place in the constructors’ championship.
With Russell’s teammate Hamilton finishing ninth with two points and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. outside the points, Mercedes secured second place behind Red Bull in the constructors’ standings.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t enough,” Leclerc said.
Verstappen started from pole for the 12th time this season, more than twice as many as any other driver, with Leclerc at his side and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri third.
The Yas Marina track is one of the most difficult to overtake and Verstappen made a good start, holding off a couple of attacks from Leclerc.
Verstappen switched to hard tires on lap 17 of 58, followed by Leclerc on the next lap, leaving AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in the rare position of leading a race in team principal Franz Tost’s final grand prix before retiring. .
Verstappen regained the lead a few laps later and was never in trouble.
Perez received a penalty for colliding tires with McLaren’s Lando Norris later, although it appeared Norris had enough room and spun into Perez’s right front tire.
“Why do they impose this penalty on us? “I was ahead,” Perez said, bewildered, on the team radio.