World champion Max Verstappen wins season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Two-time world champion Max Verstappen claimed a record-rising 15th win this year with an “excellent” performance for Red Bull in Sunday’s tight and strategic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel headed into retirement with one point. were increasing The 25-year-old Verstappen dominated from start to finish but was unable to help his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez beat Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and finish second behind him in the Drivers’ Championship.

Leclerc, driving with great precision and awareness, succeeded in his one-stop strategy by resisting Pérez, on fresher tires after two stops, in the closing laps confirming Ferrari’s second place in the constructors’ championship, as that they did in drivers.

Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari came fourth ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.

Daniel Ricciardo finished ninth in the other McLaren and retirement-bound four-time champion Vettel was 10th in his final race for Aston Martin.

“I wish it was a few more points,” said the retired German driver.

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“A big day, thanks for all the support and the smiling faces. I’m sure I’m going to miss it more than I can imagine,” said Vettel, who leads F1 with four drivers’ world titles, 53 race wins Heading towards the sunset. , 57 pole position and a chorus of tributes ringing in his ears.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who finished third despite battling with his Mercedes for most of the race, retired in the closing laps with hydraulics problems.

Hamilton, who lost out on an eighth world title in last year’s controversial climax at this track, has ended a season without a win for the first time.

Verstappen’s victory was his third in a row in Abu Dhabi and the 35th of his career. His engineer came on the team radio and told the Dutch driver that his twilight drive at the Yas Marina circuit was “excellent”.

But it was Leclerc who wept with relief as he crossed the line. “Yeah, baby, we got it,” he said. “Nice job guys, really good race.”

After another hot day, the competition got underway with temperatures dropping to 28 degrees as Alpha Tauri gave a guard of honor to the departing Pierre Gasly as Aston Martin offered Vettel a cake ahead of his final race.

‘Free to race’

Verstappen made a clean start to take the lead from an emphatic Pérez.

Hamilton struggled to move Sainz and, as the Spaniard forced his way, took to the run-off area to avoid a collision, falling to fourth. The stewards cleared Sainz of any misconduct, leaving the Briton to hand the place back.

By lap five, Hamilton had forced his way back and passed Sainz at the chicane, but again struggled to pull clear, complaining that his car was damaged as he rode the curbs on the opening lap Was.

Russell, who finished sixth behind Sainz, told the team that “Lewis needs to step up….we can beat Ferrari” but it was a disappointing plea as Sainz passed Hamilton again on lap eight at turn nine. passed over.

“You are free to race,” replied Russell’s engineer when asked, and he quickly passed his teammate for fifth. Hamilton was clearly struggling for pace on the straights.

By lap 15, Verstappen led 5.7s ahead of Pérez, who was 1.3s clear of Leclerc as the first round of pit stops began.

Russell’s stop was delayed by three seconds and he spun across the McLaren of Norris, a reckless move which earned him a five-second penalty for an unsafe release.

By lap 32, the leaders were back in the team order, ahead of Pérez, Leclerc and Sainz with Verstappen ahead of Russell in fifth, who was recovering.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso, on his last round with Alpine before becoming old friend and rival Vettel’s successor at Aston Martin, was called to retire on lap 25 with a mechanical problem, not his first this year.

As Pérez, Sainz and Russell pitted again, Verstappen continued to dominate from Leclerc and Hamilton, with the trio dominating on aging rubber before Pérez took third on lap 46.

With ten laps to go, he was nine seconds behind Leclerc, setting up a tense finish as he sought to stay ahead of the charging Mexican on worn tires as Hamilton slowed and retired with a hydraulic problem. Retired with

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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