Straightforward win for Verstappen at Abu Dhabi GP

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

Max Verstappen has won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, leading the race from start to finish and easily controlling the Mercedes duo. Valtteri Bottas finished 15s down on the Red Bull, Hamilton completes the podium in third place.

Contrary to so many races this season, the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was very clean, but also lacking any events. In fact, there were no position changes at all in the top 8.

Ocon was the best-placed driver to gain a position on Gasly, but the Frenchman was set to return the favour one lap later. Ricciardo followed just behind them while Vettel moved ahead of Leclerc a the start of the race. The same this happened at Alfa Romeo where Raikkonen moved ahead of Giovinazzi.

The best starter was Kevin Magnussen. The Danish Haas driver passed four drivers in the first lap, moving up from last to 17th.

By lap 6, Renault found reason enough to see that Ocon wasn't able to keep up with the Alpha Tauri ahead, so they allowed Ricciardo to move up a spot, trying to exploit the hard tyres on the #3 car. Soon, Ricciardo pushed the Alpha Tauris while Ocon got company of Vettel and Leclerc.

Three laps later, the race is already over for Sergio Perez. He simply lost drive and parked that car alongside the track. It seemed at first that a virtual safety car period would do, but half a lap later, the real safety car was brought out on track.

Many cars pitted and changed to hard tyres. Of the drivers in the top 10, Ricciardo and Vettel didn't, as they were already on hard, and Leclerc also continued on his medium tyres from the start.

When the safety car left the track on lap 12, Verstappen still led the race, ahead of Bottas, Hamilton, Albon, Ricciardo, Norris, Vettel, Leclerc, Sainz and Stroll.

Leclerc's next laps proved difficult, with the fresh hard tyres proving more agile than his tyres. Sainz quickly made his way past both Ferraris, with Leclerc continuously having to defend against Stroll and Gasly who both seemed to be able to go quicker.

On lap 19, Stroll eventually made a pass stick. By that time, Ocon and Kvyat both came up challenging from behind as well. Gasly though didn't sit about and the next lap immediately passed the Ferrari for 10th position.

Meanwhile, in front, nothing much happened. Bottas ran 4s behind Verstappen and 2s ahead of Hamilton. Albon followed another 5s further back. Ricciardo in 5th was already 19s down on the race leader.

Leclerc then eventually pitted on lap 24 to start a recovery race from 15th. The stop was a start of some shuffling in the midfield as Vettel was slower than the competitors around him, though he managed to keep most of them at bay until he too pitted on lap 36, returning to the track on fresh medium tyres, but down in 15th.

Most action was provided by Pierre Gasly as he carved his way past Ocon, Vettel and Stroll to end up in 8th.

In front, no changes at all. Verstappen just steadily continued to increase his advantage. Up to 8th, the gaps between cars were also at least 2.5 seconds, so nobody was pushed, and everybody was looking somewhat after their tyres. The strategy was best illustrated by Verstappen who repeatedly questioned if he'd be able to make it to the end on those tyres but conceded after a while "Ok, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing then".

On lap 40, Ricciardo pitted for mediums and returned in 7th, but it soon proved that, just like with Vettel, new medium tyres aren't much quicker than the older hard tyres of the other cars. Three to four tenths isn't enough to make strides in the standings.

Towards the end of the race, Albon suddenly found some pace and made up for the 8s deficit over Hamilton to finish just 1.5s behind third place. It didn't make much difference in the end.

In fact, it were the Renault drivers that provided the action at in the closing stages. Ocon first took 9th from Stroll to rub some salt in the wound for Racing Point for losing third in the championship. Ricciardo on the other hand took the fastest lap on the final lap, ending the race and his Renault stint in 7th place, 8s behind Sainz.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
133Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda551:36:28.64525
277Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG55+15.976s18
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG55+18.415s15
423Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing Honda55+19.987s12
54Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault55+60.729s10
655Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault55+65.662s8
73Daniel RicciardoRenault55+73.748s7
810Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri Honda55+89.718s4
931Esteban OconRenault55+101.069s2
1018Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes55+102.738s1
1126Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri Honda54+1 lap0
127Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari54+1 lap0
1316Charles LeclercFerrari54+1 lap0
145Sebastian VettelFerrari54+1 lap0
1563George RussellWilliams Mercedes54+1 lap0
1699Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari54+1 lap0
176Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes54+1 lap0
1820Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari54+1 lap0
1951Pietro FittipaldiHaas Ferrari53+2 laps0
NC11Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes8DNF0

Note - Ricciardo scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.