Verstappen wins in Abu Dhabi as post-covid Hamilton takes third
Lewis Hamilton was unable to gain any ground on pole-sitter Max Verstappen, who enjoyed a comfortable victory in Abu Dhabi.
Max Verstappen stormed to victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton was unable to sign off his Formula One title-winning season with a win.
Verstappen takes the flag
The Red Bull had too much power around Yas Marina Circuit for the Mercedes duo, with pole-sitter Verstappen leading throughout to take his second victory of 2020 in the final race of the campaign.
Valtteri Bottas and seven-time champion Hamilton – back on the track after missing last weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix due to a positive coronavirus test – were no match for the Dutchman.
It was the sixth straight year the pole-sitter has won in Abu Dhabi, but with Bottas finishing second he remained ahead of Verstappen in the drivers' standings to be runner-up again.
Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were the only drivers to swap positions on a tame opening lap, though the AlphaTauri driver regained his spot on the next lap.
Verstappen was around three seconds clear at the front when a virtual safety car was deployed on lap 10 after Sergio Perez – the winner last weekend – lost power and had to retire from his final race with Racing Point.
The 23-year-old, as well as the two Mercedes cars, used the opportunity to switch to hard tyres, the Silver Arrows avoiding a repeat of the double-stacked pit stop debacle that cost them victory in Bahrain last weekend.
Hamilton still voiced his strategic concerns over team radio and after the full safety car's in lap, Verstappen was quick to restore his cushion at the front.
He was over eight seconds clear of Bottas by lap 37, with Hamilton a further three adrift and unable to catch his team-mate.
Despite some concerns about degrading grip, Verstappen continued to increase his advantage for a serene victory, with fellow Red Bull driver Alex Albon taking fourth ahead of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.
McLaren consequently pipped Racing Point to third in the constructors' standings, though Sainz faced a post-race investigation for driving too slow in the pits that could have ramifications on their finish.
SEASON FIZZLES OUT
The coronavirus pandemic led to a truncated season of 17 races in the space of just over five months, with plenty of excitement and drama despite it never looking like Hamilton would be beaten to the title.
However, the season finale in Abu Dhabi proved to be a damp squib, failing to live up to the entertainment supplied across the rest of the campaign.
PEREZ'S FRUSTRATING FAREWELL
A prime example of the thrills experienced on the track in 2020 came when Perez claimed his first F1 win at the Sakhir Grand Prix last time out, but it was a weekend to forget for him on this occasion.
He started from the back of the grid after taking new power unit elements, while a fault with his car scuppered hopes of bowing out with another fine drive.
Albon will hope his solid-but-unspectacular performance will be enough to convince Red Bull to stick with him and not offer Perez a drive in 2021, as the Mexican looks set to miss out on next season.
There was more disappointment for Racing Point, with Lance Stroll finishing 10th not enough for them to secure third place in the constructors' championship.
THE FINAL CHAPTER
Ferrari gave Sebastian Vettel a guard of honour as he made his way to the grid, but he was unable to pull off something special in his farewell to the Scuderia.
Although he overtook Charles Leclerc early on and gained track position by opting not to pit under the safety car, it was a familiar story to finish a poor season for Ferrari.
Vettel ended up 14th, one place behind Leclerc as the Italian squad failed to score a single point.
IN THE POINTS
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +15.976s
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +18.415s
4. Alex Albon (Red Bull) +19.987s
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) +60.729s
6. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +65.662s
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +73.748s
8. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +89.718s
9. Esteban Ocon (Renault) +101.069s
10. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) +102.738s
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 347
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 223
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 214
4. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) – 125
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) – 119
1. Mercedes – 573
2. Red Bull – 319
3. McLaren – 202
4. Racing Point – 195 (after 15-point deduction)
5. Renault – 181
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