YAS ISLAND, Abu Dhabi: Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in dominant style on Sunday for his second victory of the season and 10th of his career.
He finished 16 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas and 18.4 clear of world champion Lewis Hamilton as Red Bull enjoyed a rare and significant success over both Mercedes cars. Alexander Albon completed a good race for Red Bull by finishing fourth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
McLaren’s garage cheered wildly after clinching third place in the constructors’ championship ahead of Racing Point.
The 23-year-old Verstappen had clinched a brilliant pole position on Saturday, and made a good start while Bottas comfortably held off Hamilton. The world champion looked off form and started to drift back after a few laps, and was nearly caught by Albon on the last two laps.
The race was briefly held up when the safety car came out after Sergio Perez’s Racing Point pulled to the side of the track with engine failure on Lap 10. When it restarted a few laps later, Verstappen got away from Bottas cleanly and posted the fastest lap for the second time in 15 laps.
Halfway through the 55-lap race at the Yas Marina circuit, Verstappen looked comfortable as he led Bottas by about six seconds and Hamilton by nine and then increased the gap under the floodlights.
Hamilton won 11 races from the 16 he entered but missed last Sunday’s Sakhir GP in Bahrain as he recovered from the coronavirus. This denied the seven-time F1 champion the opportunity to equal Sebastian Vettel’s single-season record of 13 wins, set with Red Bull in 2013.
Hamilton said on Saturday that he is still feeling side effects, including reduced energy levels and some weight loss.
Several drivers were competing for the last time for their teams and possibly in F1.
Perez drove brilliantly to win the Sakhir GP in Bahrain last Sunday but has no seat next year, and his race ended in frustration with his father wringing his hands as he watched from the team garage. Despite the disappointing finish, he secured fourth in the drivers’ championship.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen is also out of F1 now and the Dane was 18th.
Vettel’s last race for Ferrari saw him down in 14th. The four-time F1 champion is replacing Perez at Racing Point when it becomes Aston Martin next year.
McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr., who will replace Vettel at Ferrari next year, finished sixth, while Daniel Ricciardo — who will replace him at McLaren in 2021 — crossed seventh and clocked the fastest lap in his last race for Renault.